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African-American Fashion Firsts: Donyale Luna


by Alexis Ansley


Donyale Luna graces the U.S. Vogue cover in 1966.


Donyale Luna was an American born model and actress who helped the world admire the beauty and diversity of African-American women. In 1966, Luna became the first African-American model to appear on the cover of a fashion magazine, British VOGUE, in a photo shot by David Bailey. Prior to this, she was featured on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1965 as an illustration. To some, she is considered to be the first-ever Black supermodel, covering the covers of the top fashion magazines long before Iman and Naomi Campbell graced a catwalk.

Time Magazine deemed her the “hottest model in Europe” in an article depicting her success entitled the “The Luna Year”: “She is only 20, a Negro, hails from Detroit, and is not to be missed if one reads Harper’s Bazaar, Paris Match, Britain’s Queen, the British, French or American editions of Vogue.”

She was born Peggy Ann Freeman on August 31, 1945 in Detroit, Michigan to parents Nathaniel and Peggy Freeman. She was the youngest of three daughters and early on showed a unique and outgoing personality.

Luna was discovered by photographer David McCabe (below) at age 18. McCabe persuaded her to move to New York to begin her career in modeling. Soon after, in January 1965, Luna’s sketch was printed on the cover of the Harper’s Bazaar; and she signed her first modeling contract the same year.


Donyale Luna and photographer David McCabe

Luna was a truly unique beauty at 6’2″ with gaunt limbs and captivating wide eyes. Her defined facial features were a new look for the fashion scene in the 1960’s. Those exotic features intrigued photographers causing her continued career rise into the 1970’s. Luna also appeared in several films, including Andy Warhol’s Camp, and played the titular role in Italian film Solame’.

Despite her fame and success, the talented Luna struggled with drug addiction. She’d become known for her erratic behavior and unprofessionalism on set. Many photographers and fellow models were reluctant to work with her despite her talents.


Donyale Luna in Michele Rosier for Vogue UK, November 1968

Donyale Luna in Michele Rosier for Vogue UK, November 1968


Donyale Luna died in Rome, Italy in 1979 at the age of 35 from an apparent drug overdose. Her daughter, Dream Cazzaniga, was her only child.

Luna’s groundbreaking beauty and illustrious career made her an amazing force in fashion. Her contributions to the world of fashion are everlasting — just ask Iman, Naomi Campbell, or Tyra Banks.

Want to learn more about Donyale Luna? Check out this great comprehensive article on Golden2Golden Entertainment’s blog.


Image Sources:
Vogue Cover: donyaleluna.files.wordpress.com
Vogue UK: Photobucket
Luna and McCabe photo: Golden2Golden Entertainment blog



Alexis AnsleyAbout the Author:
Alexis Ansley is a Central Florida fashion blogger, fashion consultant and co-founder of Lex&Pooch Styling Co. An avid enthusiast for all things vintage, Alexis has made a name for herself by uniquely combining vintage and contemporary styles within her personal fashion choices and while styling clients. Alexis is a member of the Independent Fashion Bloggers (IFB) community and work towards bringing fresh and unique fashions to the forefront of all her style ventures.



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