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  • Writer's pictureHeather Pepe


MODEL. ACTRESS. BEAUTY iCON🖤 60’s-70’s🖤08/31/1945-05/17/1978

Donyale Luna has a face that Makeup Artists dream of... big beautiful features, incredible bone structure and a flawless complexion... She’s also the FiRST African American MODEL to appear on the Cover of Vogue Magazine in 1966, but few know her name. 🖤

Luna was discovered on the streets of Detroit in 1963 by photographer #DavidMcCabe while on assignment for Ford Motors. He recalls in an interview “I was struck by this almost 6-foot-tall beautiful girl she was so tall & so slender & had the most incredible bone structure...”He told her she should go to NY to model for him...the following year she did just that. In October 1964 Luna walked into #HarpersBazaar & Editor #NancyWhite was instantly captivated by her exotic beauty with her almond shaped eyes, gorgeous caramel complexion & long and delicate limbs, Luna didn’t look like anyone else. She immediately had her sketched & ran a slightly peachier-skintoned illustration of her for the January 1965 Cover.

She also signed a 1 year contract to model for #RichardAvedon , who would go on to photographer her for a featured spread in Bazaar just 4 months later. These stunning images ran in the APRiL 1965 would spark outrage throughout the US, especially in the Southern States resulting in cancellations of subscribers & advertisers.* Avedon later noted it was “racial prejudice & the economics of the fashion business” that attributed to this.

During the same time, just 3 months after her first cover; Donyale gets devastating news from home, during an argument her mother accidentally shot & killed her father. This tragedy along with the racism she experienced with her April 65’ editorial for Bazaar, very well could have attributed to her choosing to leave the US for Europe. By the end of 65’ Donyale had moved to & became a huge hit in London.

March 1966 Luna gets photographed by #DavidBailey for the Cover of #BritishVogue, making her the first African American woman to ever appear on a #VogueCover💄Although the Legendary model #BeverlyJohnson gets most of the praise for being the First Black Woman to appear on Vogue in 1974, that was #AmericanVogue & it was Luna, 8 years earlier with her British Vogue cover that was truly the first.

This catapulted her career, making her one of the most in demand models in the world working for photo legends like #HelmetNewton #WilliamKlein & #WilliamClaxton . #TimeMagazine dubbed 1966 as “the Luna Year”.

🖤Luna fully embraced the wilds of the Swinging Sixties, her eccentric behavior and jaw-dropping looks threw her into the world of Sex, Drugs, Rock&Roll & mingling with the likes of #TheRollingStones, #AndyWarhol & #MichaelCaine to name a few. Famed Artist #SalvadorDali was so inspired by her beauty he claimed she was “the reincarnation of Nefertiti” & declared her his muse upon seeing her. Jackie Kennedy even approached Donyale at a NY nightclub in 1966 just to tell her “you are very beautiful.”

Throughout the late 60s into the 70’s Luna would go on to Act in over 5 films, with famous directors #FredericoFellini & #OttoPreminger . Unfortunately her modeling career fizzed out after rumors of her erratic and unprofessional behavior on set & her escalating drug use. May 17, 1979 at the young age of only 32, Donyales hard partying caught up with her & she died of an accidental drug overdose leaving behind her then estranged husband Luigi Cazzzaniga & their 18 month old daughter Dream.

Donyale Luna has an incredibly fascinating and tragic story, but it’s important to remember her Legacy for helping to change the fashion industry by paving the way for Black Models & leaving us with some of the most iconic & inspiring beauty images from the 60’s.

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