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Meet America's First Black Supermodel -- The First to Be Featured on the Cover of Vogue

Donyale Luna, America's first Black supermodel

Donyale Luna, who was born Peggy Ann Freeman on August 31, 1945, was a model and actress who is generally recognized as America's first Black supermodel.
Her career started when she was discovered by David McCabe, a British fashion photographer. In April 1965, she was featured in a 6-page report published by Harper's Bazaar magazine during a time when Jim Crow laws had just been repealed with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

At the time, it was unthinkable that a Black model would appear in any magazines other than Ebony or Jet. Many whites did not like that she was making appearances in mainstream publications, and the pressure eventually led to Donyale moving to England where there was less racism and discrimination.

While in London in May 1966, Donyale made history as the first African American woman to be featured on the cover of the British edition of Vogue. The issue was well embraced by most people in the UK, and led to other opportunities for her. She continued to work as a model and began dabbling in commercial cinema. She starred in various films including director Otto Preminger's Skidoo, Carmelo Bene's Salome, and Federico Fellini's classic Satyricon.

Sadly, Donyane Luna died in 1979 in Rome, Italy at a clinic where she was hospitalized for a heroin overdose. However, she is still credited for paving the way for other successful Black models such as Imán, Grace Jones, Waris Dirie, Naomi Campbell, Vannessa Williams, Tyra Banks, and more.