Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Black Beauty & Style: A History of Fashion : Donyale Luna

Many readers of the blog often ask, who is the gorgeous woman featured in the background of the blog? Today I answer that question.

Donyale Luna (1945-1979)

In 1966, Donyale Luna became the first African American model to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine, a photograph in which she covered her whole face with her hand, except for her boldly outlined eye. Reportedly, that shot was chosen so as to not offend the magazine’s regular readership.

She was born Peggy Ann Freeman in Detroit, with an abusive father who was murdered when she was 18. Her mother encouraged her to become a nurse. A relative once described her as being “a very weird child, even from birth, living in a wonderland, a dream.” Donyale Luna created her own dream. She made up a story to hide her painful upbringing, denied the reality revealed on her birth certificate and claimed that her biological father’s last name was Luna, and her mother was Mexican. Her grandmother became an Irishwoman who married a black interior decorator.

She was discovered by photographer David McCabe, and left Detroit behind for the lights of New York City. From all accounts, her rise was meteoric. A sketch of her appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1965, and Richard Avedon signed an exclusive contract to photograph her.

During the late sixties and early seventies, Luna appeared in several films produced by Andy Warhol (including "Camp") and Federico Fellini ("Fellini Satyricon"). She also appeared in "The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus," the Otto Preminger comedy "Skidoo" (in which she was featured as the mistress of God, who was portrayed by Groucho Marx), and the British documentary "Tonite Let's All Make Love in London". Salvador DalĂ­ considered her one of his favorite models.

Time Magazine published an article about her, titled The Luna Year. The article already reveals the trouble she was already beginning to encounter: “A month after hitting New York, she married a young actor, divorced him after ten months, and now will not even give his name. “I love New York,” she says. “But there were bad things. People were on drugs or hung up on pot. There was homosexuality and lesbianism and people who liked to hurt.” Unhappy with that world but unwilling to give it all up and head back to Detroit, she fled to London and Paris.” "Back in Detroit I wasn't considered beautiful or anything, but here I'm different," Luna explained of her success. "They were looking for a new kind of model, a girl who is beautiful like you've never seen before."

Luna appeared in a nude photo layout in the April 1975 issue of Playboy; the photographer was Luigi Cazzaniga. Luna married the Italian photographer Luigi Cazzaniga. In 1977 they had a child: Dream Cazzaniga.

Donyale Luna died in 1979, of an accidental pill overdose in Rome. She was just 33 years old



photos courtesy of www.minimadmodmuses.multiply.com



SonyaK said...

Wow!!! Such a beautiful lady with such a tragic story!!

Globetrotter22 said...

I agree. She's beautiful. Side note: Keri Hilson resembles her when I glance at her from the side. She's got broad shoulders just like me! My day has been made.