Born in 1948, Naomi Sims was another beauty who broke records and shattered stereotypes. She is widely credited with being the first dark-skinned model to gain acceptance in the fashion industry. In 1968, she was the first black woman to appear on the cover of Ladies Home Journal, which The New York Times described as, “a consummate moment of the Black is Beautiful movement.”
The following year, she was also the first black woman to appear on the cover of Life magazine, and went on to grace the cover of several other high-profile magazines, including Time, Cosmopolitan and McCall’s. Halston was one of the first major houses to hire her, and Sims once told an interviewer, “Black wasn’t beautiful back then. The darker your skin, the less good-looking you were considered; and I was too tall, and too skinny.”
In 1972, she was offered the title role in the movie Cleopatra Jones, but turned it down because she found the script to be a racist depiction of blacks. In 1973, Sims retired from modeling, citing racial quotas. She remarked that black models were only used because they were black. In 1976, Sims launched a successful wig line bearing her name, and in 1986, added a line of cosmetics. She died in 2009 at the age of 61.