Black Beauties To Know And Love: One Of The First Black Supermodels, Naomi Sims
If you don’t know Naomi Sims’ name, I’m sure you’ve seen her face. She was on quite a few major magazines in her lifetime, including Life, Ladies Home Journal (the first black model on the cover) and Cosmopolitan, and participated in campaigns for big names like Halston at a time where many black models were struggling to be seen. But she was more than just a model. She was a businesswoman. She wrote books, she started cosmetics lines, she got into hair and she was all about uplifting and encouraging black women. Get to know more about this beautiful trailblazer.
At the age of 13, while most young women are settling in to average heights, Sims was lready 5’10”, something she was often teased about as a young girl. Sims didn’t have the easiest time growing up. Outside of her height, Sims never really knew her father and at one point, her mother had to put her in foster care because the family was struggling.
Before modeling, Sims was a serious student. She came to New York to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, and did so on a scholarship.
When Sims was first starting to break into the fashion world, she said she encountered many agencies who told her that her skin was too dark for them. She was able to get work by going straight to big fashion photographers, but would eventually explode on the scene after former model and modeling agency head Wilhemina Cooper helped her get her name out there.
While supermodels like Joan Smalls bring in more than $3 million a year now, back in the day, Sims was the big dog, earning $1,000 a week when other models, specifically black models, were struggling to get shine.
Naomi Sims would have great success as a model, but she made it known back in the day that male executives in the fashion industry treated her and other models poorly, assuming that models were supposed to be empty in the head: “People have the idea that models are stupid.”
Sims was a businesswoman too. She was behind a wig business for black hair called The Naomi Sims Collection. She even delved into cosmetics and had a few beauty salons.