Naomi Sims: The passing of a legendary primus inter pares, the queen mother of modern black beauty

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Naomi Sims, one of the first African-American models to rise to fame in the United States in the 60’s, died last Saturday in Newark, a suburb of New York, after a prolonged breast cancer. She was 61 years.

Born in 1948 in the State of Mississippi, Naomi Sims began her career as a model in New York where she shot to fame with cosmic speed. Naomi Sims, who fought against a tenacious racist media that blocked her every move towards success, could be compared with the strides made by Michael Jackson when his song, Thriller, was broadcast by MTV, making it the first black music video to be shown to an essentially White public.

Naomi is also the first black supermodel to make it to the cover of Fashion of the Time, the fashion pages of the New York Times. It all happened in 1968, four years after the famous “I have a dream” speech by Doctor Martin Luther King. Naomi Sims was only nineteen years when other highly reputed fashion magazines, such as Ladies Home Journal and Life, decided to follow the New York Times example.

Her prowess in the fashion industry did not go unnoticed in the film industry. She was offered a role in the film Cleopatra Jones. She declined the role after having read the script; she had not come all this way to play the role of a nigger. She thought the role she had been given was racist and anti-black.

She decided, much sooner than later, to bring her modelling career to an early end to devote herself to black beauty. She created her own cosmetics line as well as a collection of wigs for black women. She also wrote a number of books on modelling and beauty.

Without a doubt, Naomi Sims paved the way for women of colour the world over. A legendary primus inter pares has passed. May Her Soul Rest in Eternal Peace.

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