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A Look at The Life of Donyale Luna
Courtesy of Wikipedia
 

Editor's Note: While many people know Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Iman and Beverly Johnson this lady set the trend and needs to get some light.

Donyale Luna (1 January 1945 - 17 May 1979) was the first notable African American supermodel and the first black cover girl. She also appeared in several films, most notably as the title role in Salome.

Born Peggy Anne Freeman in Detroit, Michigan, her parents were Peggy and Nathaniel Freeman. Her father, who was reportedly abusive, was murdered when she was 18. Luna's mother wanted her to become a nurse.

Despite the parentage stated on her birth certificate, she insisted that her biological father was a man with the surname Luna and that her mother was Mexican. According to the model, one of her grandmothers was reportedly an Irishwoman who married a black interior decorator. Whether any of this background is true is uncertain. In the mid 1960s, a relative described Luna as being "a very weird child, even from birth, living in a wonderland, a dream."

After being discovered by the photographer David McCabe, she moved from Detroit to New York City to pursue a modeling career. She became the first African American model to appear on the cover of Vogue (March 1966). For several years, she was under exclusive contract to the photographer Richard Avedon.

An article in Time magazine published on 1 April 1966, "The Luna Year", described the dramatically thin and tall (6' 2") model with the hallmark bright blue contact lenses and occasional blonde wig as "a new heavenly body who, because of her striking singularity, promises to remain on high for many a season. Donyale Luna, as she calls herself, was unquestionably the hottest model in Europe. She is only 20, hails from Detroit, and is not to be missed."

In 1967, the mannequin manufacturer Adel Rootstein created a mannequin in Luna's image, a follow-up to her famous Twiggy mannequin of 1966.



Luna Strikes A Pose circa 1963

Unprofessional behavior signalled the decline of Luna's career. As recalled by another black model who came to prominence toward the end of Luna's heyday, Beverly Johnson, Luna "doesn't wear shoes winter or summer. Ask her where she's from -- Mars? She went up and down the runways on her hands and knees. She didn't show up for bookings. She didn't have a hard time, she made it hard for herself."

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, 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 Dalí considered her one of his favorite models.

She was married briefly in the mid 1960s, to a man described as a gigolo. Later she was engaged to the Austrian actor Maximilian Schell, to an unnamed Danish photographer, and to Georg Willing, a German actor who appeared in European horror films and with the Living Theatre.


Luna's March 1966 Vogue Cover

Luna appeared in a nude photo layout in the April 1975 issue of Playboy.


Luna died in Rome, Italy, in a clinic, after a drug overdose.

Filmmaker Jennifer Poe is working on a documentary about Luna and Pat Hartley, who were the only black women to be part of the Warhol studio.

Please send any comments to style@geoclan.com


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