Honoring Naomi Sims

Naomi Sims, the world's first black supermodel (Image:Getty)

Naomi Sims, the world's first black supermodel (Image:Getty)

Long before Naomi Campbell, another Naomi, Naomi Sims, made her mark as the first black model to gain world wide recognition in the Sixties. Naomi rocketed to the top of the fashion world when she broke the color barrier in modeling and was emulated by black women everywhere. She appeared on the cover of Life magazine in 1969. A handful of black girls had been successful models before her, but until Naomi Sims came along, none had managed to penetrate the public consciousness.

I have been reading her inspiring story of grit and determination which saw her catapulted onto the international stage. That she did so was entirely due to her determination, forged during a difficult childhood in Pennsylvania.

Her resolution to make something of her life took Naomi, in 1966, on a scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, which she combined with night classes in psychology at New York University.

When she decided to become a model, however, her early encounters with the agencies were not encouraging: all turned her down, some taking the trouble to explain that her skin was too dark. Deciding to bypass the agencies altogether, she went directly to fashion photographers – a tactic that paid off when Gosta Peterson, a photographer for The New York Times, agreed to do a shoot for the cover of the newspaper’s August 1967 fashion supplement.

After Sims quit modeling in the early 1970s she launched a successful wig collection, followed by a cosmetics line.

Naomi Sims died on August 1 at the age of 61 of breast cancer, and inspired by what I have been reading about her, I would just like to honor the passing of this lady, who was an inspiration to many. Unlike, Farrah Fawcett, another icon who also passed away from this disease, Naomi’s breast cancer was not played out in the public eye, but I have no doubt she dealt with it with grace and determination.