Naomi Sims, whose appearance as the first Black model on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal in November 1968 was a consummate moment of the Black is Beautiful movement, and who went on to design successful collections of wigs and cosmetics for black women under her name, died of cancer Saturday at the age of 61.
Naomi Sims made her mark as the first woman of color to gain world wide recognition in the Sixties. She soared to the top of the fashion world when she broke the color barrier in modeling and was emulated by women across the globe.
Born in Oxford, Mississippi and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Naomi attended Fashion Institute of Technology and New York University. The ultimate Fly Female Entrepreneur, she launched the Naomi Sims Collection, a wig and hairpiece line sold in department stores and specialty stores in 1976. The Naomi Sims Collection has since expanded to include skin care, hair care and cosmetics.
In addition to her hair and make up collections, Naomi Sims authored five books on health, beauty and success. It goes without saying, Naomi single-handedly pushed down doors for many of the Black super models we see today, but she had to face quite a bit of diversity during her journey. While we never want to live in less than favorable conditions, some of us are able to embrace each challenge, and accept it as a gift to face our own shortcomings. Naomi Sims was one of the chosen few who successfully used hard times to create realities that some never dreamed were possible.
Excerpt from The New York Times:
Ms. Sims often said childhood insecurities and a painful upbringing — living in foster homes, towering over her classmates and living in a largely poor white neighborhood in Pittsburgh — had inspired her to strive to become “somebody really important” at a time when cultural perceptions of black Americans were being challenged by the civil rights movement and a renewed stress on racial pride.
“Naomi was the first,” the designer Halston told The New York Times in 1974. “She was the great ambassador for all black people. She broke down all the social barriers.”
Thank you for blazing the trail for women everywhere who are now afforded the opportunities you fought so tirelessly for. Rest in peace and joy, Ms. Sims.
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