Black Beauty Is In: From Beauty Queens to Fashion Magazines, Women of Color Reign Supreme

By Norment, Lynn | Ebony, September 1990 | Go to article overview
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Black Beauty Is In: From Beauty Queens to Fashion Magazines, Women of Color Reign Supreme

Norment, Lynn, Ebony


From beauty queens to fashion magazines, women of color reign supreme

Black beauty is in. Not too long ago, it was impossible to find a Black woman on the cover of a major White publication, and very few were found on the inside pages. That's why it is inspiring--startling, actually--to discover beautiful Black faces and bodies gracing the covers of three prominent women's publications in the same month.

And for the first time ever, Black women simultaneously reign as the country's premier beauty queens--Miss America Debbye Turner and Miss USA Carole Gist. And not only did these young women win their state titles to qualify for the national contests, but they competed against several other Black women who won their state titles as well.

The prevalence of Black beauty queens and models is an indication that along with the '90s has come a broader definition of beauty. Society's narrow barometer of what is attractive has been expanded beyond the centuries-old white-skin, blue-eyed, blonde-hair standard to include what people of color have always known: Black is beautiful. Short and natural hair can be a woman's crowning glory. Big, luscious lips are sexually appealing. And the various shades of brown-black skin provide a beautiful showcase for any woman's assets. What is most promising is the fact that ebony-complexioned models with close-cropped hair, such as Sebastian, are being recognized for their natural beauty.

It must also be noted that 14-year-old St. Louis model Kimora, whose parents are Korean and Black, was chosen by Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld to star in his show. "This girl represents the '90s," he said.

"I am proud of my heritage and happy to represent my people of color," says 20-year-old Miss USA Carole Gist of Detroit. "I think being Black is one of the advantages I had in the pageant. It made me stand out. I have a feeling that the 1990s will be the decade for women of color. I think people are waking up."

To what Black people have known all along. Since its inception in 1945, Ebony Magazine has glorified the beauty of the Black woman, and Fashion Fair Cosmetics was founded in 1973 to cater to women of color who virtually had been ignored by White companies. At the same time, Ebony also insisted that advertisers use Black models in ads targeted at reaching Black consumers.

While for decades they were caricatured in the media, the natural assets of Black women are now being recognized and glorified beyond the Black community. In articles and in interviews, beauty experts praise the virtues of full, luminous lips, and scores of advertisements tout beauty products that enhance this beauty asset. For decades White women have gone to great lengths to darken their skin, and in recent years and in increasing numbers they pay tribute to Black beauty by having surgery to enlarge their lips.

One beauty editor writes that a particular lipstick "gives lips on the thinner side a lush daytime look. For added width and fullness, form lips into an `O' and fill in corners with lip pencil." Another lipstick "looks wonderful on wider mouths."

Full-lipped Naomi Campbell, the 20-year-old, sexy supermodel of British and Jamaican descent, seems to be everywhere--on the cover of major magazines, in fashion spreads, and in feature stories as well.

Karen Alexander, the attractive 24-year-old New Jersey-reared model, has appeared on the covers of six major fashion publications, and in hundreds of ads and fashion spreads. She and fellow Black models Louise Vyent and Kara Young were profiled in an article titled "The New Top Models" with the subhead "How they'll change your beauty ideas." Only one White model was included in the article.

"Scan any magazine and one of the first things you'll notice is that the dominance of the blonde, blue-eyed model is over," the Glamour article says.

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Black Beauty Is In: From Beauty Queens to Fashion Magazines, Women of Color Reign Supreme


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