Donyale Luna was the original black Supermodel, although her name is rarely mentioned and her legacy has been somewhat forgotten.
In 1963, she was discovered as a teenager walking down the street by celebrity-photographer David McCabe. It wasn’t long before she took the modelling world by storm, especially in London, where she embraced the bohemian scene of the time, becaming friends with Mick Jagger, Michael Caine and Yul Brynner, and dating Terence Stamp, and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones.
In January 1965, a sketch of Luna appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, but her race and features were made deliberately listen there ambiguous. In the words of David Mcabe “the magazine world really wasn’t ready for photographing beautiful black women”.
In 1966, she was the first-ever black model to feature on the front cover of Vogue, shot by David Bailey. Interestingly, Beverly Johnson is often credited with this accolade. However, as some have noted, her features are far from celebrated here.
In the same year, Time Magazine ran the article “The Luna Year” calling her “the reincarnation of Nefertiti” and the hottest model in Europe.
Fellow supermodel Pat Cleveland quipped 'She had no tits, but lots of presence, we'd walk down the street and men's mouths would drop open in awe. When we walked into restaurants people would stop eating and stand up and applaud. She was like a mirage, or some kind of fantasy.' She would often joke herself - 'I'm from the moon, darling.'
Luna’s career was stellar but short-lived. By the 1970s Luna’s modelling career started to decline with her drug use. Despite her tragic death from an overdose in 1979, there is no doubting the impact she had on the industry, capturing the imagination of fashion legends such as Andy Warhol, David Bailey, Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon.
Here are some of our favourite Luna looks!