43 Years ago today (October 17, 1969) LIFE Magazine featured model Naomi Sims on its cover for a feature article about the role, presence, and "breakthrough" discovery of the economic impact of black models. The caption below the photo reads:
You see before you what may well be the most persuasive demonstration of successful black power ever assembled. If these 39 models, employed by a new agency called Black Beauty, were all to work an eight-hour day, their combined bill would be $16,000, a handsome fee by any standard and a vast change from even a few years ago. This spectacular breakthrough --part of the new emphasis on black pride and equality--was brought about by advertisers and fashion arbiters who are finding out that black is not only beautiful but good business.
50 SHADES OF BLACK is about celebrating beauty, exploring the influential nature of human sexuality, as well as discussing the formation of black identity...and its complex nature in terms of race and skin tone. This article offers insight into all of these areas and then immediately nuances those objectives in many ways. The opening paragraph reads:
When ad agencies and fashion houses began hiring black models a few years ago under pressure from the civil rights movement, most of the models were not really all that black. Cautious businessmen sought out the most Caucasian-looking black models they could find. Today they want blackness -Afro hair, discernibly Negroid features, truly black skin.
"...Not really all that black?" "blackness?" "Negroid features?"
As we continue to engage this rich dialogue at 50 SHADES OF BLACK, I solicit your feedback. What are your thoughts of today's feature? In what ways have things changed? In what ways are they the same? What is blackness? And what role (positive or negative) has presentations in/from the media shaped your understanding of your black identity?
Join the conversation. -Carlton mackey
50SHADESOFBLACK.COM -an exploration of sexuality, race, skin tone, beauty, and the formation of black identity from a global perspective