Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Breaking the Mold: Tracy Reese

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Tracy Reese was born in Detroit, MI in 1964. She graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York in 1984. says, "Tracy Reese ranks as one of the fashion industry's most successful African-American women whose realm is not relegated to the runway."

Reese started working with Martine Sitbon and for a fashion label called Arelquin Reese right out of Parsons. Reese was a designer for Magaschoni, Perry Ellis and designed an exclusive line for The Limited. The designer started her own company in 1998 and has two labels; Tracy Reese and Plenty. In 2004, the designer started a home goods line called Plenty Home.

The designer has also collaborated with other brands like Sally Hansen, Hue and Keds. 

Reese lives in New York and is one of the few African American women in mainstream fashion that owns her own label.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Local Mover and Shaker: Alpha Coles Blackburn

Alpha Coles Blackburn grew up in Lynchburg, VA. Blackburn received a degree in painting and sculpture at Howard University.

The award winning fashion designer and model hosted a local talk show in the 70's. Blackburn was once the fashion editor for Indianapolis Monthly. She's also designed uniforms for both the Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Colts. A fun fact: in 2005, Indianapolis Monthly reported the entrepreneur had over 200 pairs of shoes...think of the shoe porn!

Blackburn is now the president and CEO of Blackburn Architects; which gained national press from overseeing the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center project in Cincinnati, OH. The civic leader and humanitarian sits on more than 60 boards and councils throughout the city of Indianapolis including Indiana University/Purdue University of Indianapolis (IUPUI), the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Indianapolis Cultural Development Commision.

The city of Richmond penned February 27, 2001 as Alpha Blackburn Day.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Achiever: Tyra Banks

Tyra Lynne Banks was born in 1973 in Inglewood, CA. Her mother is a fashion manager and a NASA photographer. Her father is a computer consultant. Banks was accepted for UCLA and USC to major in television producing.

Banks began modeling as a junior in high school. Banks has been on the covers of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle and Harper's Bazaar. She's walked the runway for many designers including Chanel, Anna Sui and Christian Dior. She was the first Black woman to appear on the covers of GQ and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. Banks was also the first Black woman to appear on the cover of the Victoria Secret's catalog. Banks retired from modeling in 2005 to concentrate on her television career.

Banks has done numerous acting spots on the small screen like Fresh Prince of Bel Air, MadTV, Felicity and many more. Banks started her own production company, Bankable Productions, and released her own talk show. She introduced us to the world of modeling with her reality show contest, America's Next Top Model. Banks received a Daytime Emmy in 2008 for the Tyra Banks Show.

Banks was also a featured in movies including Higher Learning, Love and Basketball and Halloween: Resurrection.

The entertainer also tried her hand in music. Along with being in many music videos, the model released her own music single, Shake Yo Body. Banks also released a song with NBA player, Kobe Bryant.

Banks is still working but has recently been accepted to Harvard Business school.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Entrepenuer: Iman

"My dream woman is Iman" - Yves Saint Laurent

Iman, born Iimaan Maxamed Cabdulmajiid, was born in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1955. Her father was an ambassador to Saudi Arabia and her mother was a gynecologist. Iman studied at Nairobi University in Kenya and majored in political science. She was discovered while attending Nairobi and moved to the United States in 1975. The model is fluent in five languages: Somali, Arabic, Italian, French and English.

The supermodel was featured in countless fashion magazines, including Vogue, and walked for many designers during her two decades of modeling. She was also the muse to some of the top photographers in the world.

In 1994, Iman started her own cosmetic line geared toward women of color to fill the void of hard to find colors. Iman Cosmetics was worth over $25 million in 2010. Iman also has a fashion line featured on HSN called Global Chic.

Iman has been on numerous television shows and movies and is the current host and judge of Fashion Show, a reality fashion designer competition show on the Bravo network.

She continues to help her native country with numerous charities and fundraisers.

The model is married to rock glam god, David Bowie and is still one of the hardest working women in fashion history.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Rising Star: Chanel Iman

 Chanel Iman is one of the hottest models on the runway right now. The half Black half Koren model was born Chanel Iman Robinson in Atlanta, GA. in 1990.

The model began her career at 13 working with the Ford Modeling agency in Los Angeles. In 2007, Iman was considered by one of the next top supermodels by Vogue. The model has been on the covers of  Vogue and Teen Vogue. She's also been featured in countless fashion editorials. Iman has walked the runway of many top designers including Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander  McQueen and Marc Jacobs.  In 2010, Iman became a Victoria Secret angel.

Iman lives in New York but currently co-owns a boutique called The Red Bag Boutique in Los Angeles with her mother. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dream Deferred: Billie Holiday

I LOVE Billie Holiday! She is one of the people, dead or alive, I would want to have dinner with. Her life was so complex and she lost the battle to circumstance. You can hear the pain in her voice.

Born Eleanora Fagan in Pennsylvania in1915, Holiday was bounced around from home to home and was sent to a boarding school because of her truancy at the age of 10. Holiday dropped out of school at 11 years old to work in bars. Holiday was raped at age 12 and worked as a prositute at age 14.

When the singer started performing, she used the name "Billie Dove" and changed it to Holiday after her father. Holiday sang at bars and lounges until she signed with Brunswick Records. She was nicknamed Lady Day by her close friend and saxophonist. Holiday sang with legends including Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Artie Shaw. She signed with Columbia Records in the late 1930s.

In May 1947, the singer was arrested for possession of narcotics and was forced to rehab several times. She was convicted and her New York City Cabaret Card was revoked causing Holiday to be blacklisted from performing in the NYC area. Holiday took to the road singing around the world. New York finally opened up to Holiday with open arms allowing her to sing at Carnegie Hall.

Holiday died July 17, 1959. She was arrested on her death bed for narcotic possession a month earlier. She died with $.70 in the bank.

I could talk all day about Lady Day. This is just a small piece of her puzzled journey. She is an enigma whose talent will never to be duplicated.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Marcus Darling..MA..RC..US": Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt was the an entertainer like no other. A household name and star of the stage and the big screen, Kitt oozed an unearthly seduction like no other entertainer of her period. She was Catwoman for gosh sakes!

Rumored born of mixed race in South Carolina in 1927, Kitt found herself facing racism within her own house. She was raised by a caregiver until her guardian married and her new husband didn't want to raise Kitt because of her complexion. Kitt was sent to live with her biological mother when she was eight years old. 

Kitt began singing in 1948 with a cabaret company called the Katherine Dunham Company. Her signature song, Santa Baby, was released in 1953. Kitt spoke four languages and sang in seven. The entertainer starred in many movies throughout her lifetime and contributed in a lot of voiceover work. She was Catwoman during the thrid season of Batman in 1967 and had her own show in 1969.
Kitt lobbied and was an advocate for homosexual rights and supported same-sex marriages throughout her life. Kitt worked on stage and film up to her death.  Eartha Kitt died of colon cancer in 2008.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Video Vixen: Beverly Peele

Beverly Peele was born in Los Angeles in 1975. She began modeling at 12 years old. Peele appeared on her first magazine cover, Madmoiselle, in 1989. She's done covers for Vogue, Elle and Cosmopolitan and has done runway shows for designers like Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Versace.

Peele retired from modeling in 1995. After the birth of her daughter, Peele's modeling prospects dwindled and she began acting. She was featured on shows like Sister, Sister and Girlfriends. The model is also known for her music video work being featured in George Michael's Too Funky and Heavy D's Nuttin but Love videos.

The model got into some legal trouble when she was arrested in 2005 for credit card fraud; using a card she found in a shopping mall. She appeared on the Tyra Bank Show in 2006 to speak out about the dangers of modeling. Peele was also in a major car accident in 2010 leaving her and her daughter is serious condition.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Pioneer: Beverly Johnson

There wouldn't be a present day black model if there was no Beverly Johnson.

Born in 1952, Johnson grew up in Buffalo, NY with the desire to have a career in law. While studying criminal justice at Northwestern University, Johnson began modeling. Johnson has been on over 500 magazine covers and is considered to be the first "black" woman to grace the cover of Vogue Magazine in 1974.

The model branched out to acting in 1976. Johnson has appeared in movies and television shows like Ashanti, Law & Order and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. She was a judge for model reality show, She's Got the Look for two seasons.

Johnson authored a book, Beverly Johnson's Guide to a Life of Health and Beauty, which was released in December 1981.  Johnson is also an entrepreneur with a line of African American hair care products and wigs.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Beauty on Canvas: Peggy Dillard-Toone

Peggy Dillard-Toone was born in Greenville County, South Carolina. She is the youngest of 10 children.

At 16, Dillard-Toone won a full scholarship to the Pratt Institue of  Technology and has a degree in fine arts with a concentration in fashion merchandising and marketing. She worked as a fashion illustrator, sewing instructor and a designer before modeling.

Dillard-Toone was the second African American woman to appear on the cover of Vogue (Beverly Johnson was the first "Black" woman on the cover. Donyale Luna never identified herself as "black" so many people stripped her of that honor.) and graced other fashion mags like Essence, Mademoiselle and Cosmopolitan.

Dillard-Toone founded a hair salon, Turning Heads Salon, and has a beauty and holistic living advice article featured in magazines and newspapers around the globe. The model is also an artist. She now owns a physical and online art gallery in New York City with her husband called Indasa Fine Arts Gallery. She and her husband also operate two bed and breakfast hotels in Harlem.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Slave to Uniqueness: Grace Jones

She paved the way with her high top fade. She opened the door for Lady Gaga, Lil' Kim and Nikki Minaj.  Grace Jones is the androgynous entertainer that shocked and wowed the industry in the 1970's and 1980's.

Born Grace Mendoza in Spanish Town, Jamaica in 1948. Ironically, her father was a minister. Her family left the island and came to New York in 1968. She soon started modeling and signed a recording contract with Island Records in 1977.

The then disco queen transformed in to a new age goddess in the 80's. The entertainer won a Grammy in 1983 for her long video, A One Man Show and in 1986 she won a MTV Video Music Award for her hit, Pull Up to My Bumper. Jones starred in 19 films including Conan the Barbarian and Boomerang.

Jones was best known for her antics and her unique personal taste. At times a welcome gesture would be a lick to the face. Conan co-star, Arnold Swarzenegger complained that Jones was "too tough" during the filming.  She hobnobed with Andy Warhol and was once engaged to actor Dolph Lundgren.

Jones quoted, "Models are there to look like mannequins, not like real people. Art and illusion are supposed to be fantasy."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bald is Beaming: Pat Evans

Pat Evans was a revolutionary model; on the scene in the 1960's and 1970's.

Evans was featured on in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and other fashion magazines, but earned her acclaim from music group the Ohio Players' album cover and photos with legendary funkman Issac Hayes.

Evans spoke out against the racially charged modeling industry saying, "black modeling is a form of prostitution" in an article in Essence Magazine printed in 1974. Shortly before her article was printed, the model disconnected ties with the modeling industry. 

Evans now has her own modeling agency, Pat Evans Models, out of New York. Her models are seen on advertisements like Smirnoff and Colgate. She also travels with celebrities as a makeup artist.

As of 2009, Evans now lives in Pennsylvania and is a teacher at Northhampton Community College. The former model teaches two classes; a modeling course and a beauty class.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shut Yo Mouth: Pam Grier

Pamela Suzette Grier was born in Winston Salem, NC, in 1949. Her style screamed sensuality and black power and her wicked afro would be imitated by women in the 1970's and today.

Discovered by director Jack Hill in 1970, she became the staple of 1970's blaxploitation films like Coffy, Sheba Baby and Foxy Brown. In the 80's, Grier did small roles in television like Miami Vice, Night Court and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Quentin Tarratino brought Grier back to life on the big screen in the movie Jackie Brown.

In 2004, the diva started in the Showtime hit the L Word and continues to entertain both small and big screen audiences.

Pam Grier's memoirs was published in 2010. Foxy: My Live in Three Acts explored her life including her rape at the age of six and her past relationships with Richard Pryor and Freddie Prinze.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Tragic Endings: Donyale Luna

As the first African American model to be put on the cover of Vogue, Donyale Luna had great potential. Born Peggy Ann Freeman in Detroit, Michigan in 1945, Luna was always described as a person living in a fairy tale.
Luna was featured in sketch from on the cover of Harper's Bazaar in 1965. Soon after she graced the cover of Vogue. A London magazine hailed Luna as the complete new image of the Negro woman. Luna appeared in Playboy in 1975.

The model turned actress was featured in films like Andy Warhol's Camp, the Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus, Salome and many more.When asked about her fame in Hollywood and how it would benefit the minority culture, the model mention it could be "groovy" but "she could care less".

The model enjoyed the use of LSD and died of a drug overdose in 1979, at the age of 33.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

You Better WORK! Pat Cleveland

Pat Cleveland is a supermodel known for her amazingly entertaining walk and her mounds of gorgeous flowing hair. Her Black-Cherokee-Irish mixed ethnicity wows the masses. Even Josephine Baker wanted the model to play her in a biopic.

Cleveland was discovered at 15 years old in 1967 by a Vogue editor, Clarie Donovan, on the subway in New York City. the model has walked the runway for many designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Halston.

Cleveland is also a poet and wrote a book called, "In the Spirit of Grace".
Cleveland still graces runway and magazine with her presence. Her daughter, model Anna van Ravenstein, follows in her footsteps.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mother of the Rainbow: Josephine Baker

Black Pearl - Creole Goddess - Black Venus - Josephine Baker is the mother of black sensuality. Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald on June 3, 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri. Baker began as a maid and a nanny before she started singing and waitressing in night clubs at 13 years old. Baker would continue to perform on screen and stage and was known for her comedic dance and eye rolling. 

Baker's style and performaces will influence modern day celebrity, pop and R&B artists like Beyonce, Keri Hilson and Halle Berry.

Baker was constantly haunted by bigotry and couldn't find fame in the United States. So the entertainer moved to Paris in the 1920's. At that point in her life, she was famed as the most photographed woman in the world. Baker would try to return to the US but was run off of American soil because of her fight and protest against racism. Baker ultimately stayed in Paris where she performed for the Armed Forces and served as a spy for the French Army during World War II. She was not welcome by American society until the seventies.

Baker, who was proposed marriage over 1500 times, was married and divorced three times. But her biggest feat in her personal life was the adoption of her "Rainbow Tribe"; her 12 adopted children from different ethnicities.

Baker died April 12, 1975 of a cerebral hemorage.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Shopper's Psychology 101: Survey

With just five minutes of your time, you can enter for a chance to win a Neck Piece from ShaSAM3. Aesthetic Design Style wants to see how you shop for the hottest trends. We want to see what makes you tick. Complete our survey here on our page or go to  our survey's website.  Answer a few questions about your shopping habits and subscribe to us with your email address and you can win this fabulous limited edition neck piece from ShaSAM3 jewelry. One entry per email address. Survey and contest will end on March 28, 2011. Winner will be contacted by email on April 1st.  Don’t be an April fool, fill out the survey today! 

Black is Beautiful: Naomi Sims

Black History Month runs from February 1st until February 28th.  We want to celebrate all of the amazing women who have brought so much to fashion and to the world.  So many times we separate ourselves because of race, religion, creed, etc. and forget we all have one common thread that connects us; we are all women.  For centuries, no matter what race, religion, creed, etc. to which we belong; we as women, have been second class citizens.  In this day, we want to uplift and support women around the world and create a system that is not biased, but based upon what one can bring to the table - period.  For this very special month we celebrate the African American women who, some you may know and others you may not be familiar with, made an impact on the world in their own special way.  Visit our blog each and every day through the month of February and get to know these beautiful women and the extraordinary lives they lived or are living.

Cover of Life Magazine 1969

Today we will feature Naomi Sims.

Considered the first black supermodel, Naomi Sims was born March 30, 1948 in Oxford, Mississippi. After growing up in Pittsburgh, Sims majored in psychology at New York University at night while attending the Fashion Institute of Technology. Sims started modeling with the help of Wilhemina Cooper, founder of the Wilhemina Modeling agency.

Cover of Cosmopolitan 1973

Though Sims was repeatedly shunned because of her dark complexion, she was the first African American to grace the covers of magazine like Ladies Home Journal and Cosmopolitan, a feat that is difficult for even current black models and actors.

In 1976, after Sims' stint as a model, she started a multimillion dollar wig line called the Naomi Sims Collection and a cosmetic company soon followed. Her beauty products are still sold online and throughout the New York City area. Sims wrote five books on health and beauty.

Sims lost her battle to breast cancer on August 1, 2009 at 61 years old.