About a year before I was born Naomi Sims appeared on the cover of Ladies Home Journal, and then two months after I was born she appeared on the cover of Life Magazine. Those two magazines were not high fashion magazines like British Vogue or Harper's Bazaar , which allowed black model Donyale Luna to grace its pages for the sake of being chic.
These magazines were the kind that were weaved into the fabric of America. They were found often in everyday homes on everyday coffee tables. Her being on the cover of both of these magazines enabled me to be considered a lady. Not a black woman or black female, but a lady. That's not a title that black women enjoyed in America before women like Naomi Sims paved the way for us. I am sure black babies, black ministers, black fathers, and black brothers considered us ladies, but to mainstream America we were black women not ladies.
Naomi Sims worked extremely hard to become a model. When agencies wouldn't sign her, she went to Photographers. One of them photographed her in the New York Times Fashion Insert, and she used that shoot to parlay her career into much bigger gigs. She helped to make the Wilhelmina Agency a success by acting as her own agent and sending Wilhelmina Cooper the commission. She sent around her photo to Advertising Agencies herself, so that the Wilhelmina Agency didn't have to shoulder any expenses or any work for its commission.
She worked very hard after her modeling career as an author and business woman. You probably have all heard of her wig line. Although I hadn't really stopped to think about it, I now realize that Naomi Sims has been a role model since before I was born. I am thankful to her for that. I wish I had written this tribute before she left us, in hopes that she might have seen it. However, I am a little late she transitioned on August 3rd of this year.
It's not too late however, for me to think of her and the work she has left behind while I am doing my own work. Thank you Naomi Sims.