Since the late 1960s when Donyale Luna became the first African American model to grace the cover of British Vogue, African-American models have been cracking the industry’s glass ceiling by appearing on runways worldwide and in publications that initially wouldn’t dare to feature a black beauty on the cover.
Not only have these models crafted successful careers for themselves, but several have taken it a step further by using their modeling careers as a platform to transition into entrepreneurship.
Here are our five picks for black supermodels models that turned themselves into super moguls:
Johnson made history when she became the first black model to appear on the cover of American Vogue in 1974. After her lucrative modeling career, she added author to her resume in the early 1980s when she published “Beverly Johnson’s Guide to a Life of Health and Beauty.” In the 1990s, Johnson partnered with Amekor to produce the Beverly Johnson Hair collection, a line of wigs and African-American hair products. In 2010, she introduced a line of restorative and styling hair care products that can be found nationwide in Target.
Wek first appeared on the runway at the age of 18 in 1995 and became the first black model to appear on the cover of Elle magazine two years later. Following her successful modeling career, Wek designed a variety of designer handbags called “Wek 1933.” The year stands for the year of her father’s birth and the designer were inspired by the brass-clasp briefcase he carried. Wek also released an autobiography in 2007 entitled “Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel.”
Sims become one of the first black models to be successful while still in her teens and broke many racial barriers, such as being the first African-American model on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal and Life magazine. In 1973, she retired from modeling to start her own business, a successful wig collection based off of the texture of African-American straightened hair. The collection eventually expanded into a multimillion-dollar beauty empire. Sims also authored several books on modeling, health and beauty.
Tyra is arguably the most successful and well-known African-American model of our time. During her modeling career, she became the first African-American woman to to be featured on the covers of GQ and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. In 1997, she became the first African-American ever chosen for the cover of the Victoria’s Secret catalog. After retiring from modeling in 2005, Tyra started her own production company, Bankable Productions, which has produced the Emmy award-winning Tyra Show and America’s Next Top Model. Earlier this year, Tyra and Andre’ Leon Talley launched Type F, a website that strives to redefine beauty for women. She also recently wrote a book trilogy entitled “Modelland,” which is expected to be released later this year.
After devoting 14 years to being a high fashion model, Iman launched Iman Cosmetics to focus on shades that were difficult for ethnic women to find. As of 2010, Iman Cosmetics is a $25 million a year business. Iman has also dabbled in fashion. After being persuaded by the CEO of the Home Shopping Network in 2007, she started a clothing design line. Today, her Global Chic collection, a line of affordable accessories, is one of four best-selling brands on HSN.