NAOMI Sims, whose 1968 Ladies' Home Journal cover shot was a breakthrough for black fashion models, has died. She was 61.
Sims, said by some to be the first black supermodel, died on Saturday of cancer in Newark, New Jersey. It had been decades since she left the runway to become an author and launch her own beauty empire.
Sims attained success at the same time that the "Black is Beautiful" movement was taking hold, and her accomplishments as a barrier-breaking African-American model helped pave the way for the black runway stars of the 1970s.
Sims often spoke of her difficult start - as a gangly foster-care kid in Pittsburgh, who towered over the other children in her school. In 1966, she went to New York City to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology on a scholarship.
When she began approaching modeling agencies, she was turned down again and again. Instead of giving up, she pushed forward and approached photographers directly.
The approach landed her the cover of the Times' August 1967 fashion supplement. She used that photo to market herself directly to advertising agencies, and within a year she was earning $1000 a week.
Before long, she was modelling for top designers.
Sims gave up modelling after five years and launched her own wig-making business. She eventually expanded the multimillion-dollar business to include beauty salons and cosmetics. - Sapa-AP