Icons: Donyale Luna

Introducing the Icons series; a commitment to celebrating inspirational figures, from the commemorated to the trivialised. The first of the series, Donyale Luna. Described by her sister as “a very weird child, even from birth”, as well as a supermodel, Donyale Luna is a beautiful mystery. Born Peggy Ann Freeman, although her presence frequently graces social media feeds, information surrounding the 6ft2 iconic beauty is limited to the odd article and blog posts of speculation.

“the editor allegedly asked Luna, the model of the moment, to mask her features in order to disguise her ethnicity”

A few years ago, whilst exploring the limited fashion section of my college library, I stumbled across a book featuring Luna’s 1966 British Vogue cover, shot by David Bailey. Intrigued by a face masked by a hand, I combed the internet for the creative direction behind the cover. My findings left me bewildered. The model on the cover was black, the first black woman to cover British Vogue! An achievement so great yet unacknowledged by many of the self-proclaimed, fashion obsessed.

However, the story surrounding the cover disappointed. Cited by many but never confirmed by the British edition of the fashion bible, the editor allegedly asked Luna, the model of the moment, to mask her features in order to disguise her ethnicity. This is a story not hard to believe, as even to date, a black woman on the cover of any edition of Vogue will steal the attention of the world simply due to its rarity. Controversy aside, from her style to her stature, Donyale Luna was an eccentric yet striking individual. Her premature death, induced by a drug-fuelled lifestyle may have prevented acclaimed celebrity status but her iconic image lives on, capturing a rare beauty and the love of the intrigued.

 

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