This Photobook Pays Homage To Fashion’s Most Iconic Black Models
Supreme Models is former model Marcellas Reynolds' first book, an unapologetic homage to the fashion industry's most iconic black models. The celebratory offering is filled with seventy female trailblazers spanning multiple decades, rife with women who laid the groundwork for a new generation of black women breaking the industry today.
Model-turned-journalist-and-stylist Reynolds first had the idea for the book after reading a lacklustre tribute devoted to renowned faces in the modelling industry. Quickly noticing a distinct lack of black female models, he tells Refinery29: “I read it from cover to cover and it dawned on me that there were only two black models in the book. I was a little outraged actually. I did some research and there were no art books that were devoted to black supermodels.”
The L.A. native began producing the book in 2011, enlisting the help of some friends he accrued during his successful modelling stint in the late '90s: “I knew all these models; we shared our lives and stories. I knew A-list models would have incredible stories to tell.” Delving into their stories firsthand, he hoped to fill a void: “What was missing from the art books that I had, was that they always talked to other people like the editors, directors and photographers but not the models themselves.”
Including a legion of lesser-known faces who enriched the landscape was at the crux of this project, he continues: “I wanted [to include] models like Karen Alexander who you may not know and faces like Kersti Bowser, who in the early ‘80s to early ‘90s influenced black culture because she was in almost all issues of Seventeen magazine. Black girls grew up hanging onto her every word, wearing what she wore in the magazine and behaving how she did.”
One of the faces representing the influx of contemporary models is 19-year-old Sudanese-Australian model Adut Akech, who won the prestigious accolade for Model of The Year earlier this month at the Fashion Awards. While her recognition is certainly a milestone in the industry, egregious declarations like ELLE Germany’s “Black is Back” cover line on the November 2019 issue (alongside the misidentification of various black models inside the magazine) is a startling reminder of the struggle black models still endure. Although change may be slow - “I feel like for every step forward there is a step back” Reynolds says - there is a shift taking place due to the gradual acceptance of “girls of every hair texture” and a multitude of “skin tones breaking though” he adds.
Scroll through to discover a few faces that Marcellas credits as game-changers in the modelling industry, from the inimitable Pat Cleveland to Naomi Sims.