Monday, January 18, 2016

The Shine of Donyale Luna

America was white in 1964 from coast to coast, however New York fashion editors were reacting to the blowing in the wind. Malcolm X preached resistance up in Harlem and Martin Luther King was leading marches in Selma, Alabama. Nancy White, the Harper's Bazaar editor, spotted the face of a black teenage beauty from Detroit.

According to Wikipedia Donyale Luna was 5-11, flat-chested and X-ray skinny. Her legs were as stilt-like as a Giacometti sculpture, her fingers extended and spidery. She had caramel-colored skin, almond-shaped eyes, full lips and an oval-shaped face, which, in certain poses, retained an owlish surprise, as if she'd just been pinched from behind.

Half African and half Quechuan from the Andes the black model rode the wave of change onto the runways of New York and Paris.

London's Telegraph reported that Luna wrote a friend, 'New York is a dream… a man danced me down Fifth Avenue, and all up and down Broadway men were eyeing and whistling at me, and so many other unbelievable things. I'm really getting the works from head to toe by Harper's Bazaar's best! As soon as possible I'll send you a picture of the new me. I'll be on top of the world if it takes every breath I have, every muscle of my skinny body. I feel it, I know it. I'll be some kind of star real soon. Real soon."

Avedon shot her for Harper. His photos transformed the school girl into a jet-set princess after a violent family tragedy in which her drunken father had been shot dead by her mother in self-defense. Luna took solace with high class friends, but defected to London, as her career languished in racist America.

It was the city of BLOW-UP.

She was a star for David Bailey, William Klein, Helmut Newton, William Claxton, and Dali.

"She had no tits, but lots of presence," quipped her model friend Pat Cleveland in the Telegram article. "We'd walk down the street and men's mouths would drop open in awe. When we walked into restaurants people would stop eating and stand up and applaud. She was like a mirage, or some kind of fantasy."

And like a mirage she vanished into the world of drugs and died a model's death in Rome.

A black beauty forever.

ps America is no longer all white.

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