This is Donyale Luna (real name Peggy Ann Freeman) and she was the first African American mannequin that Rootstein released. For a long time she was the was the ONLY African American mannequin on the market.
If you asked a serious Rootstein collector which mannequin black or white is in the top 5 of their wish list, it is Luna.
A New Orleans store, D. H. Holmes, was the first to display “Luna” while other stores packed her away for future use.
But it was not until after the riots of the late ’60s that store windows were integrated. Out came Luna who was still the only black mannequin available.
In real life Donyale was the first black woman to appear on the cover of British Vogue and she is credited with being the first black supermodel. She did runway work as well as editorial and appeared in a few art house films.
In the US, she appeared in a feature spread in Harper’s Bazaar wearing Rudi Gernreich, Paco Rabanne and James Galanos and photographed by guest editor Richard Avedon.
His images of her are now legendary but at the time, they stirred up quite a lot of racial tension. Advertisers with Southern accents pulled their ads and hundreds of readers cancelled their subscriptions.
As Avedon was to later lament, “For reasons of racial prejudice, and the economics of the fashion business, I was never permitted to photograph her for publication again.”
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