Naomi Sims, Model Pioneer, Dies at 61

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VIA NEW YORK TIMES:

Naomi Sims, whose appearance as the first black model on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal in November 1968 was a consummate moment of the Black is Beautiful movement, and who went on to design successful collections of wigs and cosmetics for black women under her name, died Saturday in Newark. She was 61, her family said, and lived in Newark.

She died of cancer, said her son, Bob Findlay.

Ms. Sims is sometimes referred to as the first black supermodel.

“Naomi was the first,” the designer Halston told The New York Times in 1974. “She was the great ambassador for all black people. She broke down all the social barriers.”

Ms. Sims often said childhood insecurities and a painful upbringing — living in foster homes, towering over her classmates and living in a largely poor white neighborhood in Pittsburgh — had inspired her to strive to become “somebody really important” at a time when cultural perceptions of black Americans were being challenged by the civil rights movement and a renewed stress on racial pride.

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