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Joshunda Sanders

media mogul, model, and actress, was born Tyra Lynne Banks and grew up in Inglewood, California. Her father, Donald Banks, was a computer consultant, and her mother, Carolyn London, was a medical photographer and business manager. The couple divorced when Tyra was six years old, in 1980.

Banks attended Immaculate Heart Middle and High School, an all-girl's private school. She credited her mother's photography business and friends' encouragement with her ability to overcome a self-consciousness during her awkward adolescence that almost made her pursue another path.

“I grew three inches and lost 40 pounds in 90 days,” she told the Black Collegian in an interview about her teen years. “It was just this crazy growth spurt. I felt like a freak: people would stare at me in the grocery store.”

A friend encouraged her to try modeling during her senior year At the time several ...

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Steven J. Niven

film actress and model, was born Halle Maria Berry in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Jerome Berry, a hospital attendant, and Judith Hawkins, a psychiatric nurse. Her father, an alcoholic, abandoned the family when she was four, leaving her mother to raise Halle and her sister Heidi, first in predominantly black inner-city Cleveland and later in that city's white suburbs. Berry's childhood was troubled, in part because of the economic hardship of growing up in a single-parent household. But as the light-skinned child of an interracial couple—her mother was white, her father African American—she also endured racial taunts from both blacks and whites. Fellow students called her “zebra” and on one occasion left an Oreo cookie in her school locker. Berry never had any doubts about her own identity, however, and states on her Web site that her “race” is African American and English.

An extremely shy teenager ...

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Charmaine A. Flemming

In 2002 the highest honor for a film actor, the Oscar, was awarded for the first time to an African American female, Halle Berry, for her work in Monster’s Ball. Berry is considered one of America’s most beautiful women, a first-rate performer, and one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading ladies.

Born to Jerome and Judith Berry in Cleveland, Ohio, Halle Berry was the second daughter of this interracial couple. Halle and her older sister, Heidi, lived their early childhood years in an inner-city neighborhood. When Berry was four, her abusive father left the family, leaving his daughters to be raised almost totally by their mother, a psychiatric nurse. Some time later, Judith Berry moved Halle and her sister to the predominantly white Cleveland suburb of Bedford.

When discussing the family s move to Bedford Berry said it was there that her growth as an interracial child and teenager was ...

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Stephanie Y. Evans

actor. Halle Berry was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Jerome Berry, an African American hospital attendant, and Judith Hawkins Berry, a white psychiatric nurse. Leaving an abusive relationship, Judith Berry moved Halle and her older sister Heidi to the Cleveland suburb of Bedford where, despite many racist attitudes, Halle flourished in high school.

In 1985 Berry won the Miss Teen All American pageant, in 1986 she was first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant, and also in 1986 she represented the United States in the Miss World competition in London. After her pageants she enrolled in Cleveland's Cuyahoga Community College to study broadcast journalism. She moved to Chicago and then to Manhattan, where she managed to get small roles in several television programs.

Berry first gained widespread recognition as Vivian, a crack addict, in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever (1991), and she won roles in The ...

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Shelle Sumners

Halle Maria Berry was born on August 14, 1968, in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father, Jerome, was an African American hospital attendant and her mother, Judith, was a white psychiatric nurse. When Berry was four years old her parents divorced and her mother was left to raise Halle and her older sister alone. Initially they lived in a predominantly black area of inner-city Cleveland, but by the time Berry was a teenager her mother had moved the family to the suburbs, where Berry attended Bedford High School. She felt she stood out as a racial minority in her mostly-white school, and was determined to participate fully in school activities. She became a cheerleader, an editor of the school newspaper, and class president. Berry was voted queen of the prom, but because of suspected voting irregularities had to share the title with a white student.

At age seventeen Berry represented ...

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Leyla Keough

Fashion critics praise Naomi Campbell as “the Josephine Baker of the 1990s.” Her graceful beauty, natural modeling ability, and magnetism on the catwalk have earned her up to $1 million a year.

Campbell was born in London, England, to Jamaican immigrants and raised by her mother in south London. Slender and stunning, she speaks with an Asian accent, attributed to the influence of her Chinese grandmother. When Campbell was fifteen years old, a local modeling agent took one look at her and implored her to sign a modeling contract. At the time, Campbell was attending the prestigious London Academy of Performing Arts. After completing the school year, as her mother insisted, Campbell had her first photo shoot and signed with the Elite Model Management Agency in 1987. In 1989 she became the first black model to appear on the cover of the French Vogue magazine and the ...

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Patricia Hunt-Hurst

one of the pioneers of black women in fashion modeling, was born in Texarkana, Texas; she was the seventh of eight children. Her mother was a school teacher and her father a carpenter and farmer. Dorothy studied biology at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where she completed her degree in 1945. She planned to study medicine, but when her mother died she moved to Los Angeles to live with family. While there she earned a master's degree in education at the University of Southern California, married, and started her modeling career.

The fashion industry in the late twentieth century included the major fashion centers of New York and Paris New York was known for its American ready to wear and Paris for its couture or made to order dresses of original designs Fashion models were vital to the display of the designs in both facets of the ...

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Iman  

Caryn E. Neumann

model and cosmetics-company founder, was born Iman Abdul Majid in Mogadishu, Somalia, the second of five children born to Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born Arabic teacher and diplomat, and Marian Abdul Majid, a Somalia-born midwife. “Iman,” a name generally given to a boy, means “to have faith in Allah.” As the first girl born to her father's family in three generations, Iman appeared as a gift from Allah.

Very much a “daddy's girl,” Iman worshipped her father. A fighter against sexism, Mohamed adhered to the theory that girls should be treated well at home to enable them to surmount any restrictions that society might try to place upon them. Accordingly, Iman was sent to boarding school because her father felt that such an environment offered girls the best education.

To his delight Iman did well in her studies of Arabic Italian geography and mathematics She eventually left boarding school ...

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Dennis Gouws

teacher, model, dramatist, and collector of African American artifacts, was born in London to a West Indian mother and a British father, of whom little is known. It is believed that his mother was black and his father was white. Nor is it known when Jackman came to the United States, but he was raised in Harlem, New York, and graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School, where he befriended the poet Countée Cullen. Jackman earned a BA degree from New York University in 1923 and an MA from Columbia University in 1927. For more than three decades he taught social studies in the New York Public Schools.

Aptly described as the non writer whom everyone adored Jackman inspired tributes from those prominent Harlem Renaissance personalities with whom he socialized Griffin 494 Cullen for example dedicated an early version of his poem Advice to Youth ...

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Beth Kraig

model, singer, performance artist, and actress, was born in Spanishtown, Jamaica, the daughter of Marjorie and Robert Jones. Her mother was a clothing maker whose design skills influenced her daughter's eventual reputation as a fashion trendsetter. Her father was a minister whose charismatic preaching influenced his daughter's sense of drama. Jones, a twin, was one of seven children, and the large family shared an enthusiasm for music that shaped her childhood ambition of becoming a singer.

Like thousands of people of African descent from the Caribbean, the family relocated to the United States to seek more opportunities. They settled in Syracuse, New York, in the 1960s, with the parents preceding their children to the United States and then reuniting the family in 1964 in their new home. Jones continued her education in Syracuse and enrolled in Syracuse University in 1968 where she focused on ...

Article

Samuel Autman

actor and model, was born Richard Roundtree in New Rochelle, New York. His father, John, was a garbage collector and caterer; his mother, Kathryn, worked as a housekeeper. Even while attending New Rochelle High School, Roundtree's physical prowess, affable personality, and good looks made him a standout. In high school he was captain of the track team and played end on the nation's third-ranked high school football team; he graduated in 1961. While on a football scholarship at Southern Illinois University, Roundtree became a model for an Ebony Fashion Fair tour. Upon returning to New York he began acting lessons, and then joined the Negro Ensemble Company in 1967 for a series of Off-Broadway roles for two years. That experience paved the way for him to star as boxer Jack Johnson in the stage presentation of The Great White Hope.

Roundtree s struggle to find ...

Article

RuPaul  

Monica Hairston

drag performer, singer, songwriter, and actor, was born RuPaul Andre Charles in San Diego, California, the only son of four children to Ernestine “Toni” Fontenette (a registrar) and Irving Andrew Charles (an electrician). RuPaul was close to his sisters Renae, Renatta, and Rosalind, and to his mother, particularly after his parents' bitter 1967 divorce. Shortly afterward, RuPaul moved in with Renatta and her husband in El Cajon, California, and then moved with them to Atlanta in the summer of 1976 While there RuPaul worked with his brother in law as a used car salesman but also attended the Northside School of the Performing Arts RuPaul s experiences as a drama major at Northside as well as his exposure to the liberating and bohemian climate in Atlanta fueled his desire to succeed as a performing artist RuPaul experienced his first drag queen performance ...

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Roanne Edwards

Since the release of his 1992 debut album Supermodel of the World, RuPaul has become a nationally recognized celebrity. Although best known as a drag queen, he also enjoys surprising audiences by appearing as a man. “Drag queens are like the shamans of our society, reminding people of what's funny and what's a stereotype,” he told People Weekly writer Tim Allis in 1993. “I feel very powerful when I'm in drag, and when I'm out of drag I observe our culture.” Six feet, seven inches tall in heels, RuPaul is painfully aware of the contradictions of being a black man who wears a platinum wig and platform heels. “When I'm dressed up as this goddess,” he told Allis, “people trip over themselves to give me things. But as an African American male, I can walk into an elevator and have people clutch their handbags.”

Born RuPaul Andre Charles ...

Article

Martha Pitts

fashion model, entrepreneur, and writer, was born in Oxford, Mississippi, the daughter of John Sims and Elizabeth Parham. Her father left the family when Sims was a baby, and her mother suffered a nervous breakdown when Sims was eight. She spent her childhood living with different foster families in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, separated from her sisters mother. This isolation, coupled with Sims's self-consciousness about her dark skin and tall stature—she stood five feet, ten inches at age thirteen—made her an insecure teenager. Nonetheless, Sims was urged by friends and family to try modeling. After graduating from Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, Sims moved to New York and enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she studied merchandising and textile design. She also took evening classes to study psychology at New York University.

In New York Sims did not immediately try to become a model but financial ...

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Malaika B. Horne

model, entrepreneur, businesswoman, author, and philanthropist. Sims, an international beauty icon, was born in Oxford, Mississippi. Her mother, a divorcée, had a nervous breakdown when Naomi was eight. Separated from her mother and her two sisters, she spent the rest of her adolescence in foster homes. At age thirteen she was five feet, ten inches. Because she looked different, she became a target and was teased, bullied, and ostracized. She said her Catholic religion helped her achieve against all odds.

Sims moved to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania where she attended high school After graduating she enrolled into the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City but had to drop out because of financial problems She then worked as a fashion illustrator to support herself She carved out success in the fashion industry without an agent simply calling up prestigious modeling agencies in New York City and offering her services One contract ...

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Claranne Perkins

entrepreneur, lifestyle expert, author, and model, was born Barbara Smith near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of William H. Smith, a steel worker, and Florence Claybrook Smith, a part-time maid. She has described her parents as the original Bob Villa and Martha Stewart referring to the television handyman and the multimedia domestic guru respectively and was greatly influenced by the home her parents established She assisted them in the family s vegetable and flower gardens While in high school Smith studied cooking sewing nutrition and fashion During the same time she took classes at the John Robert Powers modeling school in Pittsburgh on the weekend She completed her modeling studies shortly before she graduated from high school After graduation Smith moved to Pittsburgh where she worked hard to launch her modeling career It was not easy but in the late 1960s after a national ...

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Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Murphreesboro, Tennessee, one of two children of Frank E. Sr. and Rosa Sublett, who were divorced in 1931. When Sublett was about five years old, the family moved to Highland Park, Illinois, and a year later to Glencoe, Illinois, another Chicago suburb. Sublett spent most of the rest of his life in Glencoe. His education in the first eight grades was in Glencoe, and he then went to high school in nearby Winnetka. He was among the very few black students in the high school, from which he graduated in 1938, but he later recalled that he encountered no prejudice there (Stillwell, 149). As a teenager he got his first exposure to service life when he attended Citizens Military Training Camp at Fort Riley, Kansas, for two summers. He spent the 1938–1939 school year at the University of ...

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Nancy T. Robinson

actress, seamstress, and model, was born Donessa Dorothy Van Engle in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City to Fred Van Engle, a tailor, and Mynita Duncan. Her mother was born in Massachusetts to Willis and Mabelle Duncan, with whom the family lived at the time of Van Engle's birth. Her father, Fred Van Engle, was born on the island of Saint Kitts and worked as a tailor.

Van Engle was born during the Harlem Renaissance and lived in the same apartment building as the boxer Jack Johnson and the actress Lena Horne with whom she was friends The Harlem Renaissance represented a creative boom and a period of recognition for African Americans in music art literature politics dance theater and business for those from and living in Harlem considered the cultural haven for African Americans In her Harlem neighborhood Van Engle mingled with ...