Long before Naomi Campbell or Tyra Banks took the modeling world by storm, Donyale Luna established herself as the world’s first black supermodel.
Her lithe body and mesmerizing features took her from a troubled home in Detroit to New York and then to London, just two years after being discovered by legendary photographer David McCabe.
Luna, born Peggy Ann Freeman in 1945, stood 6ft 2inches tall and was known as the “reincarnation of Nefertiti.” Her parents were Nathaniel and Peggy Freeman. Despite the evidence of her birth certificate, Luna said her biological father’s surname was Luna and her mother was of Native American, Mexican, and Egyptian descent.
She also claimed one of her grandmothers was Irish and had married a black man.
Luna appeared in numerous fashion shoots and movies. She became friends with the likes of Miles Davis, Mia Farrow and Andy Warhol, who were among the artistic glitterati who took her in.
But little more than a decade after her after her seductive eyes peered through her fingers on the iconic March 1966 Vogue cover, she was dead.
Her death remains a mystery. Various accounts report she died at 34; others say she was 33.
Beverly Johnson, frequently called the first black woman on the cover of a major magazine, readily acknowledges Luna as someone who made it possible for models like her and others.