Donyale Luna was discovered by photographer David McCabe in downtown Detroit, who marvelled at her tall, willowy body and Nefertiti-like face. She was the first black model who really began to change things; to enable more diverse beauty paradigms to break through.
In 1966, she became the first African American model to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine, a photograph in which she covered her whole face with her hand, except for her boldly outlined eye. Reportedly, that shot was chosen so as to not offend the magazine’s regular readership.
In Europe, Luna became a highly sought-after model, working for a coterie of international designers including Yves Saint Laurent, Mary Quant and Paco Rabanne. Luna was so feted that, in the documentary London Is a Swinging City (1967), she alone represents the film’s idea of the most swinging model of the time.
Here modeling for Paco Rabanne, photography by Richard Avedon.
Here with Brian Jones from The Rolling Stones.
John and Julian Lennon, Yoko Ono, Rolling Stones Guitarist, Brian Jones with Luna, 1968.
On the set of Blow-Up by David Montgomery.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Luna appeared in several films; Andy Warhol’s Screen Test: Donyale Luna (1964), Camp (1965), and Donyale Luna (1967), a 33-minute color film in which the model starred as Snow White. Federico Fellini (Fellini Satyricon). She also appeared in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, the Otto Preminger comedy Skidoo (in which she was featured as the mistress of God, who was portrayed by Groucho Marx), the British documentary Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London, as herself on Antonioni’s Blow Up and William Klein‘s Who Are You, Polly Magoo?
Here with film director Federico Fellini on the set of Fellini’s Satyricon.
starring on Otto Preminger comedy Skidoo with genious comedian Groucho Marx.
Luna had a yearning for artistic experimentation. In New York she spent time hanging out with Miles Davis and being painted by psychedelic artist Mati Klarwein (who made record covers for Miles Davis, Santana and Jimi Hendrix). Her rare beauty and kookiness had also interested artist Andy Warhol. Luna became one of only two black women (the other being Pat Hartley) to be part of Warhol’s East 47th Street Factory. Also, no other than surrealist master Salvador Dali considered her one of his favorite models.
It was fashion photographer William Claxton who introduced her to Salvador Dalí, who in turn declared her ‘the reincarnation of Nefertiti’. Here Luna on a performance with Dali.
Donyale Luna by Mati Klarwein. Mische Technique, oil and tempera on canvas, 1967.
Posing for photographer and artis Peter Beard, 1977.
Luna in one of the images from Charlotte March’s shoot for Twen magazine, 1966.
Advert for the accessories brand Bozart Bijoux.
“Panther” from her 1974 Playboy shooting.