Note: With the tremendous response to the blog post I decided to add more photos especially the most recent one taken by Rose Hartman recently published in The New York Times at Le 1973 Grand Divertissement à Versailles.
This month we lost one of the most revered beauty and fashion icons, Naomi Sims and I realized that once many of our "greats" past the age of 30 we have no use for them anymore. In a country who seems to be so obsessed with stopping the time clock on aging it scares me how they just toss aside those that have contributed so much to this nations cultural history in favor of what they think is so fresh, new and young.
Any way I've decided that as long as I'm living I'd pay homage to the many men and women who came before us and who have paved the way for me and the rest of you. I believe in giving flowers to the living and showing them that I love them while they're alive. Today, I salute former fashion model, Billie Blair. I'm giving her a bouquet of flowers to show my appreciation for all that's she's done in my life.
Billie was a former nursing student from Flint, Michigan, who moved to New York in search for a career in modeling. Instead of her finding "it", it found her and the rest is fashion history. She did not fit Americas standard of female beauty, but she had a style all her own that commanded the big dollars in her day. Billie was also like Naomi Sims, a "Halston Muse," who the designer greatly admired and so did Oscar, Scott Barrie, Bob Mackie and others.
I remember Billie as the model with her hair, often slicked back or with an attached hair bun. The most thing striking about her were those beautiful eyes and the way she always held her head as she walked down the runway. The lady could walk, none of that marching mess they have today. Pure elegance at it's best. When you saw her in print, again pure elegance.
Thank God I still have all of my old Essence Magazines from the 70's and 80's because the internet has no photos of her. I'll be putting out the first even though certain newspapers and magazines have their archives and pull them out only when needed.
The models of her day, Pat, Mounia, Almalia, Rebekka, Katoucha, Alva, Kirat, Anna Bayle, Dalma and even Iman had this allure and regality about themselves that made the women at the shows buy those designer clothes by the dozens. These women were the "Super Models Of Color" in my day, sure there were others but these were the ones who stood out the most and you would clap along with the patrons because this is how good they were.
These women were more than just "Super Models" to me, they were an inspiration, that let me know that I also could be whatever I wanted and that I too was beautiful. I miss those days when diversity once ruled the catwalks. If fashion is green(dollars), then why is there no diversity?
A lot of former "Super Models" have married quite well, and have gone off into the fashion sunset and are doing other things in the arts and fashion industry. I don't know where you are in the world today? I do wish you well and I thank you for showing me what fabulous style really means.