Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Feminist Icon: Naomi Sims

The story of the death of Naomi Sims has been all over the news today. One thing that really jumps out at me is the way it's covered, and the facts of her life that are deemed relevant.

Many news stories refer to her only as the first black supermodel, or to her role in the Black is Beautiful movement. As with most women in the news, the passive voice is frequently used to describe her ("by 1972, Hollywood took an interest in her as a potential actress..."), as if all the events in her life just sort of happened to her. But in fact, Sims was a savvy and intelligent woman who took charge of her life and subsequently flourished in a number of different roles. She was persistent and relentless in her effort to break into the modeling industry, which was work she was pursuing in order to finance her education. When Sims left modeling, she described her discontentment with the racial scripts and the lack of creative involvement allowed to models. She went on to launch two businesses and become one of the most successful African American businesswomen. Her life provides a model of a strong, intelligent, and confident WOC.

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