Supreme Models: Vogue docuseries based on Marcellas Reynolds' book

  • by Cornelius Washington
  • Tuesday March 7, 2023
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Author and documentary host Marcellas Reynolds
Author and documentary host Marcellas Reynolds

In the worlds of high fashion, advertising, and marketing, Black women have always been simultaneously the silent majority (spending wise), underrepresented consumers, and a secret weapon. Black female fashion models and their visibility on the runways, editorial spreads, and advertising campaigns have been sorely lacking for decades while the LGBTQ community has been steadily embracing them as well as the Black community. Indeed, the gay community is the subtext of fashion as an industry, culture, and community.

Interestingly enough, no one has ever traced the history of Black women who have dared to strut, vamp, and — thanks to the LGBTQ community of color — vogue beyond racism, poverty, and ignorance to take their rightful places as game changers, muses, and ambassadors for diversity. Using their platforms to enact change that puts the heat on, and in, fashion itself.

Of course the idea behind such a celebration of Black women would be started by a Black man, Marcellas Reynolds, who has published a truly ravishing book, "Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion." It's a must-have for true fashion addicts. Also, Reynolds teamed up with Vogue and YouTube Originals as an executive producer to create the six-part documentary about Black female fashion models, which has the same title as the book.

Iman in the book 'Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion'  

One of the other executive producers is the empress of supermodels, Iman, who also serves as the spirit guide of the series. The slayage of the documentary begins with international superstar and Bay Area native, actress, model, and celebrity spokesperson Zendaya. With her superstar stylist, Law Roach, they recreate imagery by the first Black female fashion sensation Donyale Luna, who discusses the impact women of color have had on her career.

The highlights of the series are the models themselves, who discuss their careers, lives, triumphs, disappointments and dreams. Pat Cleveland, Karen Alexander, Roshumba Williams, Precious Lee, Joan Smalls, Halima Aden, Alek Wek and Damaris Lewis, among many others, pull back the curtain with plenty of the icons of the industry, including photographer Marc Baptiste, makeup artist Sam Fine, and designers Sergio Hudson and Olivier Rousteing.

Agents Ivan Bartand and Kyle Hagler provide insight as well as the editors of the major magazines, Mikki Taylor (Essence), Edward Enninful (British Vogue) along with Madame herself, Anna Wintour (American Vogue).

Zendaya, here on the cover of In Style, is featured in the 'Supreme Models' documentary.  

The construction of the series is excellent, emotional, glamorous and gritty. Director R.J. Cutler, the genius behind the documentary "The September Issue" (another must-see on fashion) along with co-director and executive producer Douglas Keeves, with music by Meshell Ndegeocello, have created an enduring inspirational work.

The wild card of the series is the inclusion of Latina transgender actress/model India Moore, who looks languid and lovely as she describes using fashion as an expression of identity and ideation.

There are some flaws in the series, such as the almost complete omission of Beverly Johnson, the first Black woman on the cover of American Vogue. And even though they are mentioned quite frequently and shown and discussed, there are no interviews of the two most famous Black women in fashion and pop culture, Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell.

You really must take time soon to get something to nibble and sip on and watch style incarnate and enrich your sense of swag and courage. It's never too late for an upgrade and a makeover, darling.

'Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion,' by Marcellas Reynolds. Harry N. Abrams Publishing, $50. 256 pages.

Watch episode one of 'Supreme Models' on YouTube:

The National Arts Club presents a conversation with Marcellas Reynolds:

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