When I was growing up, I would always look at EBONY and the fashion magazines. I remember always seeing Terri Springer at the Fashion Fairs and on the covers. I was just so fascinated with Terri Springer. I don’t know if I realized at the time that she was somebody I could relate to because she was dark-skinned, but she resonated with me. She had this beautiful dark skin while all the other models were “high yellow,” as we called them. In articles I read as a kid, she was identified as being unique because of her dark skin.

At that time in our society we really thought that lighter skin was the best thing to be. My sister was lighter. My brother was lighter. I was the dark- skinned one of the group. I remember as a child sitting in a bathtub of Clorox trying to bleach my skin because people said lighter skin was better. But here you have this dark-skinned African-American model being embraced. She was on the cover of magazines and very visible at the Ebony Fashion Fairs. So, I followed her. I watched her though the years as she grew. And then we got Naomi Sims.

I just thought she was just the most beautiful, gazelle-looking person. She got such notoriety and she handled her life with dignity and grace. She loved her dark skin. You’d look at spreads featuring Naomi Sims and she would be in all these white accessories that played up her dark skin. All of this was still new to the fashion industry. If I ever saw Naomi Sims on the front cover, I’d buy the magazine. She made us all feel like it was possible to be a successful dark-skinned African-American model at that time.

— As told to Terrence Chappell

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