On Monday the lovely Rachel Christie made history by becoming the first Black lady to become Miss England. Although some might state that it is 2009 and too little too late, some would point out how far we have come in this country. The concept of Black Beauty has always been a contentious one, a point comprehensively explored in the documentary, When Black Became Beautiful which was aired on BBC2 in 2004. This three part series looked at the impact African Americans and African Caribbeans have made on fashion and arts and how the world came to accept that beauty is not only skin deep. The series kicked off in 2000 when Iman gathered 15 other Black supermodels to be photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the cover of her book, I Am Iman. The likes of Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Oluchi Onweagba and Noémie Lenoir were all in attendance for the momentous occasion. The rest of the documentary discusses the history of Black beauty from 1940s to the present era.
Era -1940s and 19503
Commentators - Diahann Carroll, Mary Wilson, Helen Williams and Dorothea Towles.
Part One talked about the impact that Josephine Baker had on French society. It looked at the derogatory images of African American women in films who were either portrayed as mammies or maids. It talked about the social acceptance of lighter skinned Blacks and examined the introduction of hair straightening and the popularity of skin lighteners. In the late 50s Ophelia duVour set up her own model agency where she discovered Helen Williams, the first African American model to appear in mainstream magazines. The programme also goes on to talk about the birth of Ebony and how it reflected African American life while on the music scene, Motown artists such as The Supremes were being groomed to perfection in order to conquer the charts.
Part Two is continued here.