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Zendaya channels Detroit model Donyale Luna for ‘Essence’ cover




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Singer and Euphoria Actress Zendaya winks at Donyale Luna, the Detroit native known as “the first black model,” on the cover of the new issue of Gasoline.

The stunning black and white photos were taken by photographers Ahmad Barber and Dont Maurice, who confirmed on Twitter that Luna was the inspiration for the shoot.

“It was such an honor to pay tribute to a woman who was such a revolutionary and polarizing figure in the 1960s,” Maurice wrote. “I hope she would be proud.”

Born Peggy Ann Freeman in Detroit, Luna was the first black model to appear on the cover of Brit Vogue in March 1966. (The year before, a sketch of Luna’s likeness appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, although his race is ambiguous.)

Luna was very lucky when English photographer David McCabe saw her on the streets of Detroit in 1963. “I was on a photography mission in Detroit, photographing Ford cars [and] there was a school nearby, ” he recalled. “I was struck by this beautiful girl of almost six feet, about 14 years old at the time, who was wearing her Catholic uniform. She stopped to see what was going on.

Encouraged by McCabe, Luna then moved to New York City to pursue modeling (against her mother’s wishes, who wanted her to become a nurse instead). There, Luna would become a muse for Andy Warhol, Federico Fellini and Richard Avedon, and eventually married Italian photographer Luigi Cazzaniga.

“Back in Detroit, I wasn’t considered beautiful or anything,” Luna said in 1966. Time magazine interview, “but here I am different.

At the age of 33, Luna’s drugs caught up with her, leading her to an accidental heroin overdose on May 17, 1979 in Rome.

You can read more about his life here.

Zendaya, 24, also nearly emulated another famous and fashionable Detroit woman she was set to play as the late R&B singer Aaliyah in the Lifetime biopic, Aaliyah: the princess of R & B. however, Zendaya resigned after concerns about her production value surfaced, including the news that Aaliyah’s family did not bless the film and refused to allow use of Aaliyah’s music catalog.

It was probably for the best: the film was filmed extensively.

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