Breakthrough Black Model Naomi Sims Dead at 61

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2009 4:10 PM CDT
Naomi Sims.   (
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(Newser) – Naomi Sims, the first black model to grace the cover of Ladies Home Journal—and arguably the first black supermodel—has died at 61, the New York Times reports. Her family says the cause was cancer. Sims burst onto the scene in the late 1960s, but chose in the ‘70s to focus on a successful line of beauty products for black women. “There is nothing sadder than an old, broke model,” she once said.

“It’s ‘in’ to use me,” she said early in her career, “and maybe some people do it when they don’t really like me. But even if they are prejudiced, they have to be tactful if they want a good picture.” Sims was born in Mississippi, grew up in foster care in Pittsburgh, and went on to mingle with the glamorous elite, including Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali.