Stepping on the music scene in the 1960s, and after several image transformations, LaBelle — consisting of Patti LaBelle, Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx — became the wild rocker twin sister of the prim and proper Supremes. LaBelle’s glam rock psychedelic look changed the fashion game in the 70’s through the group’s adoption of extravagant costumes, silvery hair and shock makeup. LaBelle undoubtedly paved the way for Black rockers today.
Actresses like Diahann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge and Eartha Kitt are generally lauded for their game-changing beauty, but Cicely Tyson, is often one we over look. The 76-year-old actress born in Harlem actually started off as a model. Tyson’s gorgeous coco skin and stunning bone structure got the attention of a photographer from Ebony magazine. But it was the combination of talent and resiliency that earned Tyson her legendary status in Hollywood. We honor her today for her eye-gawking beauty.
What can we say about the illustrious Phyllis Hyman? Certainly not slept on for her voice by music savants, but her beauty and fashions were equally brilliant. I mean, just look at her! Those eyes, that shape and that height could have easily earned her spots in fashion editorial and runway. But it was Hyman’s profound and at times haunting voice that we remember her by. RIP goddess Phyllis!
Coretta Scott King
Author, activist, leader and mother, Coretta Scott King was more than the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Historically, she is imagined as the duly armpiece of Dr. King–demure, quiet, seen and not heard. Oh the contrary. This fiery activist stood up for issues when they weren’t popular and acceptable like the Vietnam war and LGBT concerns. Her classic beauty, whipped tresses included made her the pillar of American ladyhood. We remember her today.
You can keep Charlie’s Angels, give me Tamara Dobson. The unsung queen of the Blaxploitation era, Dobson stood 6 feet 2 inches and rocked the 70’s with her piercing eyes, perfect fro and ebony-brown shape. Due to complications with pneumonia and multiple sclerosis, Dobson is no longer with us. But we will treasure her fierceness forever!
Susan L. Taylor
Let it be known, there would be no Essence, if it were not for the walking deity that is Susan L. Taylor. Taylor shaped the brand to what is remains today. But Taylor equally represented the cornerstone of Black natural beauty with the long braids that became her signature. And did you know she was also a model? Taylor 1970’s-era portrait was featured on the cover of Dr. Deborah Willis’ Posing Beauty book.
An actress on the stage and screen, Pace is most popular for her role in popular Blaxploitation films and her in a slew of television shows like ‘Bewitched,’ ‘I Spy’ and ‘That’s My Mama.’ The 68-year-old actress was stamped by several critics and publications as one of the most beautiful women ever to appear on screen. Her coco complexion made this especially uncharted.
Jasmine Guy was the first of the triple-threats. We know this talent machine as the spoiled southern belle Whitley Gilbert on ‘A Different World,’ whose Chanel suits and stylish dorm room made us laugh, get annoyed and even take notes. But Jasmine also epitomized Black beauty, sass and stage brilliance.
–Geneva S. Thomas