Non-White/Mixed Models, Actresses, and Icons of the 60s and 70s

Last year in the vintage community, there was a whole conversation on beauty standards and representation and “diversifying your feeds”. Much of that I think was all talk and performativity. I don’t associate myself much with the “vintage community” because of how toxic and catty it is, not something I want to get into any further, but to sum it up, it’s a lot like Mean Girls, but with 60s/70s aesthetics. People talk bad about each other in DMs, but then kiss each others asses publicly. They’ll virtue signal about diversifying their feeds, but then not follow lesser known accounts and promote them. They’ll talk about elitism and how vintage clothing has been gentrified, but then flex all their new purchases: the umpteenth knee high boots in their collection and some pretty reproduction dress. What kind of behaviour is that? It’s two faced, sanctimonious, and absolutely not my values.

At least I know that it’s not a bad thing that I’m more adjacent to it than directly involved or seen as a leader in that scene. Ultimately, I’m me and I happen to enjoy fashion and music from that era, but there’s a lot more to me than that. I would rather be known for my writing than my looks, at least that’s something more sustainable and it lives on no matter how old I get and shows that I put some sort of work and effort into something. So what if I’m the Budgie, and not The Beatles of the classic rock/vintage community? Don’t do any of this for meaningless popularity. Popularity and e-fame mean nothing if you’re not making serious coin, and don’t sell yourself out and become something fake.

Why I’m writing this/My Story

In the vintage community, if you don’t look like Pattie Boyd or Twiggy, you might as well be invisible. People act like they’re the be all, end all of 60s icons and that there’s no one else. Once in a while I’ll see someone inspired by Jane Asher, Jane Birkin, or Cher, but they’re equally beautiful women with red, brown, and black hair. As far as non-white/mixed women I see celebrated in the vintage community, you’ll occasionally see someone post a picture of Diana Ross or Ronnie Spector, but they won’t talk about other black women from the time period. Native, Hispanic, and Asian women? I honestly don’t see many people talking about models and actresses from these backgrounds.

If you look through the photos on my about me and compare them to the latest photos, you might notice something different about my hair. For almost a decade, I dyed my hair red, sometimes it looked closer to strawberry blonde, other times more reddish brown. The reasons for this are complicated. I felt ugly for having really pale skin and black hair and people made fun of me for how I looked. I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. People used to make fun of me for how I looked. I had a fascination with London in the 60s and I wanted to create this whole British rock star image: so I chose the last name Moon and dyed my hair red and styled my hair in a 60s way with thick fringe – a long version of a Beatle haircut. It was night and day how I was treated. Suddenly people started saying I looked good. The whiter I looked, the more compliments I got and that was validation. I desperately wanted it because I felt ugly my whole teen years and I finally didn’t feel like an ugly duckling anymore.

The sad thing is that dying my hair was expensive and damaging to my wallet and my hair! If your hair is black, by nature it’s going to be hard to dye it lighter because you have to bleach it first, then go in with the colour. Going blonde? Forget about it. I tried once and it turned brassy and my hair felt like straw. So it’s going to cost a lot of money, time, and damage your hair in the process. I was spending hundreds of dollars a year dying my hair lighter. I already straighten my hair because it looks weird if I don’t, so I don’t want to do more damage anymore.

In this post, I won’t be talking about musicians because I have plenty of posts where I talk about non-white/mixed musicians, and I want to look at another side of the 60s and 70s, models and actresses. If you want to learn more about these models and actresses, keep on reading!

1. Raquel Welch

Raquel Welch in my opinion is one of the most beautiful women of the 60s/70s. She is half Bolivian. When she was a kid, she did ballet, but her instructor told her she was better off quitting because she had the “wrong figure” for it. She won beauty contests as a teenager. When she graduated from secondary school, she started acting and later got a job as a weather forecaster. Her manager told her to use her husband’s last name and to lighten her hair so she wouldn’t get typecast as a Latina, a very common practice in those days.

Her breakthrough came in 1966 when she was in the movie One Million Years BC, playing Loana. Her deer skin bikini costume became one of her most iconic looks and it made her a sex symbol. She was also in the movies Bedazzled and Myra Breckinridge. Throughout her career, she never posed nude because she said she was raised not to do be a sex symbol and she’s said that in her private life she is understated and doesn’t like hoopla.

2. Donyale Luna

Donyale Luna was born Peggy Ann Freeman in Detroit to a working class family. She was mostly black, but also part Quechua and white. While in secondary school, she came up with the name Donyale Luna and created a whole character around her stage name. Her sister said she always lived in a wonderland, creating fantasies and backstories about herself. In school, she had a reputation for being an oddball, but strikingly beautiful. In 1963, she started modelling and became the first black supermodel. There was a lot of racism then though. While modelling for Paco Rabanne at a fashion show in 1964, she saw journalists spitting in Rabanne’s face because he only used black models in the fashion show. In 1965, she was the first black woman on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, but her image was just an illustration and it made her ethnically ambiguous. Advertisers in the magazine got a lot of angry calls from racists and they pulled their ads and readers cancelled their subscriptions. Many people in the industry cut ties with Donyale Luna.

Things came back for her in 1966 when she was named Model of the Year in Vogue and was the first black model on any issue of Vogue, globally, appearing on the March 1966 UK issue. Around that time, she moved to Europe for more opportunities, made a lot of money, and felt a lot more accepted. She returned to the US in 1973 and appeared on the cover of Andy Warhol’s magazine Interview and posed for Playboy in 1975, her slim figure standing out among the curvier models.

She died in 1979 at the age of 33 of an overdose.

3. Bianca Jagger

Actress and former wife of Mick Jagger. She was born Blanca Pérez-Mora Macias in Nicaragua. Her father was a successful import-export merchant and her mother was a housewife. They divorced when she was 10 and Bianca and her siblings grew up working class. She got a scholarship to study political science in Paris. She met Mick Jagger at a party after a Rolling Stones concert in 1970. Throughout the 70s, she was a jet setter and partier and was frequently seen at Studio 54. She also befriended Andy Warhol. She is also an activist. She opposed US intervention in Nicaragua after the Sandinista revolution and she supports indigenous rights and used her voice to speak up for victims of conflicts in the Balkans. She has won multiple awards for her advocacy and work on behalf humanitarian causes.

4. May Pang

May Pang is best known as working for John Lennon and Yoko Ono as a personal assistant and production coordinator and for being John Lennon’s girlfriend for the year and a half long period when he separated from his wife, Yoko, a time he called his “Lost Weekend”. May Pang was born in New York City to immigrant parents from China and was the first in her family to be born in the US. While going to community college, she wanted to be a model, but was rejected because she was considered “too ethnic”. Before working for John Lennon and Yoko Ono, she was a song plugger (person who encourages musicians to record songs written for them by other songwriters) and worked as a receptionist for ABCKO Records. Publicly, John Lennon didn’t speak well of his affair with May Pang, but privately, he admitted it was the happiest he was and that he loved May and made some beautiful music while with her.

5. Evelyn “Iggy” Rose

You might have seen her on the artwork of Syd Barrett’s album, The Madcap Laughs. Not much is known about this mysterious model, but we do know that she was born somewhere in the Himalayas, likely Pakistan, on 14 December 1947. Her mother was from Mizoram, in the Northeast of India, near Bangladesh and Myanmar and her father was a British Army officer. As a teenager, she ran away from home, got into the mod scene and R&B music, and went to nightclubs and hung out with rock stars. A friend of hers introduced her to Pink Floyd and for a time, she dated founding member, Syd Barrett. She did a few photoshoots in the 60s and was even in a few short films, including this documentary called In Gear, which showed her shopping at famous swinging 60s boutique Granny Takes a Trip. You can see her at 1:15 in this video:

6. Marsha Hunt

This actress and model is best known for her role as Dionne in the musical Hair and her relationships with Marc Bolan and Mick Jagger. She is also the inspiration behind the Rolling Stones’ hit “Brown Sugar”. She was born in Philadelphia in 1946. Her mother was a librarian and her father was one of the first black psychiatrists in America, but he didn’t raise her. She was raised by her mum, aunt, and grandmother. She didn’t have a lot of money growing up and she said that it taught her not to be materialistic and to focus on her education. She went to Berkeley and joined Jerry Rubin on protest marches against the Vietnam War. In 1966, she went to London and met singer Kenny Lynch and was an extra in the movie Blow-Up. She wanted to stay in London so she married Mike Ratledge of Soft Machine. She met Mick Jagger when he asked her to pose for an ad for the single “Honky Tonk Women”, but she didn’t want to do it. She had a baby with him, Karis. She was the first black model to appear on the cover of Queen magazine. She said when she came to Europe that she was finally called American rather than African-American or Black and that she’s spent so much time overseas that she feels like a foreigner when she goes to the US.

Here is a clip of her performing on Beat Club:

7. Pam Grier

Famous 1970s actress who starred in many action, women in prsion, and blaxploitation films like Coffy, The Big Doll House, and Foxy Brown. Quentin Tarantino has called her cinema’s first female action star and he cast her in the starring role in Jackie Brown. She is of mixed ancestry: Black, Hispanic, Chinese, Filipina, and Cheyenne. Her father worked for the Air Force and her family moved around a lot. Before getting famous, she acted in stage productions and competed in beauty contests.

8. Iman

Somali fashion model and wife of David Bowie born Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid in Mogadishu. Her father was a diplomat and former Somali ambassador to Saudi Arabia and her mother was a gynaecologist. She went to boarding school in Egypt and briefly studied political science at the University of Nairobi. She was discovered in university by American photographer Peter Beard and she went to America to become a model and was an instant success: doing photoshoots for Vogue and becoming a muse for designers like Gianni Versace, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and Yves Saint Laurent. In the 90s, she became a pioneer for cosmetics for dark skinned women, starting her own makeup like called Iman Cosmetics, specialising in foundations for deeper skin.

9. Lottie ‘The Body’ Graves Claiborne

Burlesque dancer who became known as the Black Gypsy Rose Lee. She was born in Syracuse, New York and was athletic growing up, loving to play sports and dance. At 17, she left school to become a dancer full time, first performing in a Lindy Hop dance troupe. Once the Lindy Hop craze died down, she had to find new dancing gigs, and it was hard for her as a black woman to find work so she decided to go into burlesque and move to Detroit. She used Afro-Cuban music and choreography in her shows and while she removed clothes in her show, she never was nude. She worked with a lot of famous jazz, blues, and R&B musicians and performers of the 50s and 60s. She also believed in supporting other performers regardless of background, sexuality, or gender identity. One of her closest friends was transsexual nightclub entertainer Christine Jorgensen. While sometimes she was treated as second class in America because she was black, she said that for the most part she was treated with respect, like when she was treated like a queen when she was the first black woman to dance on TV in Alaska. She lived life without regrets. She died at the age of 89 in 2020.

10. Lynda Carter

You might not know that Miss World USA 1972 and Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter is half Mexican! She was born in Phoenix in 1951 to an American father and a Mexican mother. As a teenager, she played in a band with her cousins and would play shows in Vegas, sneaking her in through the kitchen because she was under 21. She tried to pursue a career in music, but went into acting after she won a local beauty contest in Arizona and won Miss World USA and reached the top 15 in the international Miss World pageant. She took acting classes and appeared in Starsky and Hutch and Cos, but her real breakthrough and what made her a household name was playing Wonder Woman. She is also known for her pro choice and LGBT rights activism.

11. Irene Tsu

Chinese-American actress best known for her role in Flower Drum Song and as the wiki wiki girl in the Wiki Wiki Dollar advertising campaign. She was born in Shanghai in 1944. Her father was a banker and her mother was an artist. Her family moved to Taiwan, and later Hong Kong before going to the US. She studied ballet and her breakthrough came when she was casted as a dancer in Flower Drum Song on Broadway. When the musical was made into a movie in 1961, she also was a dancer in that. She appeared in TV shows like Perry MasonI SpyThe Man From U.N.C.L.E.Family Affair, and Mission: Impossible.

12. Hiroko Matsumoto

Japanese model famous for her work with Pierre Cardin. Cardin met her while visiting Japan in 1960. She followed him to Paris and became his top model and was the first Japanese model for a high fashion French clothing brand. She was also in the movie Bed and Board. She retired from modelling in 1967. She died in 2003 at the age of 67.

13. Naomi Sims

The first black model to appear on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal, in November 1968 and widely credited as the first black supermodel. She was born in Mississippi. She was 5’10” by the age of 13 and was teased for her height. She won a scholarship to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. While studying, she applied to various modelling agencies, but was met with a lot of prejudice, being told that her skin was “too dark”. She decided to cut out the middleman and contact fashion photographers directly and that’s how she got her breakthrough and she landed on the cover of the New York Times fashion supplement in August 1967. She retired from modelling in 1973 and started her own business, a wig line.

14. Pat Cleveland

One of the first prominent black runway and print models. Her father was a jazz saxophone player and her mother was an artist. She was discovered at the age of 16, while waiting for a train to go to class, when the assistant to Vogue fashion editor Carrie Donovan spotted her and noted her dress sense. She got signed to Wilhelmina Models at the age of 18, but faced prejudiced before that, being rejected by Ford Models because of her ethnicity. She had a successful career, working with Richard Avedon and Andy Warhol and was a muse to Salvador Dali. She modelled for designers like Valentino, Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent, Thierry Mugler, and more! She was on the cover of Vogue in August 1974.

15. Zeenat Aman

One of the most successful actresses of the 70s and 80s, she is famous for her work in Bollywood films and one of the most influential actresses in Bollywood. In 1970, she won the Femina Miss India pageant and Miss Asia Pacific International pageant. Her breakthrough role was in the film, Hare Rama Hare Krishna in 1971. A prolific actress, she has been in 80 movies.

16. Akiko Wakabayashi

Japanese actress best known internationally for playing Bond girl Aki in You Only Live Twice. Before that she was in movies like Dagora The Space Monster and Ghidorah The Three Headed Monster. She retired from acting in the 70s after getting injured.

17. Sacheen Littlefeather

Apache actress and activist. One of her most iconic moments in the 70s was when she went to the Oscars to represent Marlon Brando, who was boycotting the ceremony because of Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans and to raise awareness of the standoff at Wounded Knee. She was born Marie Louise Cruz to a white mother and an Apache/Yaqui father. While in university she got more into her heritage and started doing activist work with the Intertribal Friendship House and participated in the occupation of Alcatraz, where she adopted the name Sacheen Littlefeather. She studied acting and even posed for Playboy and was named Miss Vampire USA.

Here’s some more details about the Academy Awards: she got in contact with Marlon Brando through her neighbour Francis Ford Coppola and wrote Brando a letter thanking him for his interest in Native American issues. Brando was an activist with the American Indian Movement and met Littlefeather in Washington DC when she was speaking to the FCC about representation of ethnic minorities. During this time there were a lot of stereotypical and racist portrayals of Native Americans on television and in movies and little proper representation.

Marlon Brando played Vito Corleone in The Godfather and was the favourite to win Best Actor, and he won in the end. He decided to boycott the ceremony in solidarity with Native Americans and so Littlefeather would go in to refuse the award and give a speech on Brando’s behalf.

The protest was not well received and got criticism from Raquel Welch and Michael Caine. Brando was disappointed that Littlefeather didn’t get a chance to speak and express herself and to be listened to, not just heard. As a result of the protest, she claims she was blacklisted by Hollywood to hinder Native American activism, much like radio stations refusing to play Buffy Sainte-Marie’s music.

18. Tina Aumont

Half Dominican-half French actress from the 60s, best known for her acting in leading lady roles in Italian films. She also modelled in Playboy.

19. Marie Helvin

Half Japanese half American fashion model known for her work with David Bailey, who she was married to between 1975 and 1985. She got her start in modelling at the age of 15 for Kanebo Cosmetics. She famously appeared in Vogue and in David Bailey’s book Trouble and Strife. She retired from mainstream modelling in the 80s.

20. Anna Bayle

One of the highest paid models of all time, this Filipina model competed in beauty pageants and was a runway model in the 70s and 80s. She modelled for Mugler, Chanel, Valentino, Versace, Dior, and more! She retired from modelling in 1994.

Shoutout to my friend Patrick for supporting the blog!

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