Donyale Luna (31 August 1945 – 17 May 1979) was a model and cover girl. She also appeared in several films, in Camp by Andy Warhol, Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? by William Klein, and most notably as Oenothea in Federico Fellini‘s Satyricon and as the title character in Salomé, a film by director Carmelo Bene.
She was born Peggy Ann Freeman in Detroit, Michigan. She attended the prestigious Cass Technical High School. Her parents were Peggy and Nathaniel Freeman; her mother killed her father, who was reportedly abusive, when Donyale was 18. Luna’s mother wanted her to become a nurse.
Despite the parentage stated on her birth certificate, she insisted that her biological father was a man with the surname Luna and that her mother was Indigenous-Mexican and of Afro-Egyptian lineage. According to the model, one of her grandmothers was reportedly
After being discovered by the photographer David McCabe, she moved from Detroit to New York City to pursue a modeling career. In January 1965, a sketch of Luna appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. She became the first African American model to appear on the cover of a Vogue magazine, the March 1966 British issue, shot by British photographer David Bailey.
An article in Time magazine published on 1 April 1966, “The Luna Year”, described her as “a new heavenly body who, because of her striking singularity, promises to remain on high for many a season. Donyale Luna, as she calls herself, is unquestionably the hottest model in Europe at the moment. She is only 20, a Negro, hails from Detroit, and is not to be missed if one reads Harper’s Bazaar, Paris Match, Britain’s Queen, the British, French or American editions of Vogue.
Luna appeared in a nude photo layout in the April 1975 issue of Playboy; the photographer was Luigi Cazzaniga.
In the late 1960s, in an interview, Luna expressed her fondness for LSD: “I think it’s great. I learned that I like to live, I like to make love, I really do love somebody, I love flowers, I love the sky, I like bright colors, I like animals. [LSD] also showed me unhappy things — that I was stubborn, selfish, unreasonable, mean, that I hurt other people.”