Donyale Luna


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.

According to The New York Times, she was under exclusive contract to the photographer Richard Avedon for a year at the beginning of her career.

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.

In 1967, the mannequin manufacturer Adel Rootstein created a mannequin in Luna’s image, a follow-up to the company’s Twiggy mannequin of 1966.[citation needed]

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.”

Luna died in Rome, Italy, in a clinic, after an accidental drug overdose.



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