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#67: leave '86 oprah alone
cigarrettes and pepsi ... a late lunch
if you haven’t watched The Super Models on Apple TV yet, don’t worry, you will be able to chit-chat with me about today’s topic, even if fashion or models are not your thing.
*press play* … if can’t press play right this minute, you still should be able to follow.
leave oprah alone, cindy.
this moment in the four-part docuseries comes around the 45-minute mark in the first episode.
i was deeply connected to this series the moment i hit play.
i “grew up” in the modeling world. i competed in my first modeling competition before the age of 3. when i was old enough to enter competitions that had questions, i would win the crowd over …
competition host: what do you want to me when you get older jemia
i would walk in mall fashion shows in the latest kids’ fashions from local Baltimore designers. i even was on the local news a time or two because of how many local competitions i would win.
i competed in modeling competitions all the way until my freshman year of college.
so learning about Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington’s journey into their iconic careers was soul-capturing for me.
and then i rolled my eyes when cindy tried to call oprah out for a remark she made back when she was the ONLY black [or brown] face hosting a talk show in 1986.
cindy, do you even know what was going on in black America in 1986?
CRACK baby, CRACK.
black people were dying (or being arrested for using or dealing) every single day. when you go back and look at archival news media from the 80s, this epidemic was at the center of black stories, or african-american as they preferred to say then.
one of the greatest sports losses, Len Bias died from a fatal cocaine overdose less than 48 hours after being selected 2nd overall by the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA draft.
shit was wild.
but oprah got on tv every single weekday to show black folks, hey we can make it. or at least that is my impression growing up in the late 80s watching my mom press play on her VHS recording of oprah.
okay, so the comment is very cringy. i completely agree.
but it was what cindy said afterward that made me roll my eyes, and how she said it. especially her tone.
it was hard to be black on tv.
oprah didn’t have anyone who looked like her on tv to model after or to look to for mentorship.
while she wasn’t the first black woman to host a talk show, The Della Reese Show aired from 1969-70 making her the first, she was the first in most of our eyes. You know Della, she was the madam [Vera Walker] in Harlem Nights.
we didn’t get another black tv host until areseno hall in ‘89.
*sidenote* when you goog first black tv host, why does areseno populate first over oprah? eye roll
so yes, the quote was cringy cindy. we get that. especially looking back on it. oprah shouldn’t have asked her to stand up and parade her physique around.
but she wasn’t the Oprah cindy was making her out to be with her comment. she could have just reflected back on the comment as she did and left out the “especially from Oprah” part.
oprah was responding and acting in a fashion as her peers would have done. and her peers at that time were all white men, until Gerlado entered the scene in 1987.
okay another tidbit. gerlado’s father is puerto rican and his mother is jewish. his mom purposely added an extra “i” in his surname to alleviate some of the racism they would encounter. gerlado’s [born gerlad, no”o”] last name is rivera, but his mom spelled it riviera to through people off.
the piece i think cindy is missing, is the intersections of being a woman, being black, and going a step further, being a larger-sized black woman on tv.
we all watched oprah yo-yo in her weight over her decades-long tv career. and it’s because the preferred body size of a woman, no matter race, at that point in our country’s existence was very similar to the four women this docuseries is about.
okay, rant over.
but again, cindy, don’t come for oprah. thank you!
if you are a fashion lover
this documentary will make you fall in love with the art of fashion over and over again.
the series giving me a deeper bts look into naomi’s life was my favorite, but a close runner-up is hearing linda evangalista give praise to the ballroom scene.
Ballroom’s roots reach back to the Antebellum South, when enslaved people would pantomime their masters at dances. Then, in the early 20th century, came the Hamilton Lodge Ball and Fun-Makers Ball in Harlem, spaces where drag queens, gay folk, and gender nonconforming people—before such a label existed—“got together for a grand jamboree of dancing, love making, display, rivalry, drinking and advertisement,” as the playwright Abram Hill put it in 1939.
~ Vogue Article: From Underground Subculture to Global Phenomenon: An Oral History of Ballroom Within Mainstream Culture
this 👆🏽 is a MUST read article!
linda told stories of her going down to the pier with her fellow model-mates and learning how to move their body in ways that photographers fell in love with.
Vogue and voguing became seamless in this era of fashion and these four women were instrumental in that marriage. but let’s be clear here, the ballroom scene and movements that came with it were thriving well before The Super Models entered the scene.
and now … for the fashions!
this era of fashion, styling, and posing is unmatched. while the models of today draw inspiration, the output is not quite the same.
here are some of my favorite snaps from the four.
thanks for having lunch with me… see you soon!