Why I Created Black Pinups
What is a “pinup”? A pinup is a picture of a model or celebrity that is “pinned up” on a wall of their fans. This has been going on since the early days of print publications and entertainment. But it gained more traction in the 1940’s particularly with actress Betty Grable who was “America’s pinup”. Many “pinups” were to follow; Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Jayne Mansfield, and the Queen of Pinups, Bettie Page who was more of a pinup in the sense that she wasn’t a singer, dancer, or actress, just a model, a pinup model.
When people think of old Hollywood and the word pinup it is of the aforementioned actresses and model that are thought of. But what about a black pinup? Who was a famous black pinup? Were there any black pinups? Did black pinups even exist due to racism? Well, yes! Due to racism many cultures had their own magazines, their own clubs, movie stars, models, etc. The three most famous black pinups known are Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, and Eartha Kitt. Josephine Baker was the first major black superstar, she was a singer, dancer, actress, humanitarian, activist, feminist, and Nazi spy. Dorothy Dandridge who was famously married to Harold Nicholas of the famous tap-dancing duo, The Nicholas Brothers got her big break as Carmen in Carmen Jones, she was nominated for Best Actress, the first Black actor to be nominated in a leading category. Eartha Kitt who was a singer and dancer and is most known for her role as Catwoman in the 1960’s TV series, Batman was a famous pinup due to her sexy costume, and perfect purr as the nemesis of Batman. Her costume is still a go to in today’s time.
So now that you have an idea of what pinups are and who were famous pinups of the years gone by onto why I created Black Pinups. Due to the lack of seeing black pinups of the golden age of Hollywood or black pinups in general including black celebrities not recreating the pinup look I noticed the absence of it. When the female celebrities like Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, Katy Perry, and even J.Lo recreated their looks to be pinup, there were none to be found of black female celebrities unless it was a for movie role. I always thought it strange and why this look wasn’t recreated if only for a short time (like how Christina Aguilera did an album and era as a 1940’s pinup). Halle Berry played Dorothy Dandridge in her biopic, Beyonce’ and Jennifer Hudson only did a few vintage photos because of their roles in Dream Girls. But none were for a period of time or widely shown at the time I created Black Pinups. I would go to car shows in California only to be the only black pinup there. I felt completely alone and that no one understood me. I loved my classic movies and would dress vintage going to vintage events but felt alone not seeing anyone that looked like me. Was there a black pinup out there? Someone that lived and dressed vintage? Someone that loved Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe as much as I did? I didn’t see any of that, so I changed it.
On January 12, 2012 in the library of Art Institute of Hollywood, I created Black Pinup Models on Facebook. I looked up old black pinups and of course the first ones I saw were Dorothy Dandridge and Josephine Baker, but they were actresses not models, I came across Madeline “Sahji” Jackson who was an exotic dancer and was stunningly beautiful at that. And then I came across, Angelique Noire. She was stunning! She was a beautiful tall brown skinned model, who dressed vintage, she was a pinup model! Even though she is a model and has been cast in music videos and commercials as well as being featured on the runway, she also did pinup! And it was there that through her connections I saw more black pinups! I saw the ladies that followed her and were friends with her and befriended them and took their pictures and posted them on Black Pinup Models. Two models became my cover models because of Angelique’s association with them; Ashleeta (March/April 2014 issue 2) and Jenny Rieu (November/December 2014 issue 6).
The page quickly grew, and I was shocked that there wasn’t a magazine for it! So, I decided to start work on a magazine and on December 30, 2013 I released Black Pinups, the first vintage modern publication of black pinups. Angelique was my first cover model. I’m amazed at the impact because I didn’t set out to be anything special, I just didn’t see anyone that looked like me and I felt alone. I felt that there wasn’t a place for me out there and in creating a place for black pinups, I have been told many times that they felt the same way I do. Black pinups from all over the world have submitted to be in my magazine and are fans of it. Fans from all over the world follow Black Pinups. These two words “representation matters” are very important to me because I didn’t see anyone like me, I felt alone and sad and wished there was someone out there that was like me. Everyone wants to see a representation of themselves out in the media whether it’s in mainstream media or social media on a platform in the entertainment industry, or any public forum whether it’s cosplay, burlesque, book nerds, activism and so on. People want to see a version of themselves out there in the open, someone that has the same interests and likes and feels welcomed. I just wanted to showcase the beauty of black women in the vintage world and because of that black pinups have come out of the woodwork to be a part of what I have created and that makes me happy because we all want to feel that we belong.