If there is anything in the world of high
fashion more vulnerable to whim than clothes, it is the models who wear
them. They seem to emerge from nowhere, sparkle brilliantly, then
plunge into Stygian darkness,* the victims of too much deja vu. Now
rising into ascendancy is 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.
“She happens to be a marvelous shape,” says Beatrix Miller of British
Vogue. “All sort of angular and immensely tall and strange. She has a
kind of bite and personality.”Gauguinesque to Egyptian. Last month Paris Match published photographs
showing the way eleven photographers saw her. From a pose out on the
landing gear of an airborne helicopter to an underwater dive with her
diaphanous robe streaming behind her, Donyale never seemed the same.
The slight hardening of a soft smile and a lift of the chin transformed
her from Gauguinesque to Egyptian. Far more than the sum of her long
, model-spindly parts , she is a creature of
contrastsone minute so phisticated, the next faunlike, now exotic and
faraway, now a gamine from around the corner.From the beginning, she has been under a lucky star. “I started at the
top,” she says. Having played small roles in a Detroit repertory
theater, she was spotted leaving a TV rehearsal and invited to New York
by Photographer David McCabe. Her mother was against it. “She told me,
'He's trying to get you to New York to make a bad girl of you.' ” But
she went anyway, got an appointment through him with Harper's Bazaar.
The editors were so impressed when she walked into the office that they put a sketch of her on
the January 1965 cover, and she was soon signed to work with
Photographer Richard Avedon.People Who Hurt. Such instant success was hard on her personally. A
month after hitting New York, she married a young actor, divorced him
after ten months, and now will not even give his name. “I love New
York,” she says. “But there were bad things. People were on drugs or
hung up on pot. There was homosexuality and lesbianism and people who
liked to hurt.” Unhappy with that world but unwilling to give it all up
and head back to Detroit, she fled to London and Paris last December.There she is happier, fills her days with work and eating , her nights with discothques. Though young, she is a
thorough professional, arrives on time made up and ready to go. She is
also a perfectionist down to her fingertips, which she enhances with
nails imported from the U.S. because she thinks they suit her best.
Most models make less money in Europe than they do in New York. But not
Donyale, who despite her rate has hardly been out
of a pose since she arrived in Europe. “Being what I am, I can get what
I ask,” she says.