sean ceroni

5

Donyale Luna

 

On August 31 1945 in Detroit, Michigan, Peggy Ann Freeman was born. She had a reportedly abusive father, whom her mother shot in self defence in 1965. She later distanced herself from him, claiming  that her real father was in fact a different man, a Mr. Luna. Her sister described her as “ a very weird child, even from birth, living in a wonderland, a dream”. She studied journalism in high school, where she began calling herself ‘Donyale’.

             She was soon spotted as a model. In March 1966 she became the first African American model to appear on the cover of British Vogue. By April of that year an article in Time magazine dubbed 1966 “the Luna year” and described her as “a new heavenly body who, because of her striking singularity, promises to remain on high for many a season.“ She quickly went under exclusive contract for a year with legendary fashion photographer Richard Avedon, helping to create some of the most famous images of the 1960s.

            However she did not “remain on high for many a season”; by the 70s her drug use and eccentric behaviour were damaging her career. A fellow pioneering African American model Beverly Johnson said of her “(Luna) doesn’t wear shoes winter or summer. Ask her where she’s from — Mars? She went up and down the runways on her hands and knees. She didn’t show up for bookings. She didn’t have a hard time, she made it hard for herself.” However while her modelling career failed she starred in many films produced by Andy Warhol and also in Fellini’s 1969 film Satricon.

She was romantically involved with many men prominent in the media, including Brian Jones, but eventually married Italian photographer Luigi Cazzaniga. In 1977 they had a daughter called Dream.

Throughout her short life Donyale suffered from racial dysphoria. She repeatedly spoke of her multiracial lineage which included strands of Indigenous-Mexican, Indonesian, Irish and Afro-Egyptian genes. However few believed or listened to her claims and labelled her simply as a black woman. Once, when asked about whether her appearances in Hollywood films would benefit the cause of black actresses, Luna answered “If it brings about more jobs for Mexicans, Asians, Native Americans, Africans, groovy. It could be good, it could be bad. I couldn’t care less.”

Tragically her drug problems continued to get worse and worse, and in 1979 she died in a clinic in Rome, leaving behind her 18 month old daughter and her (by then estranged) husband.     

            It seems an unsatisfying end to the life of a truly unique individual, but she will live on through the beautiful photographs she has left behind her, which continue to captivate 35 years after her death.

 

Seán Ceroni

10

Seán Ceroni selects the 10 best dressed women on TV

10. Lady Cora Grantham - Downton Abbey

In a time where most people lost their way trying to look bohemian and flowery one must admire Cora’s restraint. With her drawling American voice and ageing beauty, Cora wears dark colours with simple embellishments that give her a classical stature.

9. Saga Noren-The Bridge/Bron

While Saga may change her clothes about as often as a Simpsons character, what she does wear is most certainly a look to end all looks. Wearing swamp green which matches your vintage porshe is certainly unusual but for her, it works. And don’t even try to question the leather trousers because they also, inexpilcably, just work.

8. Cassie Ainsworth-Skins 

Despite being among the most uniquely irritating characters ever written, one can certainly admire Cassie’s budget boho more than her dialogue. Cassie, despite having very little of her life together seems to know exactly what colours make her look “oh wow…lovely”. No matter how shit everything is for her she can always look radiant in a kind  of late 2000s teen way.

7. Josie Packard-Twin Peaks

When one thinks femme fatale one rarely thinks boyish, but then again none of us quite think like David Lynch. Josie wears simple masculine shapes to match her dark slicked back hair. This boyish look gives her the edge of appearing sweet and young while commanding all the elegance and presence of Marlene Dietrich.

6. Alicia Florrick-The Good Wife

Alicia is a woman who does not take simplicity lightly. Never wearing clashing colours, ruffles or anything frivolous, it is rare to even see Alicia wearing jewellery. This rigid style of dress contrasts Alicia’s warm heart and perhaps acts as an armour against the aftermath of the scandal that ruined her life. It is most rare to see such an understanding of the power of costuming in conveying character on any television show.

5. Rachel Greene- Friends

Rachel’s place on this list may have quite a bit to do with nostalgia, but  there is something undeniably lovely about the Rachel look. The ridiculous caramel coloured hair, flawless skin and classic mid 90s style. As the show progressed into the 2000s Rachel’s style undeniably lost some of its charm, but the lost little rich girl who walked around in shirts tied at the waist will always have a place in style history.

4. Samantha Jones-Sex and the City

While she comes second to Carrie, Samantha is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with. She cleverly wears short skirts, plunging necklines and bright (often verging on gaudy) colours to make herself appear younger and more modern. However elegant shapes, expensive jewellery and shoulder pads make her command respect that a powerful woman like her deserves.

3. Megan Draper-Mad Men

Deep reds, greens, oranges and golds are the key to Megan’s flawless late 60s Italian chic. Often over the top in her hair and makeup, she is an embellished glamazon down to her Pucci swimsuit. In a show with stiff competition for best dressed, Megan comes out on top.

2. Audrey Horne-Twin Peaks

Audrey Horne is like a pale piece of pure angel cake wrapped in rich sweaters and full skirts. As with Josie Packard, Lynch creates another unconventional  femme fatale, however this time with 50s girly femininity rather than androgyny. Sporting saddle shoes and plaid, Audrey’s sweet exterior masks her calculating core.

1. Carrie Bradshaw-Sex and the City

Carrie truly represents everything great about the fashion of the late 90s and early 2000s. She is fun, experimental and effortless, wearing every shape, colour and style she could get her hands on. With every episode this small woman in heels came at you in abarage of beautiful clothes, earning her the top place on our list.

4

In 1971 the German supermodel Veruschka von Lehndorff starred in an Italian film called “Veruschka: Poesia di una Donna”, which translates as “Poetry of a Woman”. The film is availiable in full on YouTube, but without English subtitles. Although I have a knowledge of Italian and can understand it myself, I would argue that the film can strangely be appreciated without understanding the dialogue. The dialogue consists of long romantic strings of beautiful words and sentiments, which do add to the mood of the film. But even with a full understanding the plot is never fully explained and clearly not the emphasis of the film. It centers vaguely around a tale of Veruschka and her boyfriend travelling through Italy by car and encountering troubles with their relationship and her work along the way. However the film centres on the emotions of Veruschka as a result of these troubles, rather than on the troubles themselves. The film deftly journeys through despair and melacholy with striking visuals and a whispering soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. Veruschka herself always pushed the boundaries of modelling (at her impressive height of 6’) by doing her own hair, makeup and styling in a large number of shoots, creating avant garde and vibrant images. Considering this, the film’s quiet and pensive tone is unusual, but Veruschka’s perfomance brings drama and power to it. It is a gem of the Italian avant garde and demonstrates how art, fashion and film were never more unified at any other time in history than they were here.

Seán Ceroni