HBO has debuted the first trailer for Donyale Luna: Supermodel, an Original documentary exploring the life, career and legacy of one of the first Black models to grace the cover of a Vogue magazine.
Often considered the “first Black supermodel,” Luna — who died in 1979 at the age of 33 — broke ground at a time when it was not only still rare to see Black women who weren’t white-passing in fashion but Black women on major magazine covers at all. Through her heyday in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Luna challenged the modeling world’s conventions and made history by becoming the first Black woman on the covers of both Harper’s Bazaar in 1965 and British Vogue in 1966.
“She broke the mold of using Black models in the ’60s,” one talking head can be heard saying in the more than two-minute trailer.
“Donyale Luna is the first Black woman to be on the cover of Vogue,” another can be heard saying. “Why don’t we know more about her?”
The trailer for the upcoming doc works to address the racism at the heart of that monumental — and frequently erased — representation, and gives viewers a chance to learn more about this oft-forgotten talent’s childhood wounds and the discrimination she encountered once in the industry. “I know I’m the best model, so why am I not being photographed?” Luna asks in archival audio.
“Donyale Luna’s being was discounted because she was a Black woman, and she wasn’t even regarded as a person by most,” says one expert who speaks to her legacy and career in the trailer. A subsequent voice adds, “As a human, what she would have experienced in being on the receiving end of that backlash is horrific.”
The upcoming film will also explore who Luna — born in Detroit as Peggy Ann Freeman — ultimately was. That includes her otherworldly persona that, along with looks that challenged the prevailing ideals of beauty, resulted in a memorable body of work as well as collaborations and relationships with some of the 20th century’s foremost fashion photographers, artists and entertainers, such as Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí, Mia Farrow and The Rolling Stones.
“They always said to her, ‘Where are you from?’” someone recalls. “And she’d always say, ‘My name is Luna. I’m from the moon.’”
“When I saw her, I just realized what great potential she had as a model,” one of the doc’s featured voices adds.
The Nailah Jefferson-directed project will trace these experiences from New York to London to Italy, where she met and married photographer Luigi Cazzaniga, and found not just true love but a path in avant-garde theater and film. Luna’s daughter, Dream Cazzaniga, will also read from the model and actress’ journals, helping to capture a portrait of one of the industry’s first Black icons and her far-reaching legacy.
Donyale Luna: Supermodel will feature the voices of her husband and daughter; supermodels Beverly
Johnson and Pat Cleveland; Vogue global editor-at-large Hamish Bowles; photographers David
Bailey, David McCabe and Gideon Lewin; fashion designers Zandra Rhodes and Aurora James; art
history professor Dr. Richard J. Powell; former Essence editor-in-chief Constance White; former
president of Next Model MGMT Kyle Hagler; and friends and family members.
Melissa Kramer, Isoul H. Harris and Melanie Sharee are producers on the Lightbox Production in association with Jeff Friday Media and The American Black Film Festival. Donyale Luna: Supermodel executive producers include Jonathan Chinn, Simon Chinn, Jeff Friday and Dream, and for HBO
Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller and supervising producer, Anna Klein.
The documentary will debut on HBO on Sept. 13 and stream on Max.