We all know the legendary pin-up models of the past. Bettie Page, Marilyn and Jayne Mansfield. They exuded sex appeal, were the risque models of their day and spawned a legion of retro-inspired devotees. Donning high waisted playsuits, cropped knickers and a hair full of pin curls, pin-ups were the essence of 50s glamour.
However, racism was rampant during the hey dey of the pin-up model and few photographers dared to shoot African-American women in such salacious poses.To mainstream society Black women were not to be desired and to the the black community highly sexualized Black women was demeaning.
It wasn’t until the 1960s, civil rights and the “Black is Beautiful” era when few publications ventured to capture the beauty of the Black model. Playboy featured its first Black centerfold Jennifer Jackson in 1965 and mainstream Black magazines like Jet, Ebony and Hue had already begun to feature black models.
Jet Magazine specifically held black models to a higher esteem with publisher John Johnson showcasing “Jet Cover Girls” that were classy and beautiful and epitomized the pin-up style with cutesy poses and retro swimsuits. Jet went on to publish Jet Beauty of the Month calendar in 1964, and the magazine currently features a Jet Beauty of the Week.
Fast forward to today and “video vixens” are plastered over every hip hop magazine with entire magazines like KING and Black Men’s magazine dedicated to them. While history has said that black women weren’t desired or sexual, models like Melyssa Ford and Amber Rose with her steamy new King cover, have made a name for themselves and built a business off of their bodies.
While our foremothers desired to be accepted, today’s black pin-up model far exceeds the pin-up aesthetic.
But are the modern-day pin-up girls progressive because they expand the mainstream idea of what’s desirable? Or are their over-sexualized images setting us back? What are your thoughts on the Black pin-up model of yesteryear and today?