Beyond Jean Harlow: Rarely Seen Photos of Glamorous Black Women

Photo: Walter Iooss Jr/Getty Images

“Vintage Hollywood glamour” usually calls to mind images of Audrey Hepburn, Jean Harlow, Grace Kelly — all those silver-screen goddesses who appear on posters and populate coffee-table books. But the people those photo collections don’t usually include are the black singers, actresses, and starlets who were living an equally glamorous existence in front of flashbulbs.

Where are the portraits of Dorothy Dandridge? The party shots of Eartha Kitt? Writer Nichelle Gainer wondered the same thing when she started researching for a novel about black beauty pageants and uncovered stunning, little-seen images. Three years ago she started a Tumblr, Vintage Black Glamour, and it’s now scheduled to become a coffee-table book set for release later this summer.

The shots, ranging from 1900 to 1980, feature faces both familiar and unfamiliar, iconic portraits and  unknowns, but all the women featured helped break down color lines, revolutionizing Hollywood just by existing beautifully.

Here’s a sneak peek of images from Gainer’s forthcoming collection, featuring the Supremes going airplane chic, Lena Horne sitting front row at Pierre Balmain, and the other celebrities and civil rights activists who embodied a rarely considered definition of Hollywood glamour.niche

Rarely Seen Photos of Glamorous Black Women