Thursday, February 21, 2008

PPT’s Favorite Black Style Icons


They say it's Black History Month... So I thought it would be a good time to post some of my favorite stylish ladies who happen to be Black. Of course this could have easily been posted in October or May. I think I'll follow with the dudes.

Again, this is a partial list. There is no way to include everybody but do let me know if you think I'm missing someone BIG.

Angela Davis - The Rebel

I’ve been told (by a very reliable source) that she actually dislikes being lauded as a style icon. I can understand why. The work that she and the Panthers did being marginalized to physical appearance is an insult. But I had to include her in this list. Like everyone else I chose however, the work she did (does) is a large part of the reason she’s even on this list; clothes aside. Her signature afro is legendary and the black leather jackets partnered with bell bottom jeans always managed to be the perfect marriage of femininity and toughness.

Billie Holiday - The Not-So Quiet Storm

Who knew that a flower could be so doggone powerful? Neatly placed alongside a perfectly coiffed hairdo, that simplistic white lily is now immediately tied to the historic singer. Something so simple and inexpensive has now become synonymous with sophistication and effortless style. The blues hasn't looked this good since.

Lauryn Hill - The Door Buster

My style maybe you could rent it but it still won’t be yours/Kinda like the clothes in your videos you return to the stores… L-Boogie warned us about her flyness but still few could predict the New Jersey native would cause the ruckus she did both in and out of the fashion industry. She kept us guessing as she effortlessly moved from b-girl bombshell to uptown fashionista to thrift/vintage maven. During her peak in the 90s as front woman of The Fugees and eventually a solo artist, she managed to land the covers of British GQ, Details, Elle, Rolling Stone and Time Out New York. Too bad she now seems to be as crazy as a bedbug. *sigh*

Queens Cleopatra and Nefertiti - The Originators

Elizabeth Taylor my ass. (I normally don’t curse but I simply could not help it in this case.) Hollywood might want us to think Cleopatra was White but we know the truth. It’s no accident that the noses of ancient Egyptian artifacts are so often "removed". These two historic and quite savvy women arguably became just as powerful as the men they were attached to, kept a fly hairdo and understood the importance of accessories. For proof of the latter, check out the Egyptian exhibit at the MET pronto. It’s an accessory lovers dream…

Josephine Baker - The Fire Cracker

Too hot for the United States to handle, this banana skirt wearing diva took her show to Paris. Many claim that she became a minstrel show of sorts but I maintain that she was truly groundbreaking in the entertainment and style worlds. Not afraid to take chances, she rocked her hair short and wore revealing costumes to show off her curvy frame. Her confidence seemed palpable. Dang.

Lena Horne - The Original "It" Girl

Her quiet sex appeal matched with genuine talent and grace are undeniable. But what I really appreciate about Ms. Horne is that she exudes such polished, sophisticated style. That old-school glamour. Like most Black women in her time, she mastered being able to look fabulous (always) with very little resources. Remember, her peak was before entertainers had professional stylists and huge wardrobe budgets. Couple that with the fact that she was forced to use sub-standard dressing rooms and not able to shop in top-notch stores that only allowed White customers because she was Black. (You thought she was exempt from all that because she’s light? Nope.) But, when you got it, you just got it.

Salt ‘N Pepa - The International ‘Round the Way Girls

One word: asymmetrical. Two decades ago, this dynamic duo made spandex and leather (Push It video), ripped denim and tees (Shake Your Thang video) and doorknocker earrings (Tramp video) appear on many a brown girl's wish list. They were flyness personafied. They also fearlessly opened the door for countless female hip-hop artists. But I wouldn't expect much less from two chicks from Queens. :-)

1 comment:

BigCNYC said...

hey bsquared! i love the style icons but i'd like to see a second round up that includes katherine dunham, dorothy dandridge, diahann carroll, eartha kitt. i can't think of anyone new, new.