Jeneil Williams, photographed by Txema Yeste for Numero France February 2014
A very good friend of Visual Therapy Co-founder Jesse Garza—actor and stylist Marcellas Reynolds—recently published his first book after 8 years of hard work and dedication. Titled Supreme Models—Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion, Marcellas had always dreamed of writing a book dedicated to celebrating Black women and their influence and achievements in the fashion industry.
The first ever book devoted exclusively to Black models, it is filled with stunning photography, inspiring essays, and revealing interviews. Luckily for us, we had the pleasure of interviewing Marcellas, digging deeper into his creative process and what ultimately drove him to realize his dream of publishing this important and powerful work. Read the story behind Supreme Models below and pick up a copy of his book here.
How did you first become inspired to write this book?
I collect art books on photography, models, and designers. In 2011 I ordered the British Vogue book, Vogue Model: Faces of Beauty. Upon receiving it, I excitedly read it from cover to cover. I was shocked to discover the book only included two black models, Iman and Naomi Campbell. I went to Amazon and wrote a scathing review, which is still there to this day. That night at 2 am, the idea for SUPREME MODELS was born.
Leomie Anderson, photographed by Jenny Brough for HelloMagazine Oct 2016
What is your professional background and how does it relate to Supreme Models?
I started my career in fashion at fifteen, working in a women’s clothing store. I’ve been in the business of fashion in some way ever since. I was discovered waiting tables in Chicago at Marché, by Marie Anderson
the owner of Aria Models. I started modeling and never looked back. I lived all over the world, met some incredible people, and made great money. Modeling was a crash course in sophistication. I loved every moment. Modeling led to fashion styling, which led to on-air fashion correspondent work, and now I’m an author.
Veronica Webb, photographed by Albert Watson for Vogue Italia May 1989.
What do you hope to accomplish with the release of Supreme Models?
I wrote Supreme Models as a celebration of all the people who came together to create the magic that is fashion. Yes, the subjects of the book are black models, but people of every race, sex, and sexuality have come together to create these images. I also think modeling is harder for women of color and I hope this book serves as a thank you to them for their beauty, skills, and dedication. The book is priced inexpensively because I believe children of color need to see themselves represented beautifully and with dignity. I want little girls to be able to afford this book.
Roshumba Williams, photographed by Nathaniel Kramer for Elle US April 1990.
What are some of your favorite stories from the book?
The making of this book is a book in and of itself. My favorite story is of the last photo cleared. Naomi Campbell after seeing her section requested a photo by Steven Meisel. I was broke. I took a year off from work to write the book, exhausting my savings. The licensing fees were double the estimated cost. I took out credit cards to pay the fees! But what La Campbell wants, she gets. I approached Meisel’s team and begged. Mr. Meisel sent me a very nice note and gave me the Naomi Campbell Vogue Italia photo for free. The interviews in the book are wonderful. I think my favorite is Bethann Hardison’s. She is a legendary, almost mythic figure in fashion. The story of her discovery by Willi Smith is amazing and how she started her eponymous agency in the 1990s is incredible. But more than anything, Bethann’s tireless work on behalf of models of all races is heroic.
Beverly Johnson the first Black model featured on the cover of Vogue, photographed by Francesco Scavullo for Vogue US August 1974.