First Black model, Ophelia DeVore
Ophelia DeVore-Mitchell, a former model, agent, charm-school director and newspaper publisher who almost single-handedly opened the modeling profession to African-Americans, and in so doing expanded public understanding of what American beauty looks like, died on Feb. 28 in Manhattan. She was 91.
Her death was announced on March 6 on the floor of the House of Representatives by Sanford D. Bishop Jr., Democrat of Georgia. At her death, Mrs. DeVore-Mitchell was the publisher emeritus ofThe Columbus Times, a black newspaper in Columbus, Ga., which she ran from the 1970s until her retirement about five years ago.
Long before the phrase “Black is beautiful” gained currency in the 1960s, Mrs. DeVore-Mitchell was preaching that ethos by example.
In New York in the 1940s — an age when modeling schools, and modeling jobs, were overwhelmingly closed to blacks — she helped start the Grace del Marco Modeling Agency and later founded the Ophelia DeVore School of Self-Development and Modeling. The enterprises, which served minorities, endured for six decades.
Ms. DeVore's modeling career have paved the way for Black and Women of Color supermodels, Donyale Luna, Naomi Sims, Beverly Johnson, Iman, Tyra Banks, Halle Berry, Grace Jones, etc.
Rest in peace, Ophelia!