This is the sort of post I'd usually reserve for my tumblr page, but I absolutely love this vintage ad for Noxema and wanted to provide a little commentary on my fascination with vintage glamour photos featuring women of the African diaspora.
I've always been curious about any possible vintage ads featuring Black pin-ups, products for afro-textured hair, and various other beauty products. My searches have usually turned up less unfulfilled whenever I Googled information featuring Black women as pin-ups. Recently and much to my surprise, I stumbled across information about a pre-Black Tail, pre-King Magazine periodical called Tan N' Terrific (undoubtedly considered to be exploitative smut back in the day) - via the site Vintage Sleaze, which features a treasure trove of vintage photos showcasing Black women in various stages of photography. Despite the seemingly... sordid nature (and I write "sordid" sans judgment or scorn)- of Tan N' Terrific, I'm even more intrigued and interested in learning about the history of periodicals that predate Black Tail and King, and whether they were Black owned publications. I've a feeling Tan N' Terrific wasn't and the person behind the periodical saw an opportunity to capitalize on this particular brand of adult material, as I'm sure there was a niche that hadn't been filled yet, due to the sign of those times.
I'm quite impressed with the work of prolific Black photographer, Howard Morehead, however; who died in 2003. Morehead was one of the few legitimate Black photographers who did consistent and steady work in the entertainment industry, shooting iconic jazz figures such as Ray Charles. Just as importantly, Morehead set out to capture the beauty of Black women during the 1950's, in a less explicit fashion than Tan N' Terrific, despite proclamations that Negro women weren't attractive enough to be captured on photo or featured as models in reputable publications. Howard Morehead did extensive photography for both Jet and Ebony magazines and was instrumental in promoting the Miss Bronze California pageant, in which Marilyn McCoo of Solid Gold fame (don't act like you didn't watch it) placed first, in 1962 . Unlike Tan N' Terrific, Morehead presented the beauty of the Black female form in a more artistic way, while still managing to maintain the allure of the Black female form. This work was collected in the rare 1964 book of photography, Gentlemen Prefer Bronze, which Jet Magazine described as "a photographic tribute to Negro beauty... featuring a wide range of camera moods, from portraits to figure studies..."
Howard Morehead's work can also be seen at the California African American Museum.
I'm overly excited but per usual, any issue having to do with women of the African diaspora as they relate to our image (good, bad, and ugly), current and past marketing campaigns, beauty regimens, or the arts, is near, dear, and important to me.