Occasionally I post photos from my historical collection…sometimes music, sometimes beer, sometimes something else. When I was growing up, my father was a Regional Manager for the National Brewing Company…makers of National Bohemian Beer (Natty Boh), Colt 45 Malt Liquor and other brews. This photo from 1955 is of Dorothea Towles (later married and became Dorothea Towles Church). According to Wikipedia: Dorothea Towles Church (July 26, 1922—July 7, 2006) was the first successful black fashion model in Paris. Church was revered in France during the five years she modeled in Paris. "If you’re beautiful, (the French) don’t care what color you are," Church said.
Church recalled her experience in Paris of the early 1950s in a 2004 interview for Women’s Wear Daily: "For once I was not considered black, African American or Negro. I was just an American." The French fashion establishment "treated you like a queen," she said.
In her 1998 book Black and Beautiful, author Barbara Summers quotes Church about her celebrity status in Paris at the beginning of the 1950s: "I got invited out all the time. I was the only black model in Europe and I just thought I was an international person."
Church was not totally immune to prejudice in Paris, however. Pierre Balmain wouldn’t allow her to borrow his designs for an Ebony Magazine shoot out of concern Balmain’s white clientele would be offended.
"They didn’t think that African American women would buy the clothes, that they could buy the clothes," Church told Summers. "That’s where my education and my experience came in. I knew about black history and black society."
Instead, Church told Balmain she wanted to wear the dresses to a party. The photographs later were published in Ebony.
While on a modeling assignment for Elsa Schiaparelli, Church overheard someone describe her as Tahitian.
Tagged: , maryland , maryland history , DC , natty boh , beer , beers , brewery , national bohemian beer , Mr. Boh , Land of Pleasant Living , black , african american , afro , african american history , model , models , paris , france