Tag Archives: models

Twilight: My Hands Are Me

Debbie says:

Most people (or at least most U.S. readers) can probably recognize the cover of Twilight, the first book in Stephenie Meyer’s runaway success vampire series.

cover of Twilight: two arms and hands from the elbows down, holding a bright red apple. Photo on a black background

I have to say I never gave the cover a second thought, until I saw this article. It turns out that Kimbra Hickey was the hand model for the book, and she’s feeling underappreciated.

Hickey now stops anyone she sees reading the book to inform them of her contribution.

“I see people reading it on the subway, and I say, ‘Those are my hands! I’m a hand model!’ ” she explained. “I’m sure they think I’m crazy — a crazy lady on the subway.”

a picture of Kimbra Hickey holding an apple in the same position as the book cover, with an inset of the book cover to compare

I took a little while (and some conversation with Laurie) to sort out how I feel about this. On the one hand (as it were!), if she stopped me on the subway I might have a little of that “crazy lady” reaction. Everybody wants to be famous for 15 minutes, right? On the other hand, she was chosen out of a wide variety of hand models and those are her hands. As Laurie said, no one would think she was crazy if her face was on the cover and she wanted recognition.

We are our bodies. Because most of us come from Western/Greek/Christian traditions that work tirelessly to separate the mind/personality/self from the body, that can be hard to grasp and remember. Speaking for myself, I feel both possessive and protective of my body. I like feeling proud of it. I sometimes feel like it’s my “fault” when my body doesn’t work the way I or other people expect it to. And if my hands were part of the unpredictable, imponderable combination of factors that made a book into a best-seller, I would feel proud and proprietary. I would want people to know.

It’s so alien to think of giving real credit to hand (or foot or torso or butt) models — sometimes they get a line mentioning their name somewhere, but that’s the maximum I’ve ever seen. But when I stop to think for a second, there’s absolutely no reason that they couldn’t have put a little inset picture of Hickey’s face somewhere on the jacket flap or the back cover, just to acknowledge that they selected those hands, and the hands are attached to a real person. It’s just another small way that we disembody people (usually women).

She’s not crazy at all. She’s just asking for an acknowledgment of the truth–she is her hands and her hands are her. So if her hands are famous, why shouldn’t she get some of the limelight?

Thanks to Alan Bostick for the pointer.

Naomi Sims: Groundbreaking Black Model Died Last Week

Laurie says:

We don’t usual blog about supermodels, but Naomi Sims is the exception.

The New York Times discussed her in their obituary.

Naomi Sims, whose appearance as the first black model on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal in November 1968 was a consummate moment of the Black is Beautiful movement, and who went on to design successful collections of wigs and cosmetics for black women under her name, died Saturday in Newark.

Naomi was the first,” the designer Halston told The New York Times in 1974. “She was the great ambassador for all black people. She broke down all the social barriers.”


Ms. Sims often said childhood insecurities and a painful upbringing — living in foster homes, towering over her classmates and living in a largely poor white neighborhood in Pittsburgh — had inspired her to strive to become “somebody really important” at a time when cultural perceptions of black Americans were being challenged by the civil rights movement and a renewed stress on racial pride.

When Ms. Sims arrived in New York on a scholarship to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1966, there was very little interest in fashion for black models and only a handful who had been successful…

In need of money, Ms. Sims, with her heart-shaped face and long limbs, was encouraged by classmates and counselors to give it a try. But every agency she approached turned her down, some telling her that her skin was too dark.

She started her career by courage and persistence among other things approaching a photographer for the Times.  That resulted in her being on the cover of Fashions of the Times in 1967.

Two images of Ms. Sims — one from the 1967 Times fashion magazine cover and the other from a 1969 issue of Life — are in the current Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition “The Model as Muse.” In a catalog, the curators Harold Koda and Kohle Yohannan wrote, “The beautifully contoured symmetry of Sims’s face and the lithe suppleness of her body presented on the once-exclusionary pages of high-fashion journals were evidence of the wider societal movement of Black Pride and the full expression of ‘Black is Beautiful.’ ”

“It’s ‘in’ to use me,” she said early on, “and maybe some people do it when they don’t really like me. But even if they are prejudiced, they have to be tactful if they want a good picture.”

In 1973, Ms. Sims decided to start her own business. As a model, she often did her own hair and makeup, since many studio assistants were unfamiliar with working with darker skin. And she noticed that most commercially available wigs were designed for Caucasian hair, so she began experimenting with her own designs, baking synthetic hairs in her oven at home to create the right texture to look like straightened black hair. Within five years, her designs, produced by the Metropa Company, had annual sales of $5 million.

Obviously we have severely mixed feelings (mostly negative ) about supermodels and modeling, but in her time Naomi Sims was a hero.

Thanks to Onyx Lynx for the pointer.