Jany Tomba: One of the First Black Super Models in the United States

Haitianbeatz recently focused on one of the first black supermodels in the United States, Haitian model Jany Tomba. “A Cultural Icon: One of the First Black Super Models of America” rightly states, “Modeling has a lot to do with identity. The models that feature in national, international publishing and other formats are iconic representations of cultures and everything that comes with them.”

According to Haitianbeatz “This model came to the United States of America in the 60s. It was just at the sunset of the Civil Rights Era. Being from Haiti, she wasn’t necessarily aware of the social political climate; she wore her hair out.” Tomba moved from Haiti to New York as a child with her family. The article introduces the video I JaNY (2010), produced and directed by Sasha Huber.

The film, which was showcased as a video and installation piece at several exhibitions in Finland in 2010 (such as the Alice in Wonderland exhibition and the Turku European Capital of Culture 2011 Exhibition), explains how she became a model and how it was to be one of the first black girls to get into magazine covers in the U.S. “It touches on the issues of identity and culture, from the perspective of Jany Tomba, in images and narration.”

Description: I JaNY is a portrait of Jany Tomba, the artistʼs aunt, who at an early age, in the 1960s, experienced what it is like to emigrate with her family from the dictatorship in Haiti to New York. Ever since Sasha [Huber] was a child, she has been fascinated and inspired by Jany’s life as a model, a mother, an artist, and now as a grandmother. Huber was curious to find out what expectations and dreams Jany had, and how the various incidents in her life led her into a career that she knew almost nothing about–that of a successful, ʻearly-generationʼ black fashion model, spending over 25 years with the Ford modeling agency.

The work became a way for Jany to get her voice heard by generations of young Black women. By her example she encouraged them to embrace themselves for what they are and, for instance, to wear their hair naturally curly. She was able to apply her positive energy and artistic creativity in fashion styles and designs that eventually evolved into visual art in New York. She loves the city that has become her home, but that does not mean she has ever forgotten about her homeland, Haiti. It is Haitiʼs lush, but endangered nature that Jany has missed most during all the years she has lived in the concrete jungle of NYC.

Sasha Huber was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1975, and currently lives and works in Helsinki, Finland. Her background is in graphic design, which she studied in Zurich. In 2000 she received a scholarship to Fabrica, Benetton’s communication research centre in Treviso, Italy. In 2006 she graduated from the University of Art and Design in Helsinki with an MA in Visual Cultures. In her work she examines her roots and their influence on the process of building a personal and artistic identity. Being of Haitian and European heritage she allies herself with the Caribbean Diaspora.

For article and video by Sasha Huber, see http://www.haitianbeatz.com/hb-interviews/artist-spotlight/752-a-cultural-icon-one-of-the-first-black-super-models-of-america.html and http://www.sashahuber.com/?cat=29&lang=fi&mstr=4


3 thoughts on “Jany Tomba: One of the First Black Super Models in the United States

  1. Jany was always an inspiration to many of us while growing up. In the early ’70s it was another super model who also served as an inspiration, Marcia Turnier and in the ’80s it was Margot who modeled mostly in France and Europe.

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