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8 Black Beauty Icons Who Still Influence Our Style

by Joanne Oclaray

• By Joanne Oclaray

If you google “Black Beauty icons,” you’ll find an endless list of influential Black women who have changed the beauty world forever. Their signature styles continue to make their way on our Instagram collections and Pinterest pages. From Donyale Luna’s super-winged eyeliner to Grace Jones’ fierce style to Aaliyah’s infamous side-swept bangs, these are the beauty moments that we’re still very much obsessed with. Here, we spotlight eight Black women who have inspired us by being unapologetically themselves.

Donyale Luna

Known for being the first Black model to grace the cover of British Vogue in March 1966, Donyale was the epitome of effortless glam. Her slender frame, big gorgeous eyes, and stark features made her impossible to ignore on the newsstands.

Josephine Baker

No one graced the big screen quite like Josephine Baker, who in 1927 became the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture. Her pencil-thin eyebrows, glossy finger waves, and dark lip color defined the beauty aesthetic of the roaring 20’s.

Eartha Kitt

Discovered by Orson Wells, Eartha Kitt was an outspoken beauty who worked as a singer, actress, dancer, author, and activist. She was fierce as Catwoman with her sky-high cheekbones and grace of a feline, but she’s most known for her head-to-toe leopard print ensembles, bodacious curls, and throaty voice.

Billie Holiday

Besides being one of the most legendary jazz singers of all time, Lady Day is also well known for her timeless gardenia hair pieces. The style started when she burnt her hair with curling tongs and needed a cover-up. A fellow jazz singer purchased a garland of gardenias, pinned the flowers over the damage, and the rest was history.

Aaliyah

Who could pull off side-swept bangs and ultra-glossy lips quite as effortlessly as Aaliyah? Nowadays you can spot her most memorable looks being recreated everywhere, from cool-girl athleisure to bandana hair wraps. If there’s one way to summarize the imprint she left on this world, we’d say it’s one in a million. 

Grace Jones

Trying to fit Grace Jones in a singular box is nearly impossible. Model, songwriter, actress she gave us so much more by subverting beauty standards. The hyper-androgynous icon symbolized the art of self-expression during the 70s and 80s. We can definitely take beauty cues from her razor-sharp brows, vivid makeup, and fierce style.

Sade

Sade is no ordinary beauty (see what we did there?). There’s just so much to say about her hypnotic voice and smooth anthems, but it’s her timeless brand of beauty that so many of us still connect with. The soulful singer was a master of stripping back to the essentials. She often wore a classic bold red lip, a rope braid, and her natural freckles.

Lisa Bonet

If there’s one beauty secret that we need to know ASAP, it’s how Lisa Bonet’s defies aging. She was well known in the 80’s for her bare-faced look and chiseled bone structure. In the 90’s, she eased into her signature free-spirited look, complete with waist-length dreads, and has embraced the look ever since.