Globe trotting supermodels like Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn today owe a lot to the likes of this lovely lady, Dorothea Towles Church. Dorothea was the first African American high-fashion model in Paris, modeling the likes of Christian Dior.
Church was born in Texarkana, Texas on July 26, 1922, the seventh of eight children in a southern farming family.
Dorothea was more than a pretty face, but she was also very well educated. After attending Wiley College (Marshall, Texas) for biology, a wealthy uncle invited her to move to Los Angeles following the death of Dorothea's mother. There, she attended University of Southern California, receiving a master's degree in education.
Initially, Dorothea considered an acting career, but the lack of roles for black actors greatly disheartened her. She instead enrolled in the Dorothy Farrier Charm and Modeling School in Los Angeles.
Following a visit to Paris, Dorothea decided to stay in France to continue modeling, later signing with the Grace del Marco agency in New York City. Shortly after moving to New York she met Thomas Church, an immigration lawyer. They married in 1963 and had one son, remaining married until Thomas passed in 2000. Dorothea passed in 2006.