The late Ophelia DeVore died last February, leaving behind a rich legacy in the modeling field and setting a new standard for Black beauty. DeVore was one of the first successful Black models and used her platform to help shape the careers of Diahann Carroll and Cicely Tyson among several others.
DeVore was born on this day in 1921 in Edgefield, S.C. A mixed-race woman, DeVore was of African-American, Native-American and European descent. She discovered modeling as a teenager while living in New York. Because of her fair skin, she was able to enter the Vogue School of Modeling and graduated without incident. DeVore later discovered the only reason she made it through because the school assumed she was a white woman.
After graduating, DeVore began doing print work for Ebony Magazine. In 1946, just eight years into her career, she co-founded the Grace Del Marco modeling agency. The agency represented the aforementioned Carroll and Tyson, but also later represented a dashing young model by the name of Richard Roundtree. Roundtree would go on to star in the action thriller Shaft among other films.
The agency also represented popular supermodel Helen Williams, actress Gail Fisher, and newswoman Trudy Haynes.
In 1948, DeVore opened the Ophelia DeVore Charm School. The establishment, which closed in 2006, taught etiquette, fashion, ballet, and speech along with a variety of other disciplines. Singer Faith Evans is a graduate of the charm school along with notable Black professionals in and around the New York area.
In 1955, Devore appeared on the weekly ABC television show, “Spotlight On Harlem” It was New York City’s first television program created by and for African-American audiences. DeVore made history once more in 1959 and 1960 when two of her modeling clients, Cecelia Cooper and LaJeune Hundley, were the first Americans of any race to win titles at the Cannes Film Festival.
In 1941, Devore married and eventually had five children with her first husband, Harold Carter. After their divorce, She married Columbus Times publisher Vernon Mitchell in 1968. When her second husband died in 1972, DeVore continued running the paper alongside one of her daughters.
DeVore passed at the age of 92 after complications from a stroke. She is remembered as a proud champion of diversity for non-whites in the modeling and entertainment fields and an early advocate of the “Black Is Beautiful” movement.