Lady Sara Lou Harris Carter broke a number of barriers in her modeling and fashion career. After attending HBCU Bennett College in North Carolina, Carter went on to become the first African-American model to star in a national ad campaign, according to historians.
The future model was born July 4, 1923 in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. After graduating from Bennett, Carter moved north to New York after teaching for a year. While in the big city, Carter earned a master’s degree and supported herself as a model, radio host and dancer working across a variety of mediums.
In the ’40’s, Carter was signed to the Branford Modeling Agency, the first created for Black models. Carter and her peers began shifting the idea that glamour models were mostly blondes. Eventually she became the first Black woman featured in the New York buyer’s fashion show as part of the “Branford Lovelies.”
Within the decade, Carter made history once more as the featured model for the Lucky Strike cigarette company’s national ad campaign. Modeling led her to Guyana, where she met and married British attorney John Carter. Mr. Carter was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1966, thus granting Mrs. Carter the title of “Lady.”
Over the course of her career, Carter appeared on the cover of Jet, Ebony, Hue, and Tan magazines among several others. She also owned and operated a charm school in her husband’s home country.
Carter passed in 2016, survived by her husband’s three children and several grandchildren. She was 93.
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