I never had fashion magazines in my home when I was very young. Up until I was 8, I thought the only magazines in the world were Jet, Life, Ebony, Essence, TV Guide and that magazine that Jehovah's Witnesses hold at bus stops.
Even though I'm sure I had some knowledge of the who's who of black models from back in the day like Beverly Johnson, Naomi Sims and Iman the only one who really struck me back then was Pat Evans. Pat was known as "that bald lady" in my house where she was the source of much controversy. My mother could not get around that fact that a black woman would choose to be a baldie. "Why can't she just wear a wig? She looks like a man!" was the common refrain of my mother, aunts and cousins.
I thought Pat was fierce and a little frightening. I remember just sitting and staring at her photos in magazines. She could hold my attention much easier than any homework assignment. In my mind, any woman that had the nerve to be bald on purpose had to be a "right on" chick.
Pat was from the Sugar Hill section of Harlem and was a dancer. When she danced with the troupe Olatunji she started wearing a afro. It was the group's trademark look. In the 1960s when she started modeling she was told to straighten her hair and wear carry around an afro wig with her to bookings.
...I got really mad about that, because all of my life it's been good hair/bad hair you know. That same day I saw a little girl skipping down the street with a sweater on her hair. I thought, my sister and I used to do that when we were little. It was a game called White Girl. I said to myself, this means nothing has changed. And I shaved my head.
But she still had to pay the bills so that afro wig was still worn over her bald head for work. She did a fitting for Stephen Burrows in which she had to squeeze into a tiny dress. When she took it off the wig came off with it. Burrows was surprised and Evans begged him not to tell her agency that she was an undercover no-hair. Burrows insisted on using her in his show without the wig and her career took off.
Evans herself was a bold as her personal style. She sent tongues wagging when she wrote in Essence Magazine that "black modeling is just another form of prostitution" and criticized the racist attitudes in the industry and predatory photographers. She said that modeling would never be an "open" profession for black people until there were more black owned agencies, products, magazines and above all "black owned minds."
Really, that article could have been written yesterday is still holds so much truth.