While Sterling St. Jacques made a splash at Studio 54, male model Renauld White revolutionized the industry by demanding equal representation in mainstream publications. In November 1979, White was the first African-American model to appear on the cover of GQ magazine (a fact oft overlooked as the first black man to cover GQ was Swiss born Urs Althaus in 1977).

I actually had a chance to meet and chat with White, who attended the Byron Lars presentation I wrote about on Essence.com. According to White, he got his start when he came to New York from nearby New Jersey one day to demand that agents at Wilhemina models allow more people of color the chance to compete in the industry.

He said, “I wanted to bring about change. I really confronted the establishment about why there were not more black male images. At first I thought I was going to get thrown in jail and beaten up because of my approach. But then they realized that they were wrong and that they were behind society and behind the times, and that they had to listen to me.”

“They offered me a contract because they thought that I would fail. Eventually I proved myself.” White went on to not only cover GQ, but also score major campaigns with Black Tie cologne, Vitalis, and Arrows Shirts. He was the first black man to work the runways for Bill Blass, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and Ralph Lauren. He also enjoyed success in Europe, where he walked for Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Charles de Castelbajac, Cerutti, Valentino, Armani, and Versace.

White later transitioned into the world of theater. He appeared on the soap opera “The Guiding Light,” for many years and now participates in several plays. His advice for aspiring models is, “We know we have to work…there’s work to be done. I try to talk to as many young people as I can, and encourage them to follow their dreams and to aspire to greater things outside of modeling. Modeling is only a bridge. What are you going to do after modeling is over? I had a 30+ year career, they don’t make those anymore. I encourage them to do amazing things. Take the money, go to school, open up a business, be an entrepreneur, and be self reliant.”

I took a picture with Renauld after speaking with him:

He’s still got it!

This post is sponsored by African Pride

Three times weekly for the next five weeks, African Pride will be giving away a year’s supply of their Olive Miracle line to lucky winners on the brand’s Facebook page.
On March 16th, African Pride will kick off the “My Pride. My Way.” campaign in style with a star-studded soiree at Atlanta’s historic King Plow Event Gallery. Stay tuned for an opportunity to win free event tickets on The Fashion Bomb!