Zendaya Channels Iconic Black Supermodel Donyale Luna in Gorgeous Essence Cover Shoot

The Emmy winning actress pays tribute to Donyale Luna (widely considered the first Black supermodel) on the 50th anniversary of Essence

Zendaya, Donyale Luna
Photo: AB+DM;

It’s official! Zendaya can do no wrong.

The 24-year-old actress is channeling iconic supermodel Donyale Luna on the cover of the 50th anniversary cover of Essence magazine honoring Black resilience.

Under the creative direction of her longtime stylist and "image architect" Law Roach, Zendaya stuns in a variety of looks inspired by Luna (who is widely considered the first Black supermodel), including a floor-length long sleeve knit dress by The GiGi Hunter Collection, a Miu Miu fur coat, a Fansy metal shift dress and a zebra print frock. The Euphoria star also posed for several close-up shots sporting quintessential '60s glam: drawn-on freckles, graphic eyeliner and larger-than-life false eyelashes.

Inside the special anniversary issue, she opened up everything from her historic Emmy win to her upcoming film Malcolm & Marie and building her legacy while paying tribute to Black icons who came before her.

Zendaya Essence

"I’m incredibly grateful—because without the incredible, iconic people who have graced the cover before me, I wouldn’t be here, standing on the shoulders of giants. To be able to do this cover at this time is really special to me. I also felt very excited that Essence allowed Law [Roach] and me to be a part of the creative team and do something a little bit different. I had so much fun on this shoot paying homage to Donyale Luna, the first Black supermodel."

She continued: "A lot of what I do, specifically within fashion, is a tribute to fashion icons who came before me—many of whom are Black women. I love the way it turned out. I’m very proud of it. It’s one of my favorite cover shoots I’ve ever done."

Zendaya Essence

When asked about her all Black glam squad (composed of Roach, makeup artist Sheika Daley, hairstylist Larry Sims and others), Zendaya told Essence, "It’s really important to us to support young Black designers and Black photographers, because the support usually just isn’t there for them."

"A lot of smaller brands and designers were the ones that supported me before I was being dressed by bigger brands," she added. "There’s rarely a look, or anything that we do in fashion, that doesn’t have a story. Everything is done with intention."

Zendaya Essence

The in-depth interview concluded with Zendaya sharing her "New Year’s wish for Black women."

For us to continue to fully realize our power and harness it to do great things, because we are incredibly powerful," she said. "We’re often convinced that we’re not, and taught to shrink—but we have to believe in our collective power. I always think of that Beyoncé song, “They’ll never take my power, my power, my power.” Let’s take that energy into the new year."

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