Tracey “Africa” Norman always knew that the question wasn’t if she’d be found out, but how long she could go undetected.
To be black and from Newark in the mid-1970s and get plucked from a model casting call for Italian Vogue by Irving Penn — it was the kind of success story that was unheard of, especially for someone like her. She was signed by a top agency, photographed multiple times for the pages of Essence magazine. She landed an exclusive contract for Avon skin care, and another for Clairol’s Born Beautiful hair color boxes: No. 512, Dark Auburn, please. She went to Paris and became a house model in the Balenciaga showroom, wearing couture and walking the runway twice a day. Norman was never as big as Iman, Beverly Johnson, Pat Cleveland, or the other models of color breaking barriers on international runways or on the cover of Vogue. But she was riding that wave. It was more than she could have ever hoped for when she was a kid in New Jersey. Back when she was a boy who knew that, inside, he was a girl.
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