Obit of the Day: Essence's First Cover Model
Barbara Cheeseborough beauty was recognized early on. As a teenager she first began appearing in newspaper ads in and around her hometown of Philadelphia, PA.
At age twenty she married fashion photographer William Cheeseborough, who convinced her to move to New York City and take her career to the next level. She found it difficult to break into the fashion world in New York but did earn her place in history as the cover model for the first-ever issue of Essence.
The magazine was intended to reach black women and was a direct competitor for the legendary Ebony magazine, which was then in its 25th year of publication. Essence even hired legendary photographer and director Gordon Parks as its first executive editor.
Mrs. Cheeseborough and her husband would eventually leave New York for Paris where she worked for the best-known labels including Christian Dior, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, and Calvin Klein. She would also appear on magazine covers for Redbook, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan.
The couple returned to the United States after Mrs. Cheeseborough’s retirement from modeling in the early 1990s. They moved to California where she became involved in the Screen Actors Guild running for secretary-treasurer of the organization in 2003. She finished third in the balloting after James Cromwell and Esai Morales.
Barbara Cheeseborough died on October 24, 2013 at the age of 67.
(Image of the May 1970 cover of Essence, the publication’s first, featuring a 24-year-old Barbara Cheeseborough is copyright of Time, Inc. and courtesy of alifeofstyle.blogspot.com)