The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), in cooperation with the Fashion and Arts Xchange (FAX), honored Ophelia DeVore, Positive Image Advocate, and an impressive group of celebrated pioneers in Fashion and Entertainment, February 6, 2004, New York City in PARADISE, an exciting production Celebrating Excellence.
In the beginning, reshaping the African American Image, there was Ophelia DeVore, internationally recognized as the Pioneer Advocate of Positive Image for People of Color. She began her positive image crusade fifty-eight years ago in New York City and used the modeling profession, which was in its infant stage at the time, as the new Positive Image Carrier.
In 1946, Ophelia, with two family members, Marie and Charles Mayo, and two friends, Rupert Callendar and Al Murphy, opened the Grace Del Marco Model Agency in New York City for People of Color realizing the scarcity of job opportunities in the modeling profession for African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, as well as Mediterranean and Alpine Europeans.
Within a few months, it became necessary to open the Ophelia DeVore Charm School in order to adequately prepare the potential models sufficiently to compete in this new competitive industry.
Then, two years down the road of unrewarding struggles, the five original founders of Grace Del Marco were so discouraged that they lost confidence in this untested mission, so Ophelia decided to go it alone.
In order to move the Positive Image-Mission forward, she made a conscious decision to use creative marketing ideas and programs to overcome many of the obstacles depleting serious efforts. She not only had to sell the new concept, she had to make it happen.
Ophelia DeVore convinced the fashion industry to use this new type model in their fashion publicity. The fashion industry was not ready for this new phenomenon, so Miss DeVore had to produce and implement the complete process: select the models, the fashions, the photographers, and then convinced Black oriented publications to use the end results.
She secured a fashion column in the Pittsburgh Courier Newspaper and other publications joined as they realized how their publications could be enhanced, visually, as well as become a more acceptable advertising vehicle for industry.
She prepared herself to work more effectively on television with this new image-group of models; in early 1950,they joined with Ralph Cooper on an ABC television show, called Spotlight on Harlem.
To ready the models to sell charm and positive personality, she produced Beauty Contests, and produced Fashion Shows for the new models to learn how to create proper effect for clothing lines. All of the hard work and creative genius was a valuable investment.
Achieving goals so slowly and arduously was inadequate for business efficiency, so Miss DeVore searched for a window to the world. Sure enough, it became apparent, that the International Film Festival in Cannes, France was ideal. Well, Cecelia Cooper, Miss DeVores protégée, entered and brought home the prize.
World recognition and acceptance of a Black American young lady to be crowned as the worlds most beautiful image-carrier encouraged Corporate America to join in the winnings. All of these innovative marketing projects opened the doors to all U.S.A. industries: Fashion, Television, Beauty, up-graded Entertainment and all visual vehicles on a global basis.
Result: Black was not only proven BEAUTIFUL, but Black was proven PROFITABLE!
In 1970, the Columbus Times Newspaper, Columbus, GA, joined the Ophelia DeVore group and she became one of the founders of The Black Press Archive at Howard University.
Miss DeVore is a recipient of more than 300 honors and awards and has served on boards, committees and panels for Presidents Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford including the Presidents Advisory Committee on the Arts for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
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