Inspiring Beauty: Exhibition Overview

Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair is a multisensory re-creation of the pioneering runway shows that helped redefine beauty, style, and empowerment for African American women everywhere. This is the first exhibition to explore the Ebony Fashion Fair, which traveled worldwide, including here in Milwaukee, and its director-producer Eunice W. Johnson, through fifty years of vision, innovation, and power.

During the mid-twentieth century, African Americans challenged centuries of racial segregation and discrimination through efforts such as the civil rights movement. Nevertheless, depictions of African Americans were often negative, caricatures, and rarely reflected achievements. Ebony magazine and other periodicals from Johnson Publishing Company (JPC) worked to provide audiences with transformative images of African Americans as beautiful and successful!

Fashion Fair was the title of the monthly fashion column in Ebony. Fashion was used to express a vision of black life. From 1958 to 2009, the traveling fashion show (also a fundraiser for black charities) turned the glossy images from the magazine into a two-hour performance experience—one that could be seen in nearly two hundred cities throughout the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean in a given tour season.