ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z

Ophelia DeVore-Mitchell
National Visionary


Born August 22, 1922 in Edgefield, South Carolina

African American modeling-business pioneer








BIOGRAPHY
As one of the first African American models in the United States, Ophelia DeVore-Mitchell changed the face of the beauty and fashion industry. Through her modeling agency and school, she fostered and promoted the careers of some of the country’s top African American models, entertainers and television personalities.  Over the years, DeVore-Mitchell added newspaper owner and publisher, business executive, producer and consultant to her long list of accomplishments. 
 

1928 - Age 6
Born August 22, 1922 in the small town of Edgefield, South Carolina, DeVore-Mitchell was one of ten children.  She attended segregated schools as a child but eventually went to live with an aunt in New York City, where she graduated from Hunter College High School before going on to major in mathematics at New York University.  During this time, DeVore-Mitchell began doing occasional modeling jobs and became one of the first non-white fashion models in the United States.
           
In 1946 she enrolled in the Vogue School of Modeling, which until that time had excluded women of color.  Later that year, she, along with four of her colleagues, founded the Grace Del Marco Modeling Agency as a way to help create opportunities for models of color. In 1948 she created The Ophelia DeVore School of Self-Development and Modeling.  Through the School, she has supported the social and professional aspirations of more than 20,000 students including Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson, Gail Fisher, Susan Taylor, Gil Noble and Faith Evans. 
 
In addition to creating opportunities to showcase African Americans in magazines, on the runway and at pageants and fashion shows, DeVore-Mitchell started marketing to non-white audiences. As part of this project, she produced a massive promotional campaign for Johnson & Johnson that launched the career of supermodel Helen Williams.  In 1955, DeVore-Mitchell and her models made history as hosts of ABC’s weekly television show, “Spotlight on Harlem.”  It was the first television program in New York produced by and for African Americans. She made history again in 1959 and 1960 when two of her clients, Cecilia Cooper and LaJeune Hundley were the first Americans, black or white, to win titles at the Cannes Film Festival. Throughout the 1960s, DeVore-Mitchell continued to revolutionize nearly every facet of the modeling and beauty industry. She created two of the first nationally known ethnic beauty contests in the U.S., developed a fashion column for the Pittsburgh Courier Newspaper and created a line of cosmetics specially formulated for people of color.
 
She is the owner and publisher of The Columbus Times, a founder of The Black Press Archives at Howard University and was elected several times as the National Secretary of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.  She has produced several New York City cable television shows, including the “Ophelia DeVore Show.”  In 1991, assisted by her son James Carter, the two founded DeVore Carter Communications.  DeVore-Mitchell continues to oversee all her enterprises and, at present, her development programs have touched more than 90,000 lives.  For her outstanding service, she has received more than 200 awards and honors and was named one of the 75 black women who changed America in the “I Dream a World” series.
           
Through her wide and diverse involvement in nearly every facet of the modeling, beauty, fashion, entertainment, marketing and news industries, DeVore-Mitchell has helped society move closer to realizing her own mission: "I didn't model a long time because that wasn't my mission to be a model. My mission was to have us presented in a way that was not stereotyped."  DeVore-Mitchell lives in New York and is the mother of five children, Carol, James, Marie, Cheryl and Michael, and she has 21 grandchildren and great grandchildren.

VIDEO CLIPS

EXTERNAL LINKS

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/devoremitchellophelia


ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z