06/30/2014 10:05 am ET Updated Jun 30, 2014

Black Glamour Power: The Stars Who Blazed A Trail For Beyoncé And Lupita Nyong'o

Evening Standard via Getty Images

Nichelle Gainer knows a thing or two about glamour: She spent most of her career working for magazines like “Woman’s Day,” “GQ,” “Us Weekly,” and “InStyle,” with a focus on celebrity, fashion, and grooming. But her true passion is fiction, so she decided to write a novel about black beauty pageants in the 1950s, partially inspired by on one of her glamorous aunts, who was a model in the 1950s—the other was an opera singer, who rubbed shoulders with the biggest celebrities of her day.

Looking for newspaper articles on her aunt, she discovered a whole world of history that hardly ever bubbles to the surface: stunning, well-dressed African American stars celebrated in the black community, and sometimes even in the mainstream. Gainer put her fiction work aside to focus on these real-life stories.

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