Marcellas Reynolds is giddy over his good fortune.
The noted stylist, TV personality, and Chicago native is in the green room at the Museum of Contemporary Art, watching supermodel Veronica Webb in hair and makeup for a cover shoot — with him! Though the ever-dapper Reynolds is known for his turn on the runway, a slew of fashionable friends, and sought-after wardrobe advice, it’s an entirely different thing to take a photo with your model muse.
Yet that’s what happens when you produce a coffee table book about the best-known black cover girls of all time. Reynolds’s “Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion,” published by Abrams and sold at the MCA, is not only a beautiful tome; it serves as a consummate, modern history of all things stylish in the African diaspora while paying homage to the industry as a whole.
“I remember the first time I saw black girls going to a cotillion [pictured in Ebony magazine] and I said, ‘Oh my Gawd, what is that?’ I want this book to do that for a new generation,” says Reynolds, who grew up mesmerized by the pictures of beautiful brown-skinned people in the pages of Ebony and Jet magazines, which have since been shuttered, but gave agency to an international shift in black beauty culture.
Even as a teen attending Kenwood High School, Reynolds knew that one day he would produce a book with similar impact. Plus, there are very few like it; other fashion photo books only include a handful of iconic black female models — not all of them. And none had all those interviews with trailblazers like Karen Alexander, Bethann Hardison, and Beverly Johnson. “There was no photography book; there was no art book,” Reynolds explains while adjusting his ruffled shirt. “Duane Thomas did a black art book and it was from Rizzoli. It was on black men and I had the honor of being in that book with Tyson Beckford and Boris Kodjoe. But there was nothing in the marketplace on these women, and I knew I had to write this book.”
“Writing” took nearly a decade, he says, as he squeezed in interviews with models between styling for “The Meredith Viera Show” and auditioning for “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” But when he finally met Veronica Webb while backstage at Viera’s show, he knew it was time to finish. He asked her to be in the book and she was so inspired, the Accelerate at Google editor in chief wound up penning the foreword.
“I hope to be the last of the firsts,” says the mellifluous Webb, who was the first black model to garner a cosmetics contract in the ’90s. “We’re starting to see people who are trans and who are differently abled be included in the fashion story, and I think it’s really important for people to see this new collection of women in one place [Reynolds’s book], so you really get an idea of the range of beauty in women of color. It’s one place where there’s a real reference point for people to see those images over and over and over again to educate the eye.”
Reynolds now lives in L.A., but the reference points for his love affair with couture have Chicago roots, from Ebony’s images to Marshall Field’s dresses to the classic Diana Ross film “Mahogony” to looking up information about fashion capitals in his grandmother’s Encyclopaedia Britannica.
“I remember being a kid and watching “Mahogony” on WLS for the 3:30 movie … and I get my grandmother’s encyclopedia and looked up Rome and it said that Rome was in Italy,” says Reynolds. “I said to myself: ‘One day I’m gonna go to Italy.’ Well, I didn’t just go to Rome; I moved to Milan.”
Marcellas Reynolds has a knack for scouting unique and ever-so-fashionable things. For holiday shopping, he recommends these stylish gifts.
“Obsessed! This beauty will make you want to stay home on a Friday night, with a bottle of red, playing a few glam rounds.” $375, Jayson Home, 1885 N. Clybourn; jaysonhome.com
Roland Pine Votive Set
“These beautiful candles, a blend of Siberian fir, cilantro, and citrus, are evocative of being cozy, warm, and safe at home. There’s nothing like a fabulous candle to create a sense of calm.” $30, Merz Apothecary, 4716 N. Lincoln; smallflower.com
Danse Lente Mini Johnny Black Bag
“Structural. Cool. And just a little quirky. This is the status bag for the woman that doesn’t need a logo to tell the world she has style.” $440, Space 519, 200 E. Chestnut; space519.com
“This is the perfect pet! He’s shiny, beautiful, and potty trained. Seriously, it’s a chic work of art that adds style to any abode.” $48, MCA Store, 220 E. Mies Van der Rohe; mcachicagostore.org
Milano Hats Biltmore Vintage Fedora
“There’s something old-school cool about a man in a great hat. During a Chicago winter a hat is required. Why not add a dash of style?” Starting at $100, Sid’s, 609 W. Roosevelt; sids-clothing.com
Meredith Marks Rings
“Classic. Beautiful. Timeless. Meredith Marks designs gorgeous jewelry for the modern woman who knows exactly who she is.” $2,400; meredithmarks.com
LSA International Space Gold Vase
“This vase is so chic, you are going to leave it out on display long after the flowers are gone. It’s just that cool.” $55, Unison; unisonhome.com
Paul Smith for Globe-Trotter Trolley Case
“When two of the world’s most famous brands, Paul Smith and Globe-Trotter, come together, of course, the results will be epic. This suitcase is so beautiful it’s a work of art.” $2,470; paulsmith.com
Byrd Flock Favorites Gift Set
“This line of men’s hair and skin products is vintage-California cool meets übermodern slick. It’s not enough the packaging is so amazing, but the products work. It’s men’s grooming, elevated.” $40; byrdhair.com
Photography by Maria Ponce; Mural: Ellen Berkenblit, Leopard’s Lane
AT THE SHOOT
In honor of his new book, “Supreme Models,” TV personality and stylist Marcellas Reynolds had a photo sesh at the Museum of Contemporary Art with supermodel Veronica Webb, who penned the book’s foreword. Together they’re elevating the importance of black women in fashion.
Photographer: Maria Ponce
Hair & makeup: Kerre Berry
Wardrobe: BeBe Jones of Row A, Seat 1
On the Cover
Her: Jumpsuit Chiara Boni La Petite Robe at Neiman Marcus, Shoes Badgley Mischka at Macy’s on State.
Him: Tux Ami Paris, Shirt Mr. Turk, Shoes Luke Grant-Muller Backdrop Ellen Berkenblit, Leopard’s Lane