A timeless Chicago beauty who has transcended from muse to mentor, Roshumba Williams is another product of fashion visionary Yves Saint Laurent. As aforementioned in my article on Martinique-born supermodel Mounia, Saint Laurent was known to many as one of the designers who pushed the use of black models in the fashion industry. Roshumba was one of those lucky models he worked with closely. The 6-foot-tall model was discovered in 1987, as a teenager in Paris. She had moved to Paris with nothing but $150 in her purse, but after attending many go-sees she was quickly signed. She became a hit on the runways of the world & one of the most sought after models of the 90s. After booking her first haute couture show with YSL, the exposure led her to be remarked by other designers & fashion editors. That quickly led to being booked by the likes of Chanel, Gianfranco Ferré, Christian Dior, Versace, Chantal Thomass, Victoria’s Secret, Giorgio Armani & Michael Kors.
Her fame grew through her many features in magazines such as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan & Vogue. As well as her many ad campaigns with Covergirl Cosmetics, Maybelline, Clairol & Hanes Hoisery. She has even appeared in feature films such as Woody Allen’s ‘Celebrity’, Robert Altman’s ‘Pret-a-Porter’ & the popular comedy film ‘Beauty Shop’. Roshumba is also the author of the popular first & second editions of ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Being A Model’, a deal she made with Penguin Publishing USA. In 2004 Roshumba became quite the TV personality by hosting several lifestyle & make-over shows, including Beautiful Homes, Amazing Homes & Fabulous Bathrooms for HGTV; Fox’s make-over show, Live Like a Star; WE’s Swimsuit Secrets Revealed & Travel Channel’s Beach Week; and was a correspondent for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in 2008. She is currently a judge on Oxygen Network’s biweekly hair-styling competition reality series, ‘Tease’, since 2007 & in 2010 she famously became judge & mentor on the reality tv competition series ‘She’s Got The Look’, where women 35 years & older compete to be the next supermodel.
Roshumba has been an inspiration to black women everywhere, including in the fashion industry. Pushing the envelope on racial issues. Most black models have admitted to being under the pressure of having to alter their appearance with long flowing hair that emulates that of the white models. Roshumba has had a seemingly fairytale-like career. But in an interview for The Ugly Side Of The Modeling Business by Essence Magazine, Roshumba says, “I think it’s really sad that time and time again I’m asked to adhere to a certain look or value that is justifiable only to certain people.” She added, “I’m constantly arriving at a photographer’s studio and being told that I have to wear a wig.” Roshumba is one of the few black models who still got a lot of work while sporting her short natural hair, refusing to alter her ethnic appearance too much. This was unheard of in the fashion & beauty industry at that time because black models were expected to wear wigs & hair pieces in order to emulate caucasian models. Designers respected her for her work ethic & individualism.