What Happened to Playboy’s First Black Cover Girl?
She was destined to become a supermodel but bad timing and a series of misfortunes thwarted what could have been
For the October 16, 2009, issue of Playboy, Marge Simpson was the cover girl as a way to commemorate The Simpsons’ 20th anniversary. While naked, Margie is sitting behind a chair in the shape of the iconic bunny symbol with one leg crossed over the other and her shoulders raised to her earlobes in a casual yet timid pose. In an interview with the Associated Press, Jimmy Jellinek, chief content officer of Playboy, said, “She looks beautiful. She is a stunning example of the cartoon form. Marilyn Monroe. Madonna. Marge. It’s a fun continuity.”
The cover choice was an effort to appeal to younger readers after the magazine suffered a sales decline, but what had gotten lost in the publicity rollout is the lack of homage to another woman from which the entire pose and style originated. The Hollywood Reporter mentioned a “black woman” who appeared on the 1971 cover in the exact pose but does not acknowledge her name. Many other competitive outlets leave out this woman entirely. Her name was Darine Stern, the first solo Black cover girl for Playboy, and her story offers a glimpse into the opportunities or lack thereof for Black models during the ’70s and ’80s, Black history of Chicago’s South and West Sides, and the media and publishing worlds.
Darine Stern was born November 16, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois. Her family was a part of the Great Migration, a pivotal moment in American history in which millions of African Americans fled the south for the north for better employment opportunities and to escape racial terrorism. It was actually the Chicago Defender who made the siren call to Black Americans in 1916 about southerners who made it in the big cities. They posted organizations where newcomers could turn to for help, and offered advice for how said newcomers could acclimate themselves to their metropolitan surroundings. Between 1916 to 1919, Chicago alone received approximately 50,000 to 75,000 Black southerners. But Chicago wasn’t an oasis…