Unbothered UK is a community celebrating everything it means to be a black British woman today. As our sisters in America mark Black History Month this February, we'll be sharing their stories from Roots, a series that delves into the tangled history of black identity, beauty and contributions to the culture.
In March 1965, model Jennifer Jackson became Playboy's first black Playmate of the Month. At just 18 years old, she was the youngest to be hired at the Playboy Club in Chicago before being approached to pose for the magazine. “I didn’t show what they show now,” she shared with The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. “Just the top. But still, it was risque.”
Jackson’s milestone would set the stage for other black playmates to take the centrefold, from Darine Stern — who became Playboy’s first solo black cover girl in 1971 — to the legendary Naomi Campbell, who graced a 14-page pictorial in 1999. But while Playboy has featured a number of black playmates over the years while advocating for racial equality (during the Civil Rights Movement, the magazine published Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s longest interview, which was conducted by Roots author Alex Haley), the publication just named its fourth black Playmate of the Year (Jordan Emanuel) in 2019. And of those black women who have appeared in the magazine, very few have been dark-skinned.
In a 2008 interview with The New York Times, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner acknowledged the disparity.
“We try to get some ethnic diversity, but we do seem to lean in the direction of blondes.”
Which is why Chasity Samone’s feature in the magazine’s February 2020 Equality Issue makes quite a statement.
“The Winter 2020 PLAYBOY is dedicated to equality,” the publication describes. “In this issue you’ll meet people who are shaping culture and leading the charge for change, people whose work gives us hope that in this next decade we will all enjoy a more equitable society.”
Not only does the 28-year-old model — who is also an army veteran and aspiring politician — join an impactful roster of black women to break ground throughout the magazine’s history, she’s also one of the few dark-skinned women to do so. Samone, who has modelled for top fashion designers like Michael Costello and worked with music artists like A$AP Ferg and Pusha T, cites not feeling represented when she was growing up.
“I never saw myself in music videos,” Samone shares with R29Unbothered. “Pharrell always had the dark-skinned main girl. But I felt like ‘Wait, do people in the world not think I’m beautiful?’”
Because of this, Samone has made it her mission to be an example to young women that look like her. “That is not a good feeling for a little girl to feel,” she continues. “That’s my whole point: for little girls who look like me to feel represented and know they’re beautiful.”
We caught up with Samone to talk about her groundbreaking Playboy feature, diversity in the modelling industry, and her plans to run for city council in her hometown of Dallas.
Congratulations on the Playboy issue! How are you feeling?
I’m super excited. I’m having a huge party tomorrow. I’m from Dallas and everyone is excited for me, so I feel really good.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your journey?
So I grew up in Dallas. My mum and my dad had 11 children. I’m number 7 out of 11, so I grew up around a big family. My dad worked for the army and the government, so I’ve always been involved in military life. I was in ROTC in high school, so right after graduation I enlisted in the army. After that, I stayed in the army for 3 years and then I did one year inactive. I didn’t enlist again. Right after that, a woman named Ashley Williams — who was looking into getting a modelling agency at the time — found me and posted my picture on Facebook and asked her friends who I was. People tagged me and she allowed me to do my first photoshoot and I didn’t stop after that.
The internet is so good for that.
I know, right? I love the internet! Sometimes.
How long ago was that? How long have you been modelling all together?
I’ve been modelling for 7 or 8 years, I believe. Something like that. I think 7 years.
How did the opportunity with Playboy come about?
In 2016, someone reached out to me to do a Playboy feature for their online platform. It was for a feature called “Playboy Muse of the Week.” Somehow I found the casting director for Playmates. I found her Instagram, and I DMed her and she replied back to me and told me to email her. I did and now I’m a Playmate!
What was your relationship with Playboy growing up? Was appearing in Playboy something you always wanted to do?
Yes, of course. When I started modelling, that was my long term goal. Even as a child, when I first saw Playboy, I knew that Hugh Hefner was huge and it just always resonated with me and who I am. I love being naked. [Laughs] My family knows that about my sexuality and how I feel about my body. It’s like divine. It was [destined] that I would be a Playmate.
What was the day of the shoot like?
The day of the shoot, I still was not believing what was happening. I couldn’t believe the day had finally come. It was amazing. It was a huge production. They literally shut down a whole movie theatre, an old movie theatre, and it was all for me. It was surreal honestly.
That is so exciting. I saw on Instagram that you worked with a lot of really talented black team members on set that day. Who were some of the people that you got to work with?
Yes! The photographer, her name is Adrienne Raquel and she is amazing. I worked with Adrienne maybe five years ago in New York City. We did a campaign for Rue 107 about five years ago. So when they told me I was gonna work with Adrienne, I was excited because her work is impeccable. Also, my makeup artist, Sparkle — she’s a phenomenal makeup artist. She works a lot with Fashion Nova and Pretty Little Thing, and she does an amazing job on specifically dark skin. She made me feel so comfortable. She was amazing.
It’s always great when you have people on set who not only understand how to do makeup for darker skin, but also how to shoot it because lighting is everything and it really shows in the photos.
Exactly. So you have to understand how blessed I feel, and how blessed I am to collaborate with these girls. They were amazing.
Though there have been multiple black women to appear in Playboy, only a few of them have been dark-skinned black women (Naomi Campbell, Azealia Banks, etc.) What does it mean for you to be able to represent black women with darker complexions in Playboy?
I feel like black women with darker skin don’t get the accolades or the representation that we do deserve, and I feel like obviously colourism is a huge issue in the world and the industry that I work in. For me, to be able to be in Playboy and have small girls [that are] looking to see themselves, I feel honoured and I feel accomplished.
And you have used your platform to inspire young women in many ways. What was it about this opportunity that resonated with you and your mission?
My mission is representation, and my mission is to let little girls know that they can do whatever they want to do and there is no standard to what they wanna do. I want them to break barriers. I feel like Playboy — even in the black community a lot of people have said to me: “I didn’t know black girls could be playmates!” And I’m like “I’m a Playmate!” I’m so proud.
What advice do you have for other young, black women who want to break into the modelling world?
My advice is to do it. Use Instagram. Use the hashtags. Find local photographers in whatever city you’re in. Reach out to them, start doing photoshoots and build your portfolio, and don’t stop.
Tell me about your plans to run for city council. When did going into politics become your long term goal, and what goals do you hope to accomplish?
I always wanted to be affiliated with or do something for the people. That’s why I went to the army. My dad worked for the federal government after he retired from the army, but he’s always been hands-on with Dallas and whatever the government was doing. It’s always been instilled in me. The reason why I want to run for city council now is because my passion for children and education, and me looking at how I grew up and how the neighbourhood that I grew up in and the schools haven’t quite changed. I want people in the ‘hood — I grew up in the ‘hood — I want them to have better access to education.
What neighbourhood is that?
I grew up in Oak Cliff [Texas] and I graduated from Carter High School.
What do you have in the works going forward?
My next goal is acting. I want to build onto my acting reel. I want to be in movies, and I want to do TV shows and things.
Who are some actors and actresses that you’re inspired by?
Regina King, Regina Hall, Lupita Nyong’o. I love comedy actors and actresses.
Anything else you want to share with our readers?
If they live in Dallas, when I run for city council, please go out and vote for me. [Laughs]