The notion of seeing oneself represented within the pages of a publication or even within a political field is not only self-affirming but a reminder that style and status cannot be confined to a single culture; yet rather exist as a shared experience transcending race. No one encompassed this notion more than Princess Elizabeth of Toro. As one of the most successful models of color to have changed perceptions about people and a place, her story and essence deserve recognition.
Having accumulated a number of historical milestones, from being the third African woman admitted to Cambridge, to the first African woman to become a lawyer in England and Uganda, the Princess who was born in the ancient Kingdom of Toro (located in present-day Western Uganda) also served as ambassador to the United States, Germany, and the Vatican.
And if all this wasn’t quite enough to fulfill one’s career and life purpose, the Princess would also go on to play a crucial role within the fashion world itself. Sure enough, it was in 1967, that Elizabeth received a personal invitation from her friends Princess Margret and her husband Lord Snowdon, to appear as a guest model in the widely publicized Commonwealth Fashion Show at Marlborough House in London.
With her regal presence and her natural mannequin figure, the 6 feet tall African beauty had left a lasting impression on the gathered press and audience — gracing the runway in a traditional Ugandan ensemble.
What touches us most about her story is that beyond her desire to infiltrate a world of glamour and fashion, it was her urge to drive the narrative of representation forward that became her ultimate motivation. Having been approached by London’s top modeling agencies and fashion publications at the time, the Cambridge educated lawyer felt a need to bring attention to her native Toro and Africa, on an international scale. She once expressed that ‘a major consideration in making this decision was which career would be the most effective way of symbolizing, projecting and preserving the torch of my black culture’.
Though having enchanted the likes of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, who convinced her to move to New York to pursue this career path, she stayed true to her intentions, later reflecting: “I was featured in American Vogue, LIFE and Ebony and I was the first Black woman to appear on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar,” she wrote, “I wish to see Africa working towards the achievement of a real and authentic African identity.”
We feel it is essential to remind ourselves of our history and celebrate those who have paved the way for ourselves, our communities, and peers — just as Princess Elizabeth of Toro, a true majesty who lived up to her title. Accordingly, we’ll leave you with some of her words to reflect on.