L'Tanya (left) modeling and (top) centered among fashionable peers
Iman, Sade, Beyonce, L’Tanya….L’Tanya? This unsung trailblazer is perhaps the first African American to be known by one name. Bernice L’Tanya Griffin was a rolling stone fashion designer during the 1940’s-50’s. Like many at the time, she served as a model for her creations and took them on the road doing fashion shows at churches, civic organizations, etc.. until she made a name for herself. Eventually she settled in Los Angeles and opened a dress and hat shop. There, L’Tanya built a celebrity following including Dorothy Dandridge, and was the first Black to have a Hollywood contract when she negotiated to make gowns for 20 films over a two year period with Edward D. Wood. A seemingly great opportunity turned into a chain of big flops by the enthusiastic, yet awful filmmaker. She disappeared into obscurity with a handful of over the top mentions in Jet Magazine about some of her other surprising and defiant endeavors.
Jet 1954 - L'Tanya went big and bold when she purchased Hattie McDaniels' mansion after her death. McDaniels was the first Black person to win an Oscar in1940 for her role in Gone with the Wind. It’s noted that L’Tanya imported flooring from Honolulu for her 500 guest housewarming.
Jet 1955 - L'Tanya “checked into the ritzy Waldorf-Astoria with 16 pieces of luggage, she was given the Presidential Suite, a four-room apartment that rents for $75 daily” (appx $730/night today). Segregation was in full effect. How did the persuasive and determined L’Tanya make this happen?