I can't imagine being a teenage girl in a world where millions of people think you're ugly and they hate you, even though they've never even seen you.
No matter who you are or what you look like, you're trash. And it feels like there is nothing you can do about it. You fall asleep crying. It seems like the world can truly offer you no hope.
You stare into space while you're in class, dreaming of a way to be happy, fantasizing about a world where you are special, and wishing with every ounce of your heart that maybe one day you will feel beautiful.
This is a story about one of those girls.
Donyale Luna was born to a poor black family in Detroit. Her father was cruel and abusive. The gangly, somewhat awkward beauty was quiet, but inside her head raged an elaborate fantasy world. She daydreamed constantly. Her relatives thought she was odd. Her schoolmates made fun of her.
Desperate to leave behind her miserable life, she moved to New York City in 1965 to pursue a modeling career and changed her name to be racially ambiguous.
Her stunningly gorgeous face and long, never-ending limbs shocked the fashion scene. She was immediately signed to an exclusive contract with a famous photographer and a sketch of her appeared on a now-historic cover of Harper's Bazaar. She became famous, fast.
Modeling jobs were overwhelming her schedule. Everyone wanted to be her friend. She started hanging out with Andy Warhol, Mia Farrow, and Mick Jagger. She was the guest of honor at the wildest Hollywood parties.
But only a few months after she found fame and fortune, she received devastating news. Her mother had murdered her father, out of self-defense one night, when he came home drunk and violent.
Unable to cope with the tragedy, Donyale turned to drugs and alcohol for the first time in her life.
Plus, her photo shoots in Harper's Bazaar were having a negative impact on a nation being ripped apart by the civil rights movement. Advertisers in southern states were pulling their advertising and the magazine lost hundreds of subscriptions over it.
Horrified and betrayed by the reaction, she fled to Europe to model over there.
Fueled with self-hatred towards her own race and desperate to be somebody, anybody, other than herself, the supermodel turned her fantasy life into her real life.
She wore blonde wigs. She sported green contact lenses. She made up an elaborate tale to the media, and her new famous friends, about how she really wasn't black, but actually an exotic mix of Irish, Native American, and Indonesian. But her birth certificate and relatives back home knew the truth.
In 1966, she became the first African-American to appear on the cover of Vogue (the British version) but posed in a concealed way that wouldn't offend the magazine's white readers.
She also pioneered the way for non-white models by appearing on the cover of several other major fashion publications.
Time Magazine declared 1966 the Luna Year in her honor.
But while the white public was adoring her, the black community was starting to hate her.
Donyale made it clear in interviews that she couldn't care less about paving the way for non-white models. She distanced herself heavily from the much-publicized civil rights movement occurring in her homeland. She only married and dated white men. She refused to even call herself black, insisting she was that ridiculous global mixture. It was insulting to the black community around the world, to say the least.
(Although, it could be argued that by denying her full-black heritage and pretending to be multi-racial, Donyale was actually breaking barriers by forcing people to view the human race as a global, interlaced species).
As the years went by, her loopy tales and drug use were spinning out of control. She crawled on runways. She showed up late for bookings. Sometimes she wouldn't even show up for photo sessions at all.
In a time where non-white models had to work extra hard to prove themselves, Donyale was unraveling her own career with her own self-destruction. Younger black models, who were hungrier and more professional, such as Beverly Johnson and Pat Cleveland, trampled over her lifeless career.
In the 1970s, she barely made waves, except for appearing nude in Playboy in 1975. She also had a daughter with her Italian lover around that same time.
In 1979, at 32, Donyale accidentally died of a heroin overdose, leaving behind an 18-month-old daughter, Dream.
And while her climb to the top in the modeling industry is epic, her tale is mostly forgotten.
The girl who dreamed of being beautiful and being special and being recognized for who she was, rather than her race, erased her own footprints in the sand because she couldn't even acknowledge her own reflection in the mirror.
She couldn't accept herself.