A photograph or poster of a person considered to have glamorous qualities.
Pinup models through history have been actresses, glamour models or actors who’s images had been mass produced and saw mass appeal. In the past pinup models photos were most often displayed on walls as posters, cut out from magazines or printed on postcards or calendars. Many referred to these works of art as “Cheesecake” photos.
In the early days of pinup models, actresses and performers used photographs as business cards to promote their shows and also used them to mold their own identity and likeness to advertise themselves and become more visible. These were some of the earliest examples of the imagery of famous women being sold as sexual fantasies on a large scale. One could look at the popularity of pinup models during wartime amongst soldiers, who hung pinup material in lockers, airplane cockpits and displayed them openly in barracks. It was a valued resource for the many lonely servicemen. Some pinups attended military events where photos and actual clothing worn by the models were auctioned off. It is said that Betty Grable, one of the first pinup models auctioned off her nylons for thousands of dollars at rally events. She is also said to have sent 54,000 autographed photos to servicemen who had written her. The female image indeed is a powerful thing.
Modern Day Pinups
Nowadays, the term pinup takes a different form even though many modern celebrities can be viewed as one. From Playboy and Hustler to Amber Rose, Kim Kardashian and the many Instagram model pages that one comes across, once can argue that pinups have flourished in the age of the internet. It is much easier today for a woman to use her image and promote it not only in her home country but worldwide. It isn’t limited to burlesque shows or army barracks like in the past.
Although most famous pinups have not been women of color, black women have a very healthy presence among the pinup scene. Josephine Baker and Lottie Graves were burlesque dancers in the 1920s and were two very early examples of black women planting their flag as pinups and entertainers in general. Dorothy Dandridge is another that comes to mind when thinking about black pinups, who made her mark as an actress, singer and dancer.
Pam Grier, who in my humble opinion is the epitome of a black pinup model mad her mark as in actress in Blaxploitation films and is seen as one of the very first female action stars. So black women in all their diversity in entertainment have and always will be major players when it comes to female sexuality and shaping the landscape for women to control how they are seen in media and entertainment.
Many consider Jet Magazine to have been one of the first platforms for African American pinups to flourish. They featured many black pinups in their “Beauty of the Week” editions which showcased black women in swimsuits, burlesque dancers and entertainers alike.