We are pleased to spotlight Zelda Valdes in day twenty-seven of our first annual 28 Days of Little Known Facts About (Black) American History
Zelda Valdes designed the iconic Playboy Bunny costume and was the first Black person to open a fashion boutique on Broadway in New York City.
In 1948, the Pennsylvania-born Valdes opened her Chez Zelda boutique on Broadway and West 158th Street before relocating to Midtown. The move proved fruitful as Valdes worked with a bevy of stars including Joyce Bryant, Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald and Mae West among others. Later in her career, she designed for R&B legend Gladys Knight and opera vocalist, Jessye Norman.
A year after opening her store, Valdes was named President of the New York chapter of the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers. As a result of her role with NAFAD, Valdes worked in exclusive circles and word of her designs caught the attention of Playboy’s Hugh Hefner.
Hefner commissioned Valdes to design the Playboy Bunny costume after the magazine’s promotions director, Victor Lownes, came up with the idea. The costume made its formal debut in February 1960.
In 1970, Valdes started working with founder Arthur Mitchell and the Dance Theater of Harlem. She worked for the celebrated dance company for 18 years, retiring in 1988. She died at the age of 96 in 2001.
This informational campaign: 28 Days of Little Known Facts About Black American History will see 540Blog share little known facts about Black Americans throughout history every day throughout the month of February. Those that were groundbreaking and history making but do not necessarily get the media attention and coverage.
(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton is a disabled community educator, content creator, and social entrepreneur, whose area of expertise includes antiracism, equity, justice, instructional design, and program development. In 2016 Mr. Eaton founded 540WMain, Inc. a non-profit online and community-based organization for accessible education and events that promote justice for all.
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One thought on “28 Days of Little Known Facts About (Black) American History | Zelda Valdes (27)”
Yay! This is a history in the making!