Renauld White, first Black male model to appear on a GQ cover, dies at 80

Renauld White, a groundbreaking model who was the first Black man to appear on the cover of GQ, has died. He was 80.

White died Friday after being in hospice care at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Fashion designer and longtime friend Jeffrey Banks confirmed the news via Instagram with a post dedicated to their friendship and collaborative work.

“We were so honored to have represented Renauld at Bella Agency New York over the past 10 years. He will be truly missed in the fashion world but not forgotten for all the trailblazing moments he accomplished,” agency owner and founder Ray Volant said in a statement to The Times. “Renauld’s passion and perseverance was an inspiration for many. He helped young models find their place in the industry. He was one of a kind.”

Volant told The Times via email that he was proud to have worked with White over the years.

White was born Feb. 1, 1944, in Newark, N.J., to Maybelline Scott White — a hat model — and Robert White Sr. He would go on to appear prominently in magazines including Essence, Ebony and Jet, and notably became the first Black male model featured on the cover of men’s magazine GQ, according to an obituary published by Whigham Funeral Home.

He was the first Black male model to endorse a mainstream men’s hair product, Vitalis Hair Tonic. His talents extended to television with roles in “One Life to Live,” “General Hospital” and “Inside Job.” IMDb credits him with a role in seven episodes of the soap opera “Guiding Light.” A theater lover, White performed in various off-Broadway productions in New York, including “Antony and Cleopatra,” “Twelfth Night” and “Medea,” the obituary said.

White also made his mark on the fashion world, walking the runways of prestigious shows and collaborating with renowned designers such as Bill Blass, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan, in addition to Banks.

“Modeling for me from the very start of my career RENAULD was always the perfect gentleman and a great ambassador for my brand,” Banks wrote on Instagram. “When first introduced to my Mother she claimed instantly that he was my ‘older brother.’ I only wished that was so. I shall miss our talks and times together, but will always remember the barriers you broke in the fashion industry and the love you shared as a trusted friend.”

White is survived by his brother Colin White, sister-in-law Grace Scott and his nieces and nephews. Brothers Maurice Scott and Robert White Jr. and nephew Bryant Scott preceded him in death.

A public funeral service is scheduled for July 12 in Newark.

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