Barbara Cheeseborough, 67, high-fashion model

Posted: November 13, 2013

BARBARA BOWMAN was a South Philly gal with big ambitions.

Her striking beauty became evident as a teenager, when she was hired by Channel 3 to lend her lovely face to an ad for the station.

That was how her career as a model began. From Philly to New York to Paris to Rome, Milan, Venice and other capitals of Europe where fashion reigned supreme, she worked with some of the world's major designers.

Her striking features graced the covers of Essence, Bazaar, Redbook, Vogue, Cosmopolitan and other women's and fashion publications in 20 years of modeling.

In fact, her photo was on the cover of the first issue of Essence, the magazine for African-American women, in May 1970.

Barbara, who became Barbara Cheeseborough after marrying William Edward Cheeseborough, a fashion photographer who encouraged her career, died Oct. 24 of colon cancer. She was 67 and was living in Phillips Ranch, Calif.

Transitioning from South Philadelphia to the rarefied atmosphere of high fashion and the runways of the world was a considerable leap. It required nerve and ambition, traits that Barbara had in abundance.

"When she got something in her head that she thought she could do, she did it," said Carrie Heard, her husband's sister.

Barbara worked with most of the major designers of her time - Givenchy, Dior, Saint Laurent, Mark Vaughn, Calvin Klein - in photo shoots and on the runways, flaunting the latest creations for the world's fashion writers and designers.

Despite all this heady acclaim, she never forgot her South Philly roots, her family said.

"She was really a beautiful person, kind, very giving," her sister-in-law said. "Everybody loved her. "My brother inspired her. He thought she could be successful, and she began to believe it herself."

They were married Aug. 13, 1966.

Barbara was born in Philadelphia to Odis and Rosalie Bowman. She graduated from South Philadelphia High School and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.

She met her future husband in church. He photographed her while he was in photo school, and encouraged her to go to New York.

"Well, I tried New York and it wasn't easy," she once wrote. "No one wanted a new girl, but I kept trying and began to get booked more and more."

She signed with the Eileen Ford Agency, which represented her throughout her career.

Eventually, she moved to Europe to work with the big designers, and she and Cheese, as her husband was called, lived in Paris for a number of years.

She continued to model into her 40s, and she and her husband moved to California after she retired.

In California, she became active with the Young Performers of the Screen Actors Guild, among other activities.

Besides her husband, she is survived by a daughter, Sia Suon Cheeseborough Bey; three brothers, Odell, Leroy and Jerry Bowman, and two sisters, Audrey Bowman Cerdan and Dionne Bowman. She was predeceased by another sister, Lorraine Bowman Truitt.

Services: Were Friday. Burial was in Washington Crossing National Veterans Cemetery, Newtown.

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