Born: Feb. 27, 1924
Rosewalk Village of Lafayette
As a buyer for the Ebony Fashion Fair, Marion Samuel traveled throughout Europe buying designer fashions for beautiful models to show off on runways throughout the U.S.
The Ebony Fashion Fair was a hugely popular pageant of haute couture that raised millions of dollars for African American charities, such as the United Negro College Fund. It was created by Eunice Johnson, who along with her husband John Johnson operated Johnson Publishing Co., parent company of Ebony and Jet magazines and the Fashion Fair cosmetic line.
Mrs. Samuel went to work for the Johnsons after closing her Hyde Park-area women’s clothing store in Chicago. In her role with Ebony Fashion Fair, she was responsible for buying hundreds of outfits, many valued at thousands of dollars.
Along her career path, Mrs. Samuel traveled throughout Europe, met numerous celebrities, had dozens of life-changing experiences, had losses and hardships, broke barriers and prevailed. Today, she is 91 years old, anxious to share what she learned along the way.
Her life with Ebony Fashion Fair and the many other experiences she has enjoyed are detailed in her just-released self-published book, “Marion’s Nine Lives.”
Born in Chicago, Mrs. Samuel married at a young age and had two daughters and a son. As she worked and raised her family, she obtained a degree in child development from ITT Business School and a fashion design degree from the Art Institute of Chicago.
After working in fashion for years, she became house director at Culver Girls Academy and later for sorority houses, including Delta Delta Delta Sorority at Purdue University, where she was the first
African American to hold such a position on the Purdue campus. She also held house director roles at Northwestern and Illinois State universities.
Even at age 75, she chose to continue reinventing herself and became a travel escort with a major bus company. She also volunteered with Alzheimer’s patients.
Despite the glamour of her lifestyle, there were many times it was a lonely life, she said. “Road life is very lonely. Yes, it can be interesting meeting famous figures in the entertainment field as well as sports, politics and almost any field. But it can be lonely.”
After moving to Lafayette where she took a job with Tri Delta Sorority, Mrs. Samuel settled in and became active in her church, local groups and Democrat politics.
Asked how she sums up her life and she replied: “I think it was a good life.”