"Zendaya is always very serene and mellow, and I think Donyale embodied the same characteristics," the celebrity stylist told PEOPLE
While chatting with PEOPLE at the 2023 Daily Front Row Fashion Media Awards on Friday night, the celebrity stylist shared that he "definitely sees similarities" between his longtime client and Euphoria star Zendaya, 27, and Donyale Luna, who is considered the first Black supermodel.
"I think the ancestors are always with us, so yeah, just the beauty and the calmness — I think that's what they really have in common," Roach, 45, explained of the likeness between the two women. "Zendaya is always very serene and mellow, and I think Donyale embodied the same characteristics."
Luna, who died in Rome in 1979 at the age of 33, is the subject of a new documentary, Donyale Luna: Supermodel, set to premiere on HBO on Sept. 13. She broke barriers in the modeling industry in the 1960s, becoming the first Black woman to grace the cover of both Harper's Bazaar and Vogue magazines.
In 2020, Roach paid homage to Luna and her legacy by recreating — with Zendaya's help — some of the late model's iconic photos for the 50th anniversary issue of Essence that year. In one image, the Spider-Man: No Way Home actress channeled Luna by donning a similar floor-length, long-sleeved open-knit dress and sporting a '60s-inspired beauty look that included drawn-on freckles, graphic eyeliner and dramatic false eyelashes.
In a story inside the special issue, Zendaya opened up about what the poignant project meant to her.
"I’m incredibly grateful because without the incredible, iconic people who have graced the cover before me, I wouldn’t be here, standing on the shoulders of giants. To be able to do this cover at this time is really special to me," she said at the time.
She continued, "I also felt very excited that Essence allowed Law [Roach] and me to be a part of the creative team and do something a little bit different. I had so much fun on this shoot paying homage to Donyale Luna, the first Black supermodel."
"A lot of what I do, specifically within fashion, is a tribute to fashion icons who came before me —many of whom are Black women," Zendaya added. "I love the way it turned out. I’m very proud of it. It’s one of my favorite cover shoots I’ve ever done."
Roach reminisced about the stunning shoot on Friday night, telling PEOPLE it "was an easy decision" to honor Luna for Essence's milestone issue.
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"I was just kind of entranced by who she was, and that no one knew her story, so I dug a little deeper," he said. "One thing about my work as a stylist [is] that I consider myself to be a storyteller, and Zendaya has always been my partner in storytelling. And then we decided that we were going to honor [Luna] through recreating some of the photos."
Roach and Zendaya have been collaborating since the very early days of the Malcolm & Marie star's career, creating one fierce red carpet look after another. However, Zendaya recently revealed that it took the pair some time to hit their fashion stride together.
In an interview with Elle for the magazine's September issue, the Emmy winner said she's still fired up about a "questionable" outfit that Roach put her in for her very first press tour in 2012 for her Disney Channel show Shake It Up.
In one of the duo's first collaborations, a then-teenaged Zendaya memorably wore a pair of dark flare jeans and a pink-and-white striped cardigan over a yellow T-shirt, topped off with yet another cardigan, this one a bright blue color.
“I’m angry at him to this day,” she joked of Roach. “Like, why would you put me in this? Bitch, you could’ve done better!”
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