The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Norma Jean Darden

Share on Social Media

Information about Norma Jean Darden

Profile image of Norma Jean Darden

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
StyleMakers
Occupation(s):
Restaurateur
Model

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Orange
Favorite Food:
Bread (Spoon)
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring, Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
11/4/1940
Birth Location:
Newark, New Jersey

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
StyleMakers
Occupation(s):
Restaurateur
Model

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Orange
Favorite Food:
Bread (Spoon)
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring, Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
11/4/1940
Birth Location:
Newark
See how Norma Jean Darden is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Former model, restaurateur and caterer Norma Jean Darden was born in Newark, New Jersey. Darden enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York where she graduated with her B.A. degree in liberal arts in 1961. She then entered the world of modeling while at Sarah Lawrence and was a part of the historic 1973 Models of Versailles show in Paris, which featured twenty models, the first collective of African American models to grace a European fashion runway. Throughout her modeling career, Darden graced the pages of fashion magazines such as Bazaar, Glamour, Mademoiselle and Vogue. After a medical condition forced her to leave the world of modeling in 1975, Darden and her sister Carole launched a catering business. Three years later, they co-wrote a seminal cookbook on Southern cooking titled, Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine: Recipes and Reminiscences of a Family.

Darden then opened her first restaurant in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood called Spoonbread, Inc, which specialized in Southern cuisine. In 1997, Darden opened two more restaurants with Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too and Miss Maude’s Spoonbread Too restaurants, both in Manhattan. Darden’s Spoonbread Catering has amassed a client list that includes Fortune 500 companies and celebrity clients like Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey. In addition, Darden appeared in the motion pictureThe Cotton Club in 1984 and has served as food stylist for the Eddie Murphy film, Boomerang. Additionally, Darden produced a one-woman show based on her book titled Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine, which premiered at the American Place Theatre.

Darden’s restaurants have been featured in publications as diverse as the New York Times, USA Today, Black Enterprise, Essence and Ebony magazines.

Additionally, Darden sits on the Board of the Salvation Army.

Norma Jean Darden was interviewed byThe HistoryMakers on May 14, 2012.

See how Norma Jean Darden is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Norma Jean Darden's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Norma Jean Darden lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her maternal family history
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Norma Jean Darden describes her mother's upbringing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her paternal family history, pt.1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her paternal family history, pt.2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her paternal family history, pt.3
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Norma Jean Darden describes how her parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Norma Jean Darden recalls dangers her father faced as a physician in Newark, New Jersey
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Norma Jean Darden describes her parents' personalities
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her father, a physician who practiced at Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Norma Jean Darden describes her family's move to Montclair, New Jersey
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Norma Jean Darden describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her grade school years and being the potential target of a kidnapping
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Norma Jean Darden remembers the sights, sounds, and smells from summers in Wilson, North Carolina
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Norma Jean Darden recounts her grade school years at Nishuane School and Hillside School in Montclair, New Jersey
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Norma Jean Darden describes her experience at Northfield School for Girls in Northfield, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Norma Jean Darden describes her experience at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Norma Jean Darden describes an experience of racial discrimination at Vogue headquarters
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Norma Jean Darden describes picketing for the inclusions of black models and actors in Harper's Bazaar and on Broadway
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Norma Jean Darden recalls meeting HistoryMaker Audrey Smaltz and black modeling agencies at the beginning of her career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Norma Jean Darden talks about studying acting at Sarah Lawrence in Bronxville, New York and her first modeling break with Black Beauty Modeling Agency
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her training as an actress
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Norma Jean Darden recalls dancing for Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her early years at Wilhelmina Models and the founder, Wilhelmina Cooper's death
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Norma Jean Darden recalls early black models and early black fashion shows
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Norma Jean Darden talks about the historic Battle of Versailles Fashion Show in Paris in 1973
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Norma Jean Darden talks about Beverly Johnson's Vogue cover
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her acting career in the 1970s and the end of her modeling career
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her cookbook, 'Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine,' pt.1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her cookbook, "Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine," pt.2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Norma Jean Darden talks about the beginning of her catering career
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Norma Jean Darden recalls her short-lived foray into the import/export business
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her catering company, Spoonbread, Inc.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her two restaurants, Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too, and Miss Maude's Spoonbread Too
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Norma Jean Darden describes the challenges of running a catering business
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her menu
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Norma Jean Darden talks the impact of 9/11 and President Bill Clinton's Harlem residency on her restaurant business
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Norma Jean Darden talks about the one-woman show based on her book, 'Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Norma Jean Darden remembers being feted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her future aspirations
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Norma Jean Darden describes what she would do differently
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Norma Jean Darden reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Norma Jean Darden describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her family
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Norma Jean Darden describes how she would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Norma Jean Darden talks about her clients
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Norma Jean Darden narrates her photographs