In Russia, Chester had been treated as a celebrity. When she returned to school in the fall, she had to adjust to a lower profile. Soon after graduating, Chester realized she wasn’t destined for fashion design and she chose modeling as her career.
She signed with the Grace Del Marco Agency in New York, one of the first black-owned model agencies that helped launch the career of actors such as Diahann Carroll and Cicely Tyson. Chester’s jobs included advertisements for a milliner, a feature in the New York Times Magazine and the 1961 album cover of “The Nearness of You: Ballads Played By Red Garland.”
In 1964, she left modeling for marriage to the late Charles Chester — the boy next door from her Harlem neighborhood — and motherhood. After moving to Atlanta, Chester turned to writing as a creative outlet. Her most recent work, the play “A Conversation Between Malcolm X and President Barack Obama,” ran earlier this year at Emory University’s White Hall.
Chester thought her memories of seven weeks in Russia were history until Hue, FIT’s alumni magazine, contacted her for a feature story. For the first time in years, she delved into her memorabilia from the trip. Like a Matryoshka doll opening, her memories unfolded from crinkled edges of photographs, letters and books until finally, more than a half-century later, they were captured by Chester’s pen.