Calvin Klein, a boy from the Bronx, took his first clothing line of three dresses and six coats to an appointment at Bonwit Teller, New York's department store for the wealthy. Before long, he had designed a line of jeans that sold 200,000 in a week, and he was called the "King of Clothes" by People magazine. Along the way, he became known throughout the world for the beauty of his elegantly uncluttered clothing. In partnership with childhood friend Bernie Schwartz, he built an empire around his ideas that came to include fragrances, cosmetics, underwear, and home decor. Today his clothes are recognized as classics, and his style represents the best in American design.
When Hollywood stars get married, they call on Vera Wang to dress them for their big day, because Vera makes the most beautiful wedding gowns in the world! Jennifer Lopez, Kate Hudson, Mariah Carey, and Jessica Simpson are among the thousands of brides this American designer has dressed. Born and raised in New York City, where her parents fled from the Chinese Revolution, Vera has been in the fashion industry her whole adult life. After working for Vogue magazine as a fashion editor, she opened her own store, where she sold the wedding dresses that have made her famous. Today her brand name is on perfumes, home goods, jewelry, shoes, and eyeglasses, and her delightful style is available to everyone through her lower-price line, called Simply Vera.
At a time when much of the United States was still racially segregated, Jackie Robinson smashed the color barrier to become the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. Born in 1919 to a family of sharecroppers, Robinson excelled in sports throughout his school years. After serving briefly in the army during WWII, he briefly played ball in the Negro Leagues. At about the same time, a handful of all-white Major League teams paid lip service to trying out black players. But it was when Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 that he became a part of what would be called "The Noble Experiment." Outspoken in the past when it came to racial injustice, Robinson endured racist jeers from fans and players, and even death threats, with dignity and composure. His historic feat of crossing baseball's "color line" became a symbol in the American civil rights movement in the decades that followed.
Muhammad Ali was born as Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky. Early in his life, his skills developed from those he needed to stand up to a playground bully into the championship form that earned him a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. As a professional fighter, Ali became known not just for the speed and agility with which he won three world heavyweight championships, but also for his charm, wit, and showmanship. Outside the ring, the courage of his stand against the military draft made him both a revered cultural hero and a lightning rod for the issues that divided Americans during the Vietnam War. In the decades following his boxing career, Ali has become regarded as one of the most recognized people on the planet. He has lent his name, influence, and generosity to a host of humanitarian causes. Today, having earned the affection of billions of people worldwide, the peoples champ is, as ever, The Greatest.
Imprisoned for 27 years, Nelson Mandela became a symbol in the fight against the oppression of the black majority by South Africa's apartheid government. The first in his family to attend school, Mandela was given the English name Nelson by his teacher on his first day. As Mandela moved up the educational ladder, he became more and more involved in social justice. When he became a lawyer, he joined the African National Congress (ANC), an organization whose purpose was to increase the rights of black South Africans. In 1961, Mandela helped found a military branch of the ANC that used guerrilla attacks against the government. His imprisonment became a rallying point for black South Africansand eventually the world. International pressure against the government helped bring about the end of apartheid and Mandela's release in 1990. Mandela was elected president, serving from 1994 to 1999, and remains a figure revered and loved by his grateful nation.
By the time Roberta Bondar became Canada's first woman in space in 1992, she already had careers as a doctor, a scientist, and a professional photographer. Born in 1945 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, a town on the border between Canada and the United States, Roberta has had an active career in both countries. Today she is well known for her continuing work on behalf of the planet, writing and appearing on TV and in documentaries, covering Space Shuttle launches at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and shedding new light on the needs of the natural world.
Before they spearheaded the musical phenomenon called the British Invasion, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were just four kids from Liverpool. Throughout the 1960s, however, they embodied, as the Beatles, the musical, artistic, social, and spiritual promise of an entire generation. After their stormy breakup in 1970, the Fab Four became four solo artists, at times even appearing on each others recordings. In addition to the millions of records each band member has sold on his own since their breakup, more than 40 Beatles compilation albums have been released and continue to sell millions of copies. To this day, more than one billion Beatles recordings have sold, and thousands of books, academic papers, blogs, and websites are dedicated to the group. Despite being the Beatles for only a decade, John, Paul, George, and Ringo together formed the most successfuland arguably the most influentialmusical group in history.