Uniondale sisters break color barrier to become the 1st Black twins featured in Doublemint Gum ads
Two Black Uniondale twins broke the color barrier when they became representatives for one of the largest chewing gum companies in the United States.
It's the gum that's had people seeing double for 90 years, thanks to its catchy "double your pleasure, double your fun" jingle for the Doublemint Gum advertisements.
When Wrigley's launched its iconic ad campaign in the 1930s, there were only Caucasian models for decades, until Sheryl Valenti and Sharon Sansaverino broke the color barrier in 1991.
Back in the 70's, they were both known as the Higgins twins. From the time they worked as child models, the sisters wanted to change the face of the classic chewing gum ad.
"There are millions of Black twins. So, just to not see yourself in any ads for not even just years, but decades is like a little disheartening," Sansaverino says.
The opportunity came in the early 1991 when Wrigley's announced a national search for the first Black Doublemint twins.
Valenti and Sansaverino posed for some test shots, and six months later -- on the eve of their 21st birthday -- the twins landed the job.
"We were just over the moon excited that we were going to be the first black Doublemint twins," Sansaverino says.
"Seeing the billboards everywhere, seeing them on buses, that was really cool that it was everywhere," Valenti recalls.
The national campaign brought more than fame for Valenti and Sansaverino. Seeing two minority faces represent an all-American gum gave the public a new image of diversity to chew on.
"Role models mean everything. It gives hope, it gives possibilities," says Jacqueline Jones LaMon, vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Adelphi University. "It's so critical for not only children, but also for the greater American society to see that we are not a monolith."
For Valenti and Sansaverino, the milestone also meant honoring their roots. Their great-great-grandfather, Ward Lee, was captured from the Congo and transported aboard the last slave ship to America in 1858.
"It means everything. It means that he didn't take that struggle and we just had it go in vain. We've all like try to do something to show the rich history of Black people in this country and where we come from," Valenti says.
Nowadays, Wrigley's ads show models of all colors and sizes, a refreshing change the trailblazing twins call their sweetest reward.
Since retiring from modeling in the 1990's, Sansaverino has been a stay-at-home mom and Valenti works at Cohen Children's Medical Center as a receptionist.
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