Profile: Synthia Saint James (1949-)

Synthia Saint James is an American visual artist, author, keynote speaker, and educator who is best known for the original cover art of the hardcover edition of Terry McMillan’s book Waiting to Exhale and for designing the first Kwanzaa stamp for the United States Postal Service, which was first issued in 1997. She also designed the 2016 Kwanzaa Forever Stamp.


Synthia Saint James was raised in both Los Angeles, California, and in the Bronx, New York. She sold her first painting in New York City at the age of twenty. She currently lives in Los Angeles.


Saint James had her first solo art exhibition at Inner City Cultural Center in Los Angeles, California, in 1977, the school where she studied the performing arts. In 1980, she participated in her first international exhibition in Paris, France.

She received an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Humane Letters) from Saint Augustine’s University, Raleigh, North Carolina, on May 8, 2010.

Saint James tours annually to colleges, universities and other venues to lecture and conduct master classes and workshops.

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