Simply beyond legendary, Carmen Dell’Orefice’s long career and stunning portfolio beg for a term more expansive than merely “supermodel.” She is the uber-model, the ultra-model, the MEGA-model. What we find most interesting about her career and profile is that she really did become much more beautiful and distinct as she aged. She was always striking, but her work from the age of 65 and up is by far the best of her career. A testament not just to her bone structure and genes, but to experience and the kind of self-knowledge that comes with advanced age.
Discovered at the age of 13, riding a bus to ballet class, Carmen, the daughter of an Italian musician and a Hungarian dancer, began modeling a year later, in 1946. Living in cold water flat with her mother, she was so poor growing up that she would roller skate to assignments to save on bus fare. In 1947, when she was barely 15, she was featured on the cover of Vogue, and soon found herself posing for some of the 20th century’s most famous photographers, from Hort B. Horst and Cecil Beaton to Irving Penn and Francesco Scavullo. At the height of her career in 1957, she traveled to the Paris collections with the famed Richard Avedon and the legendary editor Diana Vreeland. And the rest is modern fashion history.
We saw her sitting front row at some show during New York Fashion Week probably about seven or eight years ago. She’d have been about 81 or 82 years old. We dashed over to her before the show started and asked if we could take her picture. She immediately rose to her feet, struck a pose and after we got the shot, turned around and said, “Now get the back.” She was wearing something provided by the designer and her professionalism never let up, even for two queens with a dinky digital camera. It wasn’t about getting her from every angle but getting the garment from every angle because she knew that was what she was there to do. A professional. And having seen her close up, we can tell you it’s not smoke and mirrors. She was stunning and gave off her own light.
[Photo Credit: Pinterest, Worthpoint.com, eBay, avedonfoundation.org, INSTARImages]