“…She was forced to grow up quickly, under a cloud of disapproval and casual violence (‘My mother was, shall we say, very hands-on,’ she says, drily). The mother, a Hungarian, was ambitious for her daughter to achieve success, first with ballet (cut short by illness), then later as a swimmer (scuppered by a foot broken while skiing with a boyfriend). An ex-dancer herself, Carmen’s mother was not pleased with the way her daughter was shaping up, and never lost an opportunity to demonstrate her displeasure. ‘I was a sad child,’ she recalls. ‘I just wanted her to love me.’ But life was hard. ‘We were so poor that my mother would often leave me in a foster home until she could raise enough money to rent rooms for us.’ Modelling helped them out of poverty. When little more than a girl, Carmen was earning $60 a week (equivalent to about £600 now), putting herself through private school, paying for her own orthodontic braces and secretly subsidising her adored father, an Italian violinist, who left home when she was small….”
Carmen Dell'Orefice - the oldest model in the world at 80 years of age - is truly fascinating. Here are some highlights from her career:
* She did her first Vogue cover when she was 16 (and earned just $7.50 per hour for her troubles!)
* Despite modeling, Carmen and her mother were poor. They had no telephone and Vogue sent runners to their apartment to let Carmen know about modeling jobs. She roller-skated to assignments to save bus fares. Carmen was so malnourished that photographers had to pin back dresses and stuff her body with tissue. Carmen and her mother were also accomplished seamstresses and made extra money making clothes.
* She was Salvador Dali's muse
* Her love life was a disaster: her first husband collected her weekly modeling checks (by this time she was earning $300/hr) and only gave her $50 from them; her 2nd husband dumped her when she quit modelling; she had one other marriage which ended after 9 years... later in life another fiance (4th hubby in the making) died before they could walk down the aisle
* On July 19, 2011 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of the Arts London, in recognition of her contribution to the fashion industry
* In the 1980s and 1990s, Carmen lost most of her money in the stock market. She was forced to auction off her famous modeling photographs from the 1940s-1980s through Sotheby’s. She again lost all her money after being swindled by the reprehensible Bernie Madoff just a few years ago.
Key to her lasting beauty is "self-discipline ... stay out of the sun ... not smoke ... not over-drink ... life in moderation - balance". If she gains a few pounds "you better believe I'll skip a few meals." Listen more here.