Vintage Models: Dorian Leigh


The vintage model I'm sharing today is actually sister to a model I shared several months ago, Suzy Parker. While Suzy Parker was quite the household name in her day, her sister was equally famous (she is considered one of the first supermodels) and part of the reason Suzy got into modeling in the first place. When her modeling career was established, she convinced the new Ford agency to sign her sister, sight unseen. They expected someone like Dorian Leigh who beat the stereotypes we usually associate with models--she was 27 when she got her start (ancient by modeling standards!) and only 5'5", but even her sister Suzy was 5'10" red-headed and freckled, quite the surprise to the modeling agency although both sisters had prolific careers in modeling. Dorian Leigh began modeling around 1944 and was on the cover of six American Vogue magazines in 1946 alone. She lived quite the high society life and was part of the inspiration for Truman Capote's character Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Which means interestingly enough that Audrey Hepburn played characters inspired by both model sisters in two movies (her character in Funny Face was inspired by Suzy Parker). While her personal life was turbulent and full of romantic woes Dorian Leigh was a classic beauty with looks that appear to almost be chiseled from ice. As Cecil Beaton wrote, "she somehow senses what it is the photographer is inadequately trying to get from her and she conveys a remarkable variety of moods...the sweetness of an eighteenth-century pastel, the allure of a Sargent portrait, or the poignancy of some unfortunate woman who sat for Modigliani.” I think what captivates me most about Dorian though is that sisterly affection for Suzy; the way she helped her get started in her modeling career and had her test with many of the major photographers of the day when Suzy was still just an awkward teenager. She didn't do it for fame or profit, but to help Suzy feel comfortable and beautiful when she was a sensitive soul who would cry herself to sleep at night over being too tall and not enough like the petite and popular Dorian Leigh...

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