In the pantheon of modeling greats, only a select few have earned the right to be called legends. Sure you have your run of the mill supermodels, top catwalkers and fresh faces, but only the best of the best have the longevity, tenacity and undeniable appeal to not only work with the best of the best, but keep the momentum going for decades.
The newly formed Trump Legend’s division focuses on exactly those kind of talents, with an impressive roster of industry vets who need no introduction. Models.com caught up with three such icons, to talk shop about the industry’s changes, their unstoppable careers and what it means to be legendary. From the peerless Carmen dell’Orefice, to the groundbreaking fashion original Pat Cleveland and eternally alluring Estelle Lefébure, three very different models share their stories in this MDX exclusive.
A Models.com interview by Janelle Okwodu
Photos by Betty Sze
CARMEN: It was such a well organized trip and I want to tell you a lot of people should travel outside of the United States to learn manners, courtesy, develop raw aesthetics and a sense of taste. The people are magnificent. They take time to smell the roses, they take time to be courteous to each other.
MDC: What brought you to Trump Legends?
CARMEN: I feel so fortunate that this agency exists. What do you do with a 66 year career? You don’t need to sell me as a model, I think I’m established! I’m here because of Patty Sicular, she and I have worked together for almost going on 30 years now. We started at the original modeling agency, which was of course started by Eileen and Jerry Ford, who started that in 1947.
I had been working before they even started the modeling agencies. Back then there were Powers and Conover, but those were simply modeling schools; they had no real connection to the fashion industry. In many ways America was still asleep after World War 2 – there were no magazines, only newspapers. Things were just beginning to come back, the old Vogue from before the war and so on.
I have to go back in history to describe what I know about Trump today and their insight into the changing media. Things are different now; most of the old newspapers are gone, magazines are struggling – who would have ever dreamt that The Herald Tribune would be no more. People are more interested in the instant gratification they can find in things like the internet, or iPads, iPhones. You need an agency that understands all the changes happening within the technology and how they affect your career. There is something called “The Carmen Product”; I am no longer just a model, I represent who I am as an individual and an entire generation.
How do people think about themselves? You don’t want people thinking of themselves as aging into decay. How do you marry the product, the image and get the message out there that life is full of living and you can continue to achieve? I am there representing that life is worth living and I work very hard at what I love. It is a privilege and I’m lucky.
MDC: What makes a model great?
CARMEN: Modeling when I started was a real career, for girls now it isn’t. Most young girls starting in the business can’t make a real living as a model. It is a stepping stone if they are smart and they know how to save the money. Most people don’t know how to, because they’re told that they’ll be better people if they have a Manolo Blahnik shoe, or an expensive purse. I encourage a lot of young people to save their money and not to buy into the marketing. Don’t ever think that “If I buy this other people will notice me.” You don’t want other people to notice you, notice yourself first.
A great model is a silent actresss, if she’s smart. If you go on set trying to get love from the camera or the affection you don’t get at home you’re never going to be happy. Modeling is a job, it is an acting job and you need to understand the environment you’re temporarily embodying. It is your job to project and respond to the direction of the photographers, art directors – whoever is in the studio, in on the scenario that will be the picture. Intelligent people will have things very thought out before and know what they want – if you’re lucky you’ll get to work with the greats.
What is happening a lot now, are these pictures by committee where the photographers aren’t really allowed to express their creativity? Many of them just know the equipment and some don’t even know that.
MDC: Do you consider yourself a legend?
CARMEN: I’ve had to accept it and accept that I’m unique, but at the same time everyone is unique. We all have to use what is unique about ourselves, define it, nurture it and become it. I love the phrase, Trump legends more than I do “supermodel” because it implies an achievement. It is a nod to what I’ve achieved within my life. Other people look at your life and go “Oh, that’s an achievement.” but to me it can seem ordinary. What is valuable to me is the self worth and knowledge that I’ve gained, knowing that I can look at any situation and come out of it better than I did when I was a kid. I’m still a work in progress, very happy to be a part of things. I am not the picture. I’m part of it. Like a grain of sand on the beach. You need many grains to make a beach.
1. VOGUE COVER, 1947 | 2. & 3. CARMEN BY NORMAN PARKINSON | 4. WITH SEAN O’PRY, BY TERRY RICHARDSON, 2012
I have come to love that cover, it has been printed so many times. At first I thought it was hideous and that I looked like a little boy, but I love it now!
CARMEN BY NORMAN PARKINSON
I’ve worked with all the greats, but I think my favorite shoots were with Norman Parkinson, he always made the experience fun and he knew exactly what he was doing behind the camera and exactly what he wanted from his models.
WITH SEAN O’PRY, BY TERRY RICHARDSON, 2012
I used to work with Terry’s father, Bob. There were some lovely South American boys on this shoot though, they were brought up right – so respectful, so helpful and wonderful – the boys made the shoot!
MDC: I know you have some great quotes about life – I heard you were writing a book.
PAT: Well I hope people can see what I mean. I’m just looking at life through these eyes of mine. I’m a soul who has been exposed to so many fabulous things and I’ve been keeping a diary of it all since 1964. I have a lot of fashion people in it, all their great quotes. I’m in the middle of writing my autobiography. It is interesting taking the diary and incorporating that into a proper autobiography – keeping it all true to myself and my experiences. I encourage everyone to keep a diary – it is kind of hard when you’re working, but it is important to follow through.
MDC: Do you consider yourself a legend?
PAT: Of course I’m a legend! We all are! The agency respects the fact that I have experience and lots to talk about. They value that and encourage me. Being a legend just means that you can look at things from a certain perspective. These days precious things are very valuable, you go to the museum and you see the clothes that people wore in the 1700s or even in the 60s. It is the same thing here, I’m one of the collectibles and they’ve made a little collection of legends! Each one of us is so different from the other. I think it is great to work with models like us if you want to incorporate some of fashion’s history into whatever it is you’re creating. We’re like fine wine or champagne – let it sit for awhile and it just gets better.
MDC: How did you get your start in the business?
PAT: I think it began with posing for my mother, I remember the very first time I posed and it felt really good. Working with an artist I understood what it was like to sit still and let yourself be immersed in this creative process. I wound up going to art school and I was looking through all the magazines – Ebony, Glamour, Seventeen, Vogue and Bazaar. My mom said “ You look as good as these girls, let’s send some pictures around!” At the time I couldn’t care less, I didn’t see myself that way – I saw a skinny little giraffe. So she took some pictures and sent them out to the various magazines.
In the meantime, I was going to school. One day I was on the subway with my girlfriend and she says “That woman is following you” and I look over and see this woman, dressed very sixties chic with a turban and she’s following me! I wanted to know why so I stopped her and she says, “Thank you, I was chasing you across town and I’ve finally caught up with you! I’m from Vogue Magazine and I would love for you to come up and show your clothes – they look so wonderful.” I was wearing this pre-Twiggy mini-skirt that I had designed myself. I went up to the Vogue offices with my designs and they liked them. Then I got a reply from Ebony magazine – a letter from Mrs. Johnson herself, she asked if I would like to travel and do the Fashion Fair. Now keep in mind I was only 14, so we had to lie and say I was older. In those days no one was modeling at 14!
I got to see all of America while doing Fashion Fair – as they say see your own country first! I met the cream of society. It was an incredible learning experience for me because I got to walk the runway every day, I was the bride at the end of the show and I got to kiss the most handsome man in the room who made all the girls swoon! We weren’t interested in each other at all, but it was still fun!
When I came back to New York to finish school, they called me back to Vogue and while I was sitting there at Vogue – Carrie Donovan, the editor, said that Givenchy loved my drawings, would you like to go to Paris and do some designing. I was just ecstatic because all I was really interested in was designing clothes. As I’m sitting there this illustrator named Manny Obregon* saw me. He kept peeking out and looking at me, he was there with Joel Schumacher, who is now a big Hollywood director, but at the time he was at Vogue doing freelance stuff. The two of them peeked out and looked and me and said “She would be good for this.” Then Joel says “She would be good for this! Next thing I know we’re in a limo heading to the park to do this photoshoot.
We went to the park and Berry Berenson took pictures of me flying a kite, just in what I was wearing. Then there was a full two-page spread of me in Vogue as a young designer and I started designing things for Henri Bendel. After that I got a call from Vogue telling me to get a portfolio ready and they sent me over to Irving Penn. That was when it all really started taking off – I met Stephen Burroughs and Halston. I met Antonio Lopez at Vogue and he invited me to Paris, where I met Karl Lagerfeld. After that I mostly stayed in Europe because that was where I fit in really, because of the times.
MDC: How were things different for a black model of the time period?
PAT: There were different types of the can and cannot, because society was very limited in its point of view of what beauty was. It was very difficult for anyone of color to be considered beautiful. I was shot for Vogue so many times and I thought to myself, why can’t I get this cover? After awhile I left for Europe and I told myself I wasn’t coming back until they put a black woman on the cover of Vogue.
MDC: Do you have any advice for girls just getting started in the industry?
PAT: I think if you’re very young you should have family and friends who will be there to support you. You can’t trust everyone, very young girls need the protection of an adult who is wise and concerned with getting them in the right positions.
People say so many bad things about models, but honestly they should pick on someone else. Models are where they are because that is their gift and that may help them move on to something better. There is nothing inherently wrong with modeling, the trouble comes when bad people try to invade the business, or when people outside the business attempt to take advantage. All we want to do is just spread beauty and love.
For girls today I would say they should follow their dreams and go for it. Now there are tall models, short models, thin models, heavier models, every kind of girl imaginable – if it is your passion, just follow your heart and go for it, see where you can fit in.
1. PAT BY IRVING PENN FOR AMERICAN VOGUE | 2. PAT BY ANTONIO LOPEZ | 3. HALSTON, FOR AMERICAN VOGUE 1970
This is one of my first pictures, I was sitting with Irving after and he said “I want to photograph flowers,” you can see the gardenia in my hair there. Afterwards he went on to shoot all these incredible still-life images of flowers.
PAT BY ANTONIO LOPEZ
This is in the bathtub at Antonio Lopez’s in Paris, we were just fooling around in the afternoon and he said “let me do some polaroids.” It turned into a very popular image, something that has been seen a lot. As a model you try to express what is natural and what is beautiful, you don’t go around doing nudes for just anyone, but photography is an art and the human body is a beautiful thing.
HALSTON, FOR AMERICAN VOGUE 1970
This is a Halston shooting, you can see Anjelica there – we were great friends. As you can see I was the only girl of color in the shot, so I’m really just trying to represent for people like me. Working with Halston was like a love story – he was my friend and my supporter and he was very generous with me. Halston loved me and he made sure I had a really fine career. How can you be more in love than to have someone who puts you in their visualization of what is beautiful. We had a wonderful worldwide experience together, we traveled the world together and shared so many incredible experiences.
ESTELLE: No, no. I’ve been doing this work for a long time, many years, but it feels like I’m at the beginning still. Always. Even if I’ve done covers of Vogue, or Elle, Glamour, Cosmo – working with the best photographers – Avedon, Bill King, but it all still feels new.
I was discovered in the street in Paris, I was 17. It was by a French agent whose agency was actually right across the street, so he would sit outside and just look at the girls passing by. I’m from Normandy, so I was just visiting Paris and when I came back home, my mom said “No!”
Two years later in Paris, after I finished school I was back in the agency again. I passed by the same street and the guy was there again! I suppose it was just meant to be.
MDC: What are some of the defining career moments for you?
ESTELLE: It would be crazy if I said there was only one – there have been so many different moments over the years. Of course working with Avedon, was incredible – all those Vogue covers. The year of 87’ was a miracle, just a dream- I had seven covers of Vogue and when you start to think about how there are only 12 months in a year it really hits you! Once I was walking down the street with my agent and we stopped by a kiosk and we saw three or four of my covers. It was Glamour and Cosmopolitan by Scavullo and two Vogues.
I have so many good memories – bad ones too. I remember for Sports Illustrated, there was a year when I had to shoot bathing suits in the middle of winter and I got so sick. They always want to do bathing suits in the winter and furs in the summer. I remember being on a shoot with Polly Mellen at Vogue, in Arizona with Tatjana Patiz. We were doing cashmere and fur in the desert and she passed out! Those are the bad things, but there have also been some incredible moments; trips that you can’t even imagine, meeting talented people from all over the world, so many experiences that I’ve loved.
MDC: How would you say the industry has changed from when you started?
ESTELLE: As a model from the 80s / 90s, I would say that now when I look at models they are so different. I don’t think the girls get to enjoy it as much as we did. The girls are more career minded now and more about the business aspect. What changed too is that we were a group, maybe of 10 girls and we were always working together. We were always on the same jobs and were friends. Each girl had her own look and her own personality, now I’m sorry to say but it is hard to tell one girl from the next. I’m not sure if we can ever go back to that star model system, we were really personalities. Even designers had a different mindset. When we were walking Versace, it was only top models – the runway was Linda, Cindy, Christy, Naomi, everyone was known – it was such a great time.
Clients could relate to us, so could the women who had the buying power. We had a life that people knew, they loved knowing more about the supermodels. I think it is harder for a woman who is in her thirties to relate to some of the newer girls, who might only be 16 or 17.
This is Christian Dior Haute Couture, by Mario Testino, 1993 – I loved this shoot. I have to say sometimes, even I forget that I’ve done so much. I was sent images recently from a woman who was doing behind the scenes on this shoot and she said “Do you remember this?” It is still so beautiful. Look at the gown, it has such a beautiful shape and form. I don’t know if now the brand would want to have this kind of campaign, but for me this image stands the
test of time. Still so fresh and elegant – I love Mario’s work, it is so natural.
US VOGUE COVER JUNE 1987 BY PATRICK DEMARCHELIER
This is Patrick Demarchelier, I remember. I love working with Patrick because he’s French and we have a great connection. When I met him here in New York, he was already a very big star and I was just starting. We could speak French together and he always called me ‘La Petite Normande’ because I’m from Normandy. He’s so nice with me – now we are still close because he has a place in St. Barts and I go over there a lot, it is fun to work with him because he never changes; he’s always the same warm, kind person.
BACKSTAGE CHANEL S/S 93
I have this picture in Paris in my apartment! Look how young we are! This is the group, Helena, Christy, Linda, we’re all around the same age. We were spending all our time together, doing runway, shooting stories, going on trips. I worked a little bit less with Claudia because she was younger. Can you believe that the Chanel shows used to look like this! Things are so different now.
ELLE FRANCE, NOVEMBER 2010
My first cover of French Elle was in July 85 with Bill King, it was my first trip to New York, first cover, first time working with Ashley Richardson. The love story with French Elle started there and it never stopped, that is why two years ago they did this cover when I was pregnant. We had done a cover when I was pregnant with my first daughter, they published the first pictures of her as a baby and I did another picture when my second daughter was born, a picture of my wedding. It is kind of a big story with them, they’ve been such a part of my life. My agent in Paris told me that I have the record for covers of Elle – with this one it was 38.