Saturday, February 28, 2009

Portrait of Dorian Leigh

She was Richard Avedon's favorite fashion subject; graced the cover of over 50 magazines within a six year span; and after her modeling career ended, ran her own modeling agency and gourmet restaurants in Paris. She was Dorian Leigh, the first supermodel (Janice Dickinson be damned), and for nearly a decade, she was one of the most photographed women in the world, appearing on the cover of Vogue no less than seven times in one year (1946).

A John Rawling portrait of Dorian Leigh for the cover of Vogue, 1946

By the mid-1950's, Leigh's fame had been surpassed by that of her younger sister, Suzy Parker; she starred in a few French films, then relocated to Paris to launch the city's very first modeling agency. Leigh was enormously successful, and there are tantalizing and scandalous tales of the former cover girl joining transatlantic forces with her mentor, Eileen Ford, to drive competitor John Casablancas out of business -- and out of his mind. Eventually, Leigh herself was "run out" of the industry, thanks to the illegal schemes of one of her five husbands, which is when she entered the restaurant business. Relocating to New York in the 1980's, Leigh penned several cookbooks, including one devoted to crepes. Her son, Kim, died at 21 by his own hand; after that, the reputed inspiration for the glamorous and hedonistic Holly Golightly became a Born Again Christian. She died of complications from Alzheimer's Disease in 2008, at age 91; but through the lens of Avedon and other genius photographers, the breathtaking elegance and mystique of Dorian Leigh will never age.


  1. Another fascinating modern history lesson as always TJB! Thanks for filling in the woefull gaps in this philistine's mis-education!

  2. Another doomed Beauty to haunt the imagination, eh?
    Of course if one must be doomed, it's important to look fabulous among the ruins. Loved the title of this post.

  3. She's stunning! And that is a fascinating story to go with her.