10 things to know about Eileen Ford, the Supermodel maker
Published on Jul 11, 2014 6:30 PM
Eileen Ford, who died on July 9 at the ripe old age of 92 on July 9, is considered the mother figure and pioneer of the supermodel industry.
She died of complications from a brain tumour and osteoporosis.
Born in New York, Ford is a modelling industry icon. A former model herself, she has groomed the biggest names in the circuit.
In the 1940s, Ford Models became the top agency in the world, and was instrumental for turning the modeling profession into a multi-billion dollar industry. Her modelling agency, run by herself and her late husband, Jerry Ford, is one of the most well-known and successful agencies, even till today.
Here are 10 things to know about the legend:
1. She represented some of the biggest names in modelling.
Naomi Campbell, Jane Fonda, Brooke Shields, Candice Bergen and even Martha Stewart began under Mrs Ford's formidable wing.
2. She could make or break a career with just one look.
It was well known in the modelling world that with just a look, Eileen Ford could tell if you'd ever make it in the industry. She looked for more than just a pretty face. “Fire in the eye,” she once said. “Mesmerising energy, intelligence, an I-know-who-I am look" are things she prays for in a model.
3. She was born Eileen Cecile Otte.
Mrs Ford was born Eileen Cecile Otte on March 25, 1922, in Manhattan, the only daughter in her family. She had three brothers.
4. Modelling ran in her blood.
Her mother had been the first model ever hired by the venerable clothing chain Best & Company. Eileen Ford began modelling as a student. She modelled for the prominent Harry Conover agency during her summer breaks from Barnard College.
5. She had beauty and brains.
Mrs Ford graduated in 1943 with a degree in psychology from Barnard College of Columbia University before going into the fashion and journalism industry. In New York, Mrs Ford worked briefly for a photographer, Elliot Clark, and as a stylist and reporter for The Tobe Report, a fashion trade publication.
6. She met her husband at a pharmacy.
Jerry Ford, who was training to become a navy officer, was attending officers’ school at Columbia University in New York when the couple met in 1944 at a nearby pharmacy, Tilson’s. Three months later they eloped to San Francisco, where Mr Ford was stationed and preparing to ship out for the Pacific for two years.
7. The couple managed the multi-million dollar business together.
Ford Models was born in 1947, starting out in Mrs Ford’s parents’ home in New York. Mrs Ford ran the talent management and recruitment side of the business while Mr Ford managed the operations.
8. She was the tiger mother of modelling.
Mrs Ford ran her agency like a convent. Some in the industry called her the mother of New York modeling, in almost the literal sense. She was widely known for protecting models from under-handed deals and sexual misconduct and generally cleaning up the sleazy image of the business.
9. She could spot talent anywhere.
Sometimes she would follow a young woman for a few blocks, appraising her. Once, she noticed a striking young woman walking down the stairs next to her. Her discovery, Karen Graham, became the first face of Estee Lauder.
10. She was never one to mince her words.
At the same time, Mrs Ford was criticised for her imperious approach. She was well known for brusquely dismissing applicants of a sensitive age with stinging rejections. From telling girls they needed a nose job, to calling girls fat, Mrs Ford had exacting standards, and was unapologetic about them.