American Beauty: 50 Years of Homegrown Supermodels


Suzy Parker Photo: Trunk Archive

When the Statue of Liberty struck a permanent pose on Liberty Island, she became the first in a long line of tall, gorgeous women to proudly represent Team USA. 128 years later, American bombshells have created and challenged beauty standards worldwide. This 4th of July, we salute these iconic beauties—beginning with America’s first-ever supermodels from the ‘50s and ‘60s…

Dorian Leigh
This lithe Texas native was arguably our nation’s first supermodel, working with legendary photographers like Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, and covering Vogue six times in one year. On the social circuit, Truman Capote nicknamed the raven-haired waif “Happy GoLucky”—a precursor to his most famous heroine, Holly Golightly—and photographers often stalked her outside Club 21, a favorite haunt of Marilyn Monroe. Proving American women only get hotter with age, Leigh became Revlon’s most famous model in 1952, when she starred in their iconic 1952 Fire and Ice campaign. She was 35-years-old at the time.

Suzy Parker
Like her big sister Dorian, Suzy Parker became an early American supermodel—but that’s where the similarities end. A tall, robust redhead with plush lips and sharp green eyes, Parker booked her first hair campaign at age 15, appeared in Life Magazine that same year, then became the first American model to score a Chanel contract.  At 18, she eloped with her high school sweetheart wearing a raincoat over a bikini—and by 1954, she was earning over $100,000 a year. Parker later appeared in films like Funny Face and Let It Be, which featured a song written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon called “Suzy Parker” that was (alas!) cut from the final version. In 1970, Parker gave birth to a daughter named Georgia with her second husband, the French journalist Pierre de la Salle. Georgia’s godmother was Coco Chanel.

Carmen Dell'Orefice Photo: Henry Leutwyler

Carmen Dell’Orefice
The daughter of Hungarian and Italian immigrants, Dell’Orefice was born and raised in New York City; she was “discovered” at 13, while riding the bus to ballet class.  Her family was so poor, they didn’t own a telephone, so Vogue sent its interns to her apartment building whenever they needed her on-set. After appearing on magazine covers throughout the ‘50s, Dell’Orefice met Salvador Dali and became his muse for the better part of the ‘60s. She continues to model today, working with everyone from Target to Zac Posen.

Edie Sedgwick
Andy Warhol’s original superstar first appeared in Life magazine as a child, though she didn’t become a professional poser until 1965.  Besides starring in some of Warhol’s most famous films (Restaurant and Chelsea Girls among them), Sedgwick also modeled for Vogue and for Betsey Johnson, who later designed costumes for Sedgwick’s final film, Ciao, Manhattan!  Though Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde is rumored to be about the California native, she was actually a brunette whose dark eyebrows and lashes still influence makeup labels like NARS and Eyeko today. Sedgwick died of a drug overdose in 1971; she was 28-years-old.

Peggy Moffitt Photo: Pierre Schermann

Peggy Moffitt
America’s answer to Twiggy, Peggy Moffatt was a California native who joined the mod, mod world after moving to London and linking up with Vidal Sassoon. As one of the legendary hairstylist’s first muses, Moffatt modeled his famous 8-point coif along with Marimekko’s geometric shift dresses and Mary Quant’s youth-quaking miniskirts. She appeared with Jane Birkin and Veruschka in the legendary 1966 film Blow Up before moving back to Los Angeles with her husband, the modern dance choreographer Rudi Steinhart. In 2012, Moffitt was the subject of a LACMA retrospective and spoke on her most famous role, as the title character in the cult fashion film Qui Etes Vous, Polly Maggoo?