Magazines shaped our lives in the Sixties.
Before there was an Internet and cable TV, the best way to find out what was going on in the world was by reading magazines. Growing up in the Fifties and Sixties, most Boomer girls looked at the magazines their parents read. They would see the glamorous image of Suzy Parker, the elegant Dovima, and the Miss Rheingold contestants. I remember cutting out the images of the models from the Sears & Roebuck Catalog, a huge thick look book about the size of a telephone book. I would cut out entire families of models and glue them to cardboard making paper doll families and I even had a schoolroom full of paper doll children in big shoe box with Wilhelmina as the teacher.
As I grew up, I read Teen and Seventeen in the early Sixties and knew the names of most of the models. I loved Colleen Corby and Terry Reno, the two most popular teen models, Diane Conlon, Babette Russell, and many more that appeared regularly in the major publications. Little did I know that I was going to grow up and enter the world of modeling myself. Having had that brief fairytale experience changed my life.
Modeling in the Sixties was not what it later became. In my years of research on models and modeling, I can see how the industry changed in the Seventies and could become very dangerous for a model. Of course, not all models experienced the horror stories that happened in Milan and Paris. But there were dangers that were just not there in the years between 1960 and 1969 to most of the top models.
As more and more European and Scandinavian models poured into New York, the agencies lost some control they had over their models and could not stop some of them from making risky choices. Eileen Ford preferred young models, still in their teens, who she could house in her own home and oversee their careers.
A Ford model was like a prize athlete and had six-figure earning potential. The agency would take 20% of the models’ earnings. Each model was an expensive investment of the agency’s time and resources. Eileen regularly went through the rosters and trimmed what she called “dead wood<” models who partied too much, had loose morals, were late or who did not maintain the agency’s strict grooming standards. The article below shows how it was to be a model in the Sixties.
Modeling was a viable career choice for a young woman and teenage girls in the Sixties. The top agencies were very reputable, and they treated models as ladies. They were cherished and looked after by avuncular photographers and caring agencies. Eileen Ford, who is remembered fondly by all her models, was known as the Godmother. She fiercely protected her models from the advances of unsavory characters that preyed upon the thousands of girls coming to New York City in search of their dreams.