Home entertainment

BOOK REVIEW: Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty

Sara Bunny reviews Robert Lacey's biography of the empress of American modelling.

Loved by some and loathed by others, the formidable Eileen Ford built an empire when at the helm of one of the most successful modelling agencies in the fashion business. Raised among the New York elite, she fitted seamlessly into the finicky world of padded power shoulders and glittering parties, rising through the rag trade ranks to become what biographer Robert Lacey describes as “not just the Queen, but the empress of American modelling”.

After deciding that she herself wasn’t model material on account of her ‘plain round face’, she created the Ford Modelling Agency in 1947, and went on to sign up top names like Twiggy Lawson, Christy Turlington and Elle Macpherson. Keeping sassy models and sleazy photographers in line was easy for this firm but fair leader, but she wasn’t immune to rival agencies constantly poaching the top talent and trying to invade her turf.

Written in a matter-of-fact tone, this heavily detailed biography is balanced by amusing anecdotes, including the time she pointed a manicured finger at a shifty rival modelling agency boss and hollered, “We’re going to finish you off!” A fascinating insight into the life of a woman who reached the top in the elusive industry of beauty.

Get The Australian Woman’s Weekly NZ home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.

Related stories