Carmen Dell' Orefice had gone to 13 public schools by the time she was 12 years old. Her mother told her she had ears like sedan doors and feet like coffins. How could someone with "support" like this become the most enduring supermodel of all time? The answer is, spectacularly! Today, June 3, this perpetual beauty and the world's oldest working model, turned 90 years young.
At the age of 13, while riding a bus to ballet class, she was approached to model by the wife of photographer Herman Landschoff. Her test photos, taken at Jones Beach, were a "flop" according to her. In 1946, her godfather introduced her to Vogue and the 15-year-old signed a modeling contract for $7.50 an hour. She appeared on Vogue's October 1947 cover at age 16, one of the youngest cover models in the magazine's history.
In Carmen's early modeling years, Vogue had to send runners to her apartment to let her know about jobs since she and her mother had no telephone. She roller-skated to assignments to save on bus fares. She was so malnourished that famed fashion photographers Horst P. Horst and Cecil Beaton had to pin back dresses and stuff the curves with tissue.
Carmen has always been a star, but it seems like the world has embraced her even more in her later years. With those classic cheekbones, stunning white hair and lanky 5' 9" frame, she is, in my opinion, more beautiful now than ever before. She said, "I have had more magazine covers in the last 25 years than I have in my whole elongated career."
I had the great pleasure of meeting Carmen when she visited Chicago many years ago at an event hosted by the late man-about-town, Bunky Cushing, She was the keynote speaker for his "Handbags & Halos" luncheon which benefited the Howard Brown Healthcare Center. Her dear friend, and fellow New Yorker, Peter Martino was on her arm as was the legendary lensman Victor Skrebneski, who had photographed her many times.
The ladies-who-lunch were agog at her beauty and clamored to hear her beauty secrets, as did I. She gave a marvelous and honest talk about herself and her life and accepted any and all questions, no matter how personal. When I asked her to sign my invitation, she asked if she could draw a mustache on her photo by Skrebneski.
After her presentation, I asked her what beauty products she uses to keep her skin glowing and she surprised me with her answer. She said she was a heavy tanner in her early years until her doctor in New York, the famed Dr. Orentreich, suggested a facial planing. I believe this is now called a facial peel but, at this time, it was a very new technique. She said she looked like a Halloween mummy for quite a while and after her skin healed, she was advised to use sunscreen morning, noon and night, which she does religiously to this day, as well as obviously avoiding the sun.
In an article for New You Magazine, Carmen spoke about her exercise routine. She said, "I gently move into movements where I can stretch and do a little breathing to bring my consciousness more awake—feel what my body wants and needs to do in that moment even if it’s just opening my eyes. I roll to see how my hips feel, my knees are bending, do a few leg-ups—just love myself and say hello to the different parts of my body." Surprisingly, this is exactly the same routine Chicago beauty, Mamie Walton (also 90 years young) adheres to. Lots of stretching....Mamie even has a ballet barre installed in her condo for this purpose. (Note to self)
As for her diet, Carmen says, "I eat to my appetite and don’t count calories. I want to enjoy food passionately...I could have gotten into trouble with food in my lifetime because I love to eat but I was given a free pass because I metabolize food well." I'll say!
Carmen, thank you for a lifetime of glamour and inspiration. You are not only a beautiful woman, but your inside matches your outside. Happy birthday, long may you reign!