“A star without age as a myth that will not go out” is the description of the Arabian phoenix, a mythological bird known for his reborn after death. A myth that today has the features of a woman of flesh and bones, a star always capable to reborn: Carmen Dell’Orefice.
Italo-Hungarian, she born in 1931. She had a difficult childhood cause the problems of parents, so she lived sometimes in foster homes until 1942 when she moved to New York with her mother.
“I remember the hungry. I remember the cold and damp. In this way I caught rheumatic fever “- reveals Carmen, and the fevers were the result of one of the great disappointments of her life -” I did ballet. It was my great joy. I had a scholarship to the Ballet Russe. But after a year in bed with a fever I had become very tall, thin and fragile. When I returned to class and tried a pliè, I almost fell. I had no strength in my legs. The dancing career was over. And that day I seemed to die.” Same fate for the competitive swimming. The lack of food, disease, had made thin and fragile the Carmen’s body, also if it carved from dance and swimming.
One day Carmen was spotted by the wife of Herman Landschoff, Harper’s Bazaar photographer, for her body so delicate and soulful eyes … and the myth began. At age 15, in ’47, she appeared on the Vogue cover (the first teenager in history appeared on that cover). Although this, she was still poor and had no telephone, so Vogue sent her a messenger to inform about model works. She used skates as transportation to save money and she sewed clothes with her mother. But after Vogue, an infinite series of famous photographers took Carmen, the elegant and graceful swan, for shootings, including Horst P. Horst, Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn, Francesco Scavullo, Norman Parkinson, Gleb Derujinsky, Richard Avedon. The latter, immortalized her 58 times for a Paris edition of Harper’s Bazaar. For a long time, Carmen was the highest-paid model, the famous face of Chanel N ° 5 campaign and also muse of Salvador Dalì.
Many rich and powerful men fell in love with Carmen and yet her private and sentimental life was very troubled. After two ended marriages and become mother, Carmen married Richard Kaplan, heir of a fortune. Ten years later their marriage ended.
For Dell’Orefice over 40 years was not easy to start working as a model until Norman Parkinson decided to relaunch her: “You’re not bad for a woman of your age” – he said jokingly. A few weeks later she reappeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Town and Country, …
When she had over 60 years, Helmut Newton wanted her between his models, he called Carmen “a distillation of sex appeal.” In 2000 she run the catwalk for John Galliano and for Hermes in 2004; in 2005 Marc Valvo designed exclusively for Carmen one of his famous evening dress, a cloud of red voile. In 2011, when she was 80 years old, Carmen wearing a sophisticated creation signed by Alberta Ferretti at Pitti, and she still was a charming and wonderful model with nothing to envy to new supermodels: “Yes, yes, I’m older.” – Carmen says-”in the evening I’m tired and I need a long hot bath. But I am a professional. I’m always punctual at work and I’m informed too. And I’m not a hanger, I want to know what the designer wants, I want to know his bosses, so I can make them alive. “
In the same year, the University of Arts London, “in recognition of the contribution to the fashion industry” has awarded she an honorary degree and has dedicated to her a retrospective curated by illustrator David Downton, with her cover, some of her shooting and archival photographs from her personal album.
The Guinness of World Records has devoted to her a chapter and it’s not surprising at all. Carmen (1.78 tall, size 38, bewitching eyes, high cheekbones, narrow nose, silver platinum hair, long legs and aristocratic charm) is a living legend, as well as an icon of style and sophisticated elegance. She, the only supermodel of her age still active, reminds us that the ‘charm’ word can be translated in many different ways and not only the usual and more common.
Carmen Dell’Orefice is proof that the myth does not arise only from successes and without imperfections. She is like a rough diamond eroded by weather, vicissitudes of life, from pain and separations, but she back to shine more each time; she is destined to remain a true star in the firmament. Not only for her beauty, also thanks to her extraordinary intelligence and ironic verve, still intact. Her vision has allowed her to make peace with the difficult past and find a new equilibrium, a new life. Despite the numerous abortions, the emotional problems with her daughter, the financial meltdown that has damaged her twice, squandering the entire personal assets (caused to risky investments and then for a scam orchestrated by her friend Bernard Madoff), Carmen is a woman confident, strong-willed, simple and optimistic.
“In recent years, a partner that I loved so deeply and my mother are died, and then slowly many close friends. So I drew my philosophy “- says Dell’Orefice-” I’m busy trying to help people die a good death. You must love a lot to stay alive and make a lot of sex to be young, but you can not enjoy life if you’re not prepare to the end of things. I do not believe into burial business and into annihilating themselves in grief and regret. I think the celebration of life, and I choose to show people, whilst they live, how much I love them and how much I care for them. I am also an organ donor. If my skin and my eyes are intact, will use them very easily and throw the rest in the trash. I hope is not a surprise: I want to die with my high heels. ”
Carmen took part recently to a documentary made by the photographer and filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders for HBO, “About face: the supermodels, then and now”, the film is a journey into the concept of beauty and old age and it was presented at the Sundance Festival. Greenfield-Sanders has assembled some legendary models of the twentieth century, inviting them to reflect on their lives, careers and complicated relationships with their physical appearance and beauty business. The film explores the obsessions with physical perfection of our culture, substance abuse, the concepts of self-esteem and race, the relationship with plastic surgery, the beauty as a commodity, but it leaves a glimmer of light with the reinvention of the person that can come with aging. The women interviewed by Greenfield have defined and redefined beauty for forty years (1940 1980) as Carol Alt, Marisa Berenson, Karen Bjornson, Christie Brinkley, Pat Cleveland, Jerry Hall, Bethann Hardison, Beverly Johnson, China Machado, Paulina Porizkova, Isabella Rossellini, Lisa Taylor.
Carmen Dell’Orefice, in particular, has never hide her little retouches of plastic surgery, never as outrageous as those of some plastic barbies of the jet set. Carmen, during the filming of the documentary, says about plastic surgery: “Well, if you had the falling ceiling in the living room, would not you do a repair? “.
“Post fata resurgo” – I go back to get up after death-, is the catchword of the phoenix and it could be also of Carmen, who claimed to have not secret recipes …
The real beauty is under the skin.
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