As if it wasn’t glorious enough, the Kerry countryside has just been adorned with one of the most stunning women in the world.
Both have been photographed for Vogue magazine in a fashion shoot featuring a thatched cottage, a donkey and a windswept Titian-haired temptress.
You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a still from the 1953 movie The Quiet Man. But the coleen in question is not Maureen O’Hara but Ukranian-born Daria Werbowy, the world’s highest paid model.
The feature, spanning 16 pages, was shot by Annie Leibovitz, who made her name working for Rolling Stone in the early ’70s.
Most of the photos were taken in Gleninchaquin Park, a beautiful valley on the north west side of the Beara Peninsula, framed by Kenmare Bay and the McGillicuddy Reeks.
The shoot was styled by the feisty Welsh-born Grace Coddington, 71, Vogue’s creative director who was once a rare beauty herself. From the island of Anglesey, she was plucked from obscurity by the photographer Norman Parkinson. She won a Vogue model competition at the age of 17, but a disfiguring car crash aged 27 ensured she would never become a supermodel.
She remained in the fashion business, first as a photo editor with British Vogue before joining the notorious Anna Wintour at American Vogue. She remains the magazine’s creative director and a formidable force in the fashion industry.
Like Coddington, Werbowy is a force of nature. Karl Lagerfeld praised her as “much more than a model — a personality and a unique beauty, a rare mix.”
She knows what she likes, has a home in West Cork, an Irish boyfriend, and regards Irish and Scottish men as the best looking.
“You must have a lot of guys flirting with you. Where would you say are the best looking?” was the standard question asked by Hello magazine in the past.
Her response was robust: “Scottish and Irish boys! But you’d be surprised how afraid guys are of girls. Guys are very intimidated by women. I’ve never really been hit on. I get hit on my older men — I’m talking guys in their 50s and 60s.”
A self-proclaimed tomboy, she is the highest paid model in the world and dictates her own career, a rare thing in the world of fashion. Kate Phelan, a coordinating Vogue fashion editor, acknowledges that she is a rare beauty, in every sense. “She has more power than most other models because everyone fears her walking away.”
Although born in Kraków, Poland, Werbowy holds Canadian and Ukrainian citizenship. When she was three years old, her Ukrainian parents moved to Mississauga, a city near Toronto, in Canada.
Her career started at the age of 14 when she joined her local agency Susan J Model & Talent Management in Toronto before moving to the über-agency Elite. “I thought modelling was just the best thing on the planet,” she told the Daily Telegraph. “The freedom and the travelling all just sounded so glamorous.”
A few years down the line, she began to have her doubts and on occasions she has wrestled with the role of supermodel.
In 2008, she spent three months sailing sail across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, something she said became a life-changing experience.
Werbowy emerged slowly from her self-imposed exile and is now far more choosy about the kind of campaigns and catwalk displays she is prepared to do.
Annie Leibovitz has always been choosy. Born on Oct 2, 1949, in Waterbury, Connecticut, her talent for fashion and photography showed early and she landed a job at Rolling Stone magazine at the age of 20 and within two years, she was promoted to chief photographer.
Jann Wenner, the magazine’s co-founder, has credited her with making many Rolling Stone covers collector’s items, most notably an issue that featured a nude John Lennon curled around his fully clothed wife, Yoko Ono. Taken on Dec 8, 1980, Leibovitz’s photo of the former Beatle was shot just hours before his death.
In 1983 she began working for the entertainment magazine Vanity Fair. A number of Vanity Fair covers have featured her often controversial portraits of celebrities. Demi Moore (very pregnant and very nude) and Whoopi Goldberg (half-submerged in a bath of milk) are among the actresses to grace the cover in recent years.
Leibovitz continues to be in demand as portrait photographer, often capturing compelling images of celebrities. Like the Kerry shoot for Vogue, her worked has always had a fictional, dreamlike element.
Despite earning millions from her photography, Leibovitz overstretched herself financially, with a taste for high living and a history of unpaid bills and taxes.
Maybe her recent experience of Ireland will give her a taste of a more austere lifestyle.
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