Where have all the real models gone?

BACK in the day, fashion models were mostly refined young ladies taking a twirl on the catwalk before Mr Right swept them up the aisle to a life of privileged obscurity.

Then along came the supermodel who stalked the catwalk like a predator tracking her fee: think Linda Evangelista, arguably the best-known model of her time (and certainly the most hard-necked), who famously quipped that she didn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000.

More than 20 years on, Evangelista and her supermodel contemporaries - Campbell, Crawford, Turlington et al — are still strutting the world stage. But what of their less superlative counterparts? The miscellaneous MAWS (models, actresses, whatever) the dabblers, the improbably pneumatic Page 3 girls? Where are they now?

With her pouting good looks and convent school allure, Jean Shrimpton — ‘The Shrimp’ — embodied the very essence of Swinging Sixties London. Barely 17 when she first stormed the catwalk, Shrimpton’s credentials were further enhanced as the arm candy of celebrity snapper and ladies man David Bailey.

As fashion icon and half of the ‘It’ couple du jour, Shrimpton quickly went global, partying at the world’s coolest clubs and fronting the covers of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar and Time.

Then as suddenly as she’d appeared on the celebrity circuit the ‘It’ girl abandoned it for marriage, motherhood and obscurity in Cornwall. More than three decades on, Shrimpton has no regrets about the world she left behind. “Fashion is full of dark, troubled people,” she opined in an interview last year.

Now, in her eighth decade — she turns 70 in November — Shrimpton and her photographer husband Michael Cox, live quietly in Penzance, where they own and run a hotel. Despite the recent screening of We’ll Take Manhattan, a BBC 4 film dramatising her relationship with David Bailey, Shrimpton continues to dodge the cameras.

“I never liked being photographed,” she once admitted. “I just happened to be good at it.”

But Shrimpton wasn’t the only 60s icon to reject fame.

Having strode the catwalk to international acclaim while still in her teens, the sultry French beauty Brigitte Bardot copperfastened her celebrity status by marrying filmmaker, Roger Vadim. Her subsequent role in Vadim’s controversial film, And God Created Woman, made her a global sex symbol and darling of the intelligentsia with Simone de Beauvoir famously hailing her as “the most liberated woman of post-war France.” Bardot also forged a singing career, appearing in numerous musicals and recording 80 songs — perhaps most notably a rendition with Serge Gainsbourg of the notorious 60s smoochie “Je t’aime”. Then, in 1973, she announced her retirement from acting to become an animal rights activist, auctioning off her jewellery to fund her own foundation for animal welfare. Now aged 77, Bardot is unrecognisable as the sex symbol of her generation. Years of sun worshipping have ravaged her once sublime features and blonde bouffant. But she remains undaunted. “Every age can be enchanting,” she once observed, “providing you live within it.”

In Feb 2003, pin-up girl extraordinaire Sam Fox, dashed the dreams of countless Page 3 fans when she declared her love for her business manager Myra Stratton. “People say I’m gay,” she said. “I don’t know what I am. All I know is that I’m in love with Myra … and want to spend the rest of my life with her.” It was an improbable — if typically colourful — development in the life of a glamour model who has lived much of her life in the redtops.

Born Samantha Karen Fox to a family of London market traders, in Feb 1983, Fox became the youngest Page 3 girl when she posed topless for The Sun under the headline “Sam, 16, Quits A-Levels for Ooh-Levels.” After insuring her pneumatic assets for £250,000, Fox went on to win The Sun’s Page 3 Girl of the Year award for the following three years and posed nude for several lads’ mags.

Meanwhile, the glamour model had set her sights on a musical career. Her 1986 debut single ‘Touch Me’ became an international bestseller but subsequent musical endeavours fared less well. Fox’s forays into front-of-house television were similarly ho-hum: her co-presenting of the 1989 BRIT awards was widely denounced as a shambles, and her on-camera interviewing skills were similarly dissed when she repeatedly referred to interviewee Rolf Harris as ‘Ralph’. There followed the inevitable descent into reality television and a slot on ITV’s 2009 I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here. Though she has all but disappeared from the celebrity radar, Fox’s website indicates that she’s still big — on the continent. Aren’t they all?

Another MAW of similar vintage, Linda Lusardi began her Page 3 career in The Sun as an 18-year-old in 1976. She proceeded to pose nude for a slew of lads’ mags — Mayfair, Penthouse, Fiesta et al — before moving on to acting, and bit parts in soaps like Brookside and Emmerdale. In Dec 2008, while stuck in traffic en route to appear in panto, Lusardi hilariously called 999 seeking permission to use the hard shoulder, lest she miss her curtain call.

“Obviously we declined,” said a police spokesperson.

These days, the 53-year-old mum of two maintains her profile by sharing the minutiae of her life with the press. Having been stuck in snow on the M25 recently she revealed that the experience was not without its benefits.

“I got to know my husband all over again,” she told the Express. “We stayed in the warm, tweeting all the time.” So now you know.

This side of the pond, our former models are harder to track down — presumably because they’ve moved happily on from catwalk to pastures new.

In the 80s, Mari O’Leary was one of Ireland’s most successful models. Though her face once graced the covers of countless fashion glossies, you’d be hard pressed to find evidence of her high profile heyday. Instead, as head of her own PR and marketing company, the former model is happy to see her clients make the news. Specialising in the consumer sector, O’Leary’s website claims to “deliver results-driven, creative campaigns and …to always be relevant.”

Certainly her seamless shift from model to PR guru ensures her own continuing relevance. Way to go.

Ditto Olivia Treacy. The once famous golden mane may have turned to silver but more than a quarter century after being crowned Miss Ireland, the schoolteacher-turned-beauty-queen-turned-model-turned-television presenter-turned-image consultant is still turning heads, as evidenced by her triumphant return to the catwalk at M&S Dublin’s fashion show recently. But for Treacy it was simply a break from the day job. The 51-year-old has carved herself an impressive acting career Stateside. Treacy’s film credits include Angelica Huston’s Agnes Browne, Jim Sheridan’s In America, and Curtis Hanson’s Lucky You in which she co-starred with Hollywood legend, Robert Duvall. The role she says she’s most proud is that of angst-ridden widow Moya Doyle in the 2003 screen adaptation of Joseph O’Connor’s stage play Red Roses and Petrol.

“I was delivering my lines the way my mother would say them,” Treacy later recalled. “It just happened naturally…” Not unlike her career.

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