#ModelCrushMonday: Carmen Dell’orefice

Carmen Dell’Orefice is my #ModelCrushMonday because her bewitching face has led to the longest modelling career ever.

When I say long, I mean long. She started, aged 15 – and is now facing campaigns aged 85!

She’s also my #ModelCrushMonday because Carmen is a mass of contradictions. As many of my fellow models can attest, you get asked the same questions and face the same preconceptions most days.

“Do you get paid lots?” (paahahaha)
“Is everyone very bitchy?”
“Modelling’s not forever is it. How long do you think you have left?”
“So it’ll be easy for you to marry a rich man!”
“Is everyone anorexic?”

Carmen started modelling aged 15, impoverished and having been in and out of foster homes. The $7.50 an hour she earned from Vogue…


…Barely covered expenses for her mother and her, so they got in extra work as seamstresses and Carmen roller skated to jobs to save money – but still, her malnourished body had to be padded out with stuffed tissue for shoots. In the end, doctors prescribed shots to kickstart puberty (meaning the curves she grew allowed her to do catalogue and lingerie jobs).

So far, so un-fairytale (though she does look amazing as Little Red Riding Hood)


Carmen’s first husband restricted her access to her own modelling cheques, which she got well out of. Two more hubbies followed suit, and Carmen gave up modelling, but none of these husbands offered the kind of financially secure future that people seem to think us models are capable of snaring. No, nothing about Carmen’s life has been conventional, and she had to look after herself to get by and raise her daughter, Laura.

It was top photographer Norman Parkinson, seeing her by chance in the street, who got her back into modelling when she was 49. 49!!! Most people have abandoned any realistic desire to stay modelling at that age but with her improbably aristocratic bone structure and shock of undyed, white hair (she refused to dye it in protest after one of her husbands plucked a white hair from her head, offending her) the fashion world embraced Carmen once more.

ca. May 1981, Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, California, USA --- Carmen Dell'Orefice and Statue --- Image by © Norman Parkinson/Sygma/Corbis

Image by © Norman Parkinson/Sygma/Corbis

The drama doesn’t end there – Carmen twice lost millions – in the 80s stock market crash and to fraudster Bernie Madoff. But no one can deny that Carmen is a wonder for dusting herself off and getting back on the horse – she’s not been able to rely on anyone other than herself, really.

And here we are – her refined features, grace, elegance and aristocratic bearing have made her one of fashion’s favourite mature models – one of the few ladies celebrated for her white hair and (very few) wrinkles rather than denigrated for allowing herself to get older. That’s not to say that Carmen hasn’t resorted to silicone injections, but where other women look like horror shows, Carmen just massively gets away with it and I can’t berate her for using surgery. She just looks amazing.


So: she didn’t get rich off rich men. She didn’t come from a glamorous family and she had to have injections to get the kind of curves other models are desperate to get rid of. Carmen is a mass of contradictions and preconception-busters, but most of all Carmen is a strong and free spirit. This gives her a light that the years – or the struggles – have failed to dim. And that’s why she’s my #ModelCrushMonday.

Rebecca x

Follow me on Facebook!

Leave a Reply