Eileen Ford, Co-Founder of Ford Models and Creator of the Supermodel, Dies at 92By: Pam Wright - July 10, 2014
Eileen Ford, who co-founded Ford Models (formerly Ford Modeling Agency) with her husband Jerry in 1946, has died at the age of 92. She had been hospitalized since last week after suffering a fall in her New York City apartment.
Daughter Katie Ford released a statement to PEOPLE magazine:
“Eileen loved Jerry and her family and her friends, as well as Le Cirque, football, ballet, bellini’s, Benny Goodman, ’21’, books on history, the New York Post and The New York Times, Seinfeld, The Stork Club, her flower garden, The Ritz in Paris, champagne and caviar; great food and deli; Harry’s Bar in Venice, Frank & Ella, Aquavit, Quogue, Fairfield, Oldwick, the townhouse on 78th Street, beautiful models, photographers, fashion, Fred Astaire, and life in general.
“She was interested in everyone, and truly LOVED her husband of 64 years, Jerry, and her children, Jamie, Billy, Katie and Lacey, and her brothers Tom, Bill, and Bobby, and her grandchildren Tiger, Gerard, Jamie, Gered, Alessandra, Isabel, Will and Emma (and her adored five great grandchildren).”
Born Eileen Otte on March 25, 1922, Ford grew up on Long Island. In 1944, she met and married Jerry Ford, who was two years younger than she, and a football player at Notre Dame.
Their modeling business began simply enough — a model herself, she began to handle modeling bookings for two of her friends. Within a few short years, the business was flourishing.
While Jerry ran the business, Eileen kept busy taking care of the models. Their company changed the landscape of the business, taking it from “a mostly part-time, poorly paid hobby into one of the world’s most glamorous occupations, turning attractive girls next door into multimillionaire celebrity supermodels,” as reported by PEOPLE.
Ford had a very distinct vision of beauty and demanded that her models have that certain look.
“I feel that my ideas of beauty have been given very strong backing by Botticelli and a few others,” she told PEOPLE. “Slender hands, long neck, long limbs – look at Nefertiti. She was very teensy-weensy with a long neck and wide-spaced eyes.”
“The typical Ford woman was tall, thin, often blond, with wide-set eyes and a long neck. Eileen Ford was known to tell hopefuls shorter than 5 foot 7 to give up their dreams,” noted the Associated Press. “The Ford look changed remarkably little over the years, and set a standard for the industry. Height and a willowy build remain paramount, though Ford was disdainful of the ‘waif’ look – typified by British model Kate Moss – popular in the early 1990s.”
Robert Lacey, who has written a biography about Ford, Model Woman, which will be released in 2015, said Ford had a close relationship with many of the models, sometimes even inviting them to live in their home.
“Eileen was an outspoken and controversial woman, never afraid to offend in defense of her traditional standards and, in particular, of the welfare of her models, to whom she was fiercely protective,” says Robert Lacey. “Eileen Ford treated her models as her own children – many stayed with her and her family in their Manhattan town house at East 78th Street. With her husband Jerry she worked to improve models’ working conditions and wages, moving away from payment by the hour or day to the concept of payment by ‘usage,’ which laid the economic basis for the phenomenon of the supermodel.”
Ford Models was eventually sold in 2007, the year before Jerry Ford’s death.
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