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Dorian Leigh
Birth name Dorian Elizabeth Leigh Parker
Date of birth April 23, 1917(1917-04-23)
Place of birth San Antonio, Texas
Date of death July 7, 2008 (aged 91)
Place of death Falls Church, Virginia
Occupation model
Spouse(s) Marshall Hawkins (divorced 1937)
Roger W. Mehle (married 1948, divorced),
Alfonso de Portago(annulled)
Serge Bordat (divorced)
Iddo Ben-Gurion (married 1964, divorced 1966)

Dorian Leigh (born Dorian Elizabeth Leigh Parker) (April 23 1917 - July 7 2008) was an American model and one of the earliest modelling icons of the fashion industry.[1] She is considered one of the first supermodels.

Contents

Career

Leigh modeled from 1945 until the early 1960s, at a time when modeling for photographs was considered the most prestigious segment of the profession. Leigh also became a signature model for Revlon. Revlon began full page, national, color advertisements in the mid-1940s and Leigh starred in one of the first-in 1945's "Fatal Apple." This was followed by "Ultraviolet" and "Cherries in the Snow." In 1953, when she was 36-years-old, Richard Avedon shot her for Revlon's most famous advertising campaign ever, for Fire and Ice. For this ad, Leigh was sewed into a tight silver dress (only the front of the dress was finished in time), wrapped in a huge red, billowing cape with a silver streak in her black hair. The original photograph had her clutching her bosom with long red finger nails. The photo was rejected as too sexual. Avedon shot Leigh again, this time with her fingers spread out in the air. The ad was accompanied by a provactive quiz and became an enormous success, winning Advertising Age's "Magazine Advertisement of the Year" award.

It is believed that Leigh was an inspiration for the character Holly Golightly in Truman Capote's novel Breakfast at Tiffany's.[2]

After ending her career as a model, Leigh opened her own modeling agency in Paris, but, due to the illegal activities of her fourth husband, the agency had to be closed down. Leigh then became a chef and caterer in Paris, New York and Italy. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she lived in Pound Ridge, New York, where she made pâtés for delicatessens and specialty food shops, according to a profile in The New York Times by Enid Nemy. She also worked with Martha Stewart in the early 1980s.[3]

In 1980, Leigh published an autobiography, The Girl Who Had Everything (Doubleday) [4]. She also had poems published in The New Yorker.

Biography

Leigh was born in San Antonio, Texas, to George and Elizabeth Parker. Her parents married when they were 18 and 17 respectively. She had three sisters, Georgiabell, Florian and Cecilia (who became known as model/actress Suzy Parker) [5]. The family later moved to Queens; George Parker invented a new form of acid etching which brought wealth to the family [6].

Prior to her modeling career, Ms. Leigh attended Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia, majoring in English. She later studied calculus and engineering at New York University and got a job working for the United States Navy performing mechanical drafting. At Eastern Air Lines (with their Eastern Aircraft division,) she assisted in the design of airplane wings, beginning at 65 cents an hour and ending up with an hourly wage of $1.00. After failing to be promoted because she was a woman, Leigh quit and took a job with Republic Pictures as an apprentice copywriter.

Personal

She was married five times (divorced four times, one Mexican marriage possibly declared null) and was the mother of five children by four different men.

While at Randolph-Macon Woman's College, she married her first husband, Marshall Hawkins. She was only around 17 at the time. They had two children, Thomas Loften (T.L) Hawkins and Marsha Hawkins (deceased in the 1980s.) [7] and divorced in 1937 when she was 20.

Her second marriage was to US Navy officer, later Rear Admiral [8] Roger W. Mehle, Sr. (16 October 1915 to 30 August 1997), in 1948. They had one daughter Young Eve Mehle, born 27 March, 1949 [9] . Mehle already had a son, Roger W. Mehle Jr., from a prior marriage, to society columnist Suzy (true name Aileen Mehle) of Women's Wear Daily and prior to that, the New York Post. Leigh and Mehle divorced around 1953 or 1954.

Her third marriage was in Mexico. She married Spanish marquis/race car driver Alfonso de Portago; the couple had a son, Kim de Portago (aka Kim Blas Parker.) However, their marriage was declared null, as he married her bigamously, while still wed to former American showgirl Carroll McDaniel. Alfonso de Portago died in a car crash during the 1957 Mille Miglia race; the crash also killed his passenger and ten spectators. Leigh and Portago's son, Kim Blas Parker became a drug addict and at 21, committed suicide by jumping from a window. (After being widowed, Carroll McDaniel Portago went on to marry multi-millionaire Milton Petrie).

Leigh's fourth marriage was to Serge Bordat. During their marriage, Leigh bore a daughter, Miranda Bordat (born 1959,) by a man not her husband. She stated that at age 42, she was desperate to have another child and slept with several men in a week during a European Christmas skiing vacation. Leigh believed that Miranda's biological father was a ski instructor at the resort. [10].

Her fifth marriage was to playwright Iddo Ben-Gurion. Leigh was 47 and her husband was in his 20s. The marriage lasted from 1964-1966.

Leigh never remarried and remained single until her death.

Second Career

Ms. Leigh established the Chez Dorian restaurant in the 1960's, near Fountainbleau, and ran it for two years while also teaching at the Paris American Academy and La Varenne cooking school. After returning to the United States, Leigh ran a private catering concern in the Washington, D.C. area called Fete Acommplie. Leigh authored several books on cooking, specifically "Pancakes: From Flapjacks to Crepes" (1988) and "Doughnuts: Over Three Dozen Crullers, Fritters and Other Treats" (1994).

Later Life

According to Leigh, she wrote her autobiography for her late son: "I really wrote it for Kim, who will never read it. But perhaps other Kims and their parents may learn from my unhappy experiences " [11].

After her son's death, Leigh became a born-again Christian, stating: "All my life I've refused book offers. But now, I'm not living for myself; I'm living for Christ. I know it sounds like something from Billy Graham, but I am trying. This involves every decision and every impulse. I had to convince myself that doing this book wasn't for myself, that it needed to be told" [12].

Ms. Leigh died in a Falls Church, Virginia nursing home of the effects of Alzheimer's disease [13].

References

  1. ^ Gross, Michael. Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women, 2003, Harper Paperbacks, ISBN 0060541636
  2. ^ New York Times obituary
  3. ^ "Dorian Leigh: The Model Who Had It All", The New York Times, 12 February 1980
  4. ^ The Girl Who Had Everything, A Ginger Book (1980), ISBN 978-0553142648
  5. ^ New York Times obituary
  6. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/2276722/Dorian-Leigh.html
  7. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/09/AR2008070902161_2.html
  8. ^ http://www.usna63.org/tradition/genealogy/
  9. ^ http://www.geneall.net/U/per_page.php?id=1077553
  10. ^ The Girl Who Had Everything, A Ginger Book (1980), ISBN 97-8055314264-8
  11. ^ Ibid
  12. ^ "Dorian Leigh: The Model Who Had It All"
  13. ^ Wash. Post obit.

External links

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