Early supermodel made ‘50s Revlon cosmetics line famous
Dorian Leigh, an early supermodel who made Revlon’s 1950s Fire and Ice cosmetics line famous, has died. She was 91.
Leigh, who went on to run her own modeling agency and open a restaurant in France, died Monday at a nursing home in Falls Church, Va., according to her eldest son, T.L. Hawkins of McLean, Va.
Leigh began her modeling career at a major fashion agency run by Harry Conover. She appeared on the cover of numerous magazines, including Look, McCall’s and Harper’s Bazaar and worked with renowned photographers, including Richard Avedon, Louise Dahl-Wolfe and Irving Penn.
She was among the first models who signed with the Ford Agency. In 1997, founder Eileen Ford told the Free Lance-Star in Virginia that Leigh was “truly the best model of our time.”
“She instinctively knew what every photographer wanted, and she came alive just at the moment the shutter clicked,” Ford said.
Leigh helped Revlon’s Fire and Ice and Cherries in the Snow lipstick and nail polish campaigns take off in the 1950s with photographs by Avedon.
Her son recalls one memorable image featuring the curvy, brunet model looking into the camera with her striking blue eyes.
Her mouth is slightly open, showing off the Revlon lipstick that became popular. At 5 feet 5, she’s standing in high heels, with one hand propped on her hip and the other close to her cheek.
“It was a fantastic shot,” Hawkins said. “It was a rhinestone dress that went all the way down to the floor.”
Leigh brought her younger sister, Suzy Parker, into the industry. Parker went on to become a prominent supermodel. She died in 2003.
Hawkins said Leigh had at least five husbands, the first of whom was his father, Marshall Hawkins. Leigh claimed to have married another man with whom she had a son, but Hawkins said it was unclear whether they had actually tied the knot.
Leigh was born April 23, 1917, in San Antonio, the eldest of four daughters. Before modeling, she worked at a New Jersey company that did mechanical design for the military.
After Leigh left modeling in the 1960s, she started a modeling agency in Paris, among the first in France.
After divorcing her last husband, Leigh devoted herself to cooking.
She attended Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris and opened a restaurant south of Paris.
In the 1970s, she worked with Martha Stewart, developing recipes and publishing cookbooks, according to her son.
Throughout her life, Leigh savored attention and loved to entertain. Hawkins said his mother enjoyed having all eyes turn her way when she walked into a room. She would arrive deliberately late to gatherings to ensure a grand entrance.
“She was like a diva,” Hawkins said. “It was just remarkable. It was just an aura, she had an aura.”
In addition to Hawkins, she is survived by daughters Young Eve Paciello and Miranda Bordat-vanEttan; a sister; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.