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Eileen Ford: Six Decades of Defining Beauty via YouTube

One doesn’t have to be in the fashion world to know that to be a “Ford Model” is to be at the summit of the industry. Eileen Ford, widely credited with pioneering the modern modeling agency, co-founded the iconic Ford Models with her husband, Jerry Ford. She died on July 10. She was 92.

In its statement about her passing, Ford Models shared, “Eileen’s contributions to the modeling and fashion industries are unmatched. She founded Ford Models 68 years ago and due to her unwavering passion, curiosity and drive, grew Ford into one of the world’s most prestigious agencies.”

When Eileen launched her agency, models were not revered as the celebrities they are today. In 1946, there was no such thing as the “supermodel”—the kind who commands enormous salaries. In fact, it was Eileen’s innovative perspective and unique vision of the model’s potential that transformed our thinking to the model as global star and brand ambassador. Throughout the years, those star-women, many of whom were mentored by Ford to cross over to the big screen, have included Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Ali MacGraw, Cheryl Tiegs, Lauren Hutton, Margaux Hemingway, Jerry Hall, Kim Basinger, Brooke Shields, Christie Brinkley, Melanie Griffith, Sharon Stone, Rachel Hunter, and Christy Turlington. (See a slideshow of some of the women she helped to make famous.)

Obit Eileen Ford

Eileen, a mother of four herself, was revered as the grande dame of the modeling industry; she was very protective of her models (many of them lived in her home), and she ran her agency with an iron fist.

Mrs. Ford built a reputation for transforming girls into stars with lessons in grooming, etiquette and style while running her agency like a convent. Some in the industry called her the mother of New York modeling, in almost the literal sense. A formidable manager, she was widely known for protecting models from underhanded deals and sexual misconduct and generally cleaning up the sleazy image of the business, insisting that both clients and models observe a code of ethics and decorum (The New York Times)

She was also a visionary. The Los Angeles Times reports that she “accurately predicted that 20 years down the road the business would see a shift to models staying active much longer because the ‘buying power will be with people in their 50s and 60s.’”

She was an author, writing five books including Eileen Ford’s A More Beautiful You in 21 Days (1972) and Eileen Ford’s Beauty Now and Forever: Secrets of Beauty After 35 (1977), plus a syndicated newspaper column, “Eileen Ford’s Model Beauty,” in the 1970s.

Her forthcoming Ford biography Model Woman, written by Robert Lacey, is due from Harper Collins in early 2015.