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Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty

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A revealing, no-holds-barred portrait of Eileen Ford—the legendary entrepreneur who transformed the business of modeling and helped invent the celebrity supermodel. Eileen Ford, working with her husband, Jerry, created the twentieth century's largest and most successful modeling agency, representing some of the fashion world's most famous names—Suzy Parker, Carmen Dell'Oref A revealing, no-holds-barred portrait of Eileen Ford—the legendary entrepreneur who transformed the business of modeling and helped invent the celebrity supermodel. Eileen Ford, working with her husband, Jerry, created the twentieth century's largest and most successful modeling agency, representing some of the fashion world's most famous names—Suzy Parker, Carmen Dell'Orefice, Lauren Hutton, Rene Russo, Christie Brinkley, Jerry Hall, Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell. Her relentless ambition turned the business of modeling into one of the most glamorous and desired professions, helping to convert her stable of beautiful faces into millionaire superstars. Model Woman chronicles the Ford Modeling Agency's meteoric rise to the top of the fashion and beauty business, and paints a vibrant portrait of the uncompromising woman at its helm in all her glittering, tyrannical brilliance. Outspoken and controversial, Ford was never afraid to offend in defense of her stringent standards. When she chose, she could deliver hauteur in the grand tradition of fashion's battle-axes, from Coco Chanel to Diana Vreeland—just ask John Casablancas or Janice Dickinson. But she was also a shrewd businesswoman with a keen eye for talent and a passion for serving her clients. Drawing on more than four years of intensive interviews with Ford and her intimates, associates, and rivals, as well as exclusive access to agency documents and memorabilia, Robert Lacey weaves an unforgettable tale of a determined entrepreneur and the empire she built—a story of beauty, ambition, business, and popular culture as powerful and complex as the woman at its center.


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A revealing, no-holds-barred portrait of Eileen Ford—the legendary entrepreneur who transformed the business of modeling and helped invent the celebrity supermodel. Eileen Ford, working with her husband, Jerry, created the twentieth century's largest and most successful modeling agency, representing some of the fashion world's most famous names—Suzy Parker, Carmen Dell'Oref A revealing, no-holds-barred portrait of Eileen Ford—the legendary entrepreneur who transformed the business of modeling and helped invent the celebrity supermodel. Eileen Ford, working with her husband, Jerry, created the twentieth century's largest and most successful modeling agency, representing some of the fashion world's most famous names—Suzy Parker, Carmen Dell'Orefice, Lauren Hutton, Rene Russo, Christie Brinkley, Jerry Hall, Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell. Her relentless ambition turned the business of modeling into one of the most glamorous and desired professions, helping to convert her stable of beautiful faces into millionaire superstars. Model Woman chronicles the Ford Modeling Agency's meteoric rise to the top of the fashion and beauty business, and paints a vibrant portrait of the uncompromising woman at its helm in all her glittering, tyrannical brilliance. Outspoken and controversial, Ford was never afraid to offend in defense of her stringent standards. When she chose, she could deliver hauteur in the grand tradition of fashion's battle-axes, from Coco Chanel to Diana Vreeland—just ask John Casablancas or Janice Dickinson. But she was also a shrewd businesswoman with a keen eye for talent and a passion for serving her clients. Drawing on more than four years of intensive interviews with Ford and her intimates, associates, and rivals, as well as exclusive access to agency documents and memorabilia, Robert Lacey weaves an unforgettable tale of a determined entrepreneur and the empire she built—a story of beauty, ambition, business, and popular culture as powerful and complex as the woman at its center.

30 review for Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty

  1. 4 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    This was a fun read for a number of reasons. I was intrigued by both the modelling industry and Eileen herself. Eileen was quite a character, with very strong opinions about all aspects of the modelling industry. The parts on the modelling industry itself appealed to my love of books about professions very different from my own (for example:  Lives in Ruins ,  The Residence , and  The News Sorority ). I think I enjoyed the book a little more because having watched some America's Next Top M This was a fun read for a number of reasons. I was intrigued by both the modelling industry and Eileen herself. Eileen was quite a character, with very strong opinions about all aspects of the modelling industry. The parts on the modelling industry itself appealed to my love of books about professions very different from my own (for example:  Lives in Ruins ,  The Residence , and  The News Sorority ). I think I enjoyed the book a little more because having watched some America's Next Top Model recently meant that I recognized a few of the big name models mentioned. For the most part though, the people in the story were new to me and that didn't decrease my enjoyment of the book. I appreciated that the author shared quotes and stories that showed both the good and the bad of Eileen and the modelling industry. It's important to me to come away from a nonfiction book feeling as though the author has objectively shared all sides of their subject and this book delivered. I was surprised by how much I loved the short chapters in this book as well. Combined with the interesting topics and relatively large text, they helped my fly through this book. I thought this was the perfect nonfiction read for the summer - nice and light, with appeal for anyone interested in different professions, the modelling industry, or fascinating women in history.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    A very readable and enjoyable biography of the great model agent Eileen Ford. Beyond the fashion history (and gossip) is a great story of a woman who started her own business when it was unusual for women to do so. More important, she advocated for better wages and working conditions for the (usually impoverished) young women she took under her wing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Terri Durling

    A fascinating account of the woman behind the very successful Ford Modelling Agency. This book is engaging and well laid out with short chapters provocatively titled with appropriate quotes at the commencement of each that draws you in. You get a vivid sense if who Eileen Ford was beginning with her birth in 1922, everything in between and her death in 2014. Her successful marriage to Gerry Ford who was the Roy Rogers to her Dale Evans is well documented. They were well suited, a dynamic duo wit A fascinating account of the woman behind the very successful Ford Modelling Agency. This book is engaging and well laid out with short chapters provocatively titled with appropriate quotes at the commencement of each that draws you in. You get a vivid sense if who Eileen Ford was beginning with her birth in 1922, everything in between and her death in 2014. Her successful marriage to Gerry Ford who was the Roy Rogers to her Dale Evans is well documented. They were well suited, a dynamic duo with different strengths that complemented each other perfectly and which was the reason for the success of both their business and marriage. They were devoted to each other and their family. She was not always easy to be around but was a straight shooter with old fashioned standards and an eye for who might make a good model.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy

    Quick, gossipy read. Lots of focus on the family dynamic of the Ford's, as well as a solid backstory on Eileen's early years. There was much to admire about her, but the author also shows her snappish side as well. Nuanced and impeccably researched. Quick, gossipy read. Lots of focus on the family dynamic of the Ford's, as well as a solid backstory on Eileen's early years. There was much to admire about her, but the author also shows her snappish side as well. Nuanced and impeccably researched.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased opinion. Model Woman tells the story of Eileen Ford, who founded one of the biggest modeling agencies in the United States and revolutionized the way models were treated. Prior to reading this book, I have to say I had never heard of Eileen Ford and knew next to nothing about the world of modeling. I was impressed with the way Eileen Ford treated her models; she did her best to protect them and keep the men in the modeling I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased opinion. Model Woman tells the story of Eileen Ford, who founded one of the biggest modeling agencies in the United States and revolutionized the way models were treated. Prior to reading this book, I have to say I had never heard of Eileen Ford and knew next to nothing about the world of modeling. I was impressed with the way Eileen Ford treated her models; she did her best to protect them and keep the men in the modeling world from taking advantage of them. Eileen Ford certainly sounds like a strong-willed, determined woman, which undoubtedly helped her become the successful businesswoman she was. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning about the business side of the modeling world.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Full disclosure: I won this in a goodreads giveaway. And I am very glad I did! This was a fantastic book. I knew nothing of Eileen Ford beyond the pop culture references to the "Ford Model" before reading this book. It is a wonderful look into the lives of people who basically created the modern modeling industry. It's light and breezy—almost gossipy, but never catty—tone is perfect for the subject matter. It moves easily through the decades of the lives of Eileen and her husband/partner Jerry. Full disclosure: I won this in a goodreads giveaway. And I am very glad I did! This was a fantastic book. I knew nothing of Eileen Ford beyond the pop culture references to the "Ford Model" before reading this book. It is a wonderful look into the lives of people who basically created the modern modeling industry. It's light and breezy—almost gossipy, but never catty—tone is perfect for the subject matter. It moves easily through the decades of the lives of Eileen and her husband/partner Jerry. There is romance, glamour, and conflict set mainly against a backdrop that could have come straight from 'Mad Men.' If you have any interest in fashion, or the inner workings of the industry, this is a must-read. Highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Revzin

    I received an ARC of this book and am writing a First Reads review. I came of age during the rise of the celebrity super models and enjoyed reading about their seemingly glamorous, glitzy, and fun-filled lives. So I was intrigued by Robert Lacey's account of the powerful and shrewd businesswoman who was a model before she co-founded the Ford modeling agency in 1947. Although she was extremely demanding and outspoken, she showed a very maternal side by taking teenage models into her home. If you I received an ARC of this book and am writing a First Reads review. I came of age during the rise of the celebrity super models and enjoyed reading about their seemingly glamorous, glitzy, and fun-filled lives. So I was intrigued by Robert Lacey's account of the powerful and shrewd businesswoman who was a model before she co-founded the Ford modeling agency in 1947. Although she was extremely demanding and outspoken, she showed a very maternal side by taking teenage models into her home. If you are a fan of fashion, fame, and beauty and want to get more than a glimpse of the modeling world, treat yourself to this well-written and researched book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marta Wiszka

    I am not a fashion person but my cousin is and decided to buy the book for her. As she's not around so decided to read it first and I have to say it was super interesting. Stories are incredible and it gave a bit different perspective on the whole fashion industry and its history (it wasn't only Eileen Ford story). I am not a fashion person but my cousin is and decided to buy the book for her. As she's not around so decided to read it first and I have to say it was super interesting. Stories are incredible and it gave a bit different perspective on the whole fashion industry and its history (it wasn't only Eileen Ford story).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    Surprisingly interesting. Fashion isn't important to me so my perspective was something of a stranger in a strange land. But this story of Eileen and Jerry Ford, such dynamic leaders in the modeling world for decades, was well-researched and well-written. Informative but not gossipy. Read it if you are curious about the ins and outs of the fashion world. Surprisingly interesting. Fashion isn't important to me so my perspective was something of a stranger in a strange land. But this story of Eileen and Jerry Ford, such dynamic leaders in the modeling world for decades, was well-researched and well-written. Informative but not gossipy. Read it if you are curious about the ins and outs of the fashion world.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda

    Well-researched account of the rise of Eileen Ford and her modelling agency which was successful over a long period of great change from the 1940s to the 1980s. It really was a team effort, with her husband Jerry having a big influence on the business due to his different character and strengths. Interesting to see the two sides of the modelling industry: women being used for their beauty and appearance, and the professionalisation of the modelling industry which allowed women to be independent a Well-researched account of the rise of Eileen Ford and her modelling agency which was successful over a long period of great change from the 1940s to the 1980s. It really was a team effort, with her husband Jerry having a big influence on the business due to his different character and strengths. Interesting to see the two sides of the modelling industry: women being used for their beauty and appearance, and the professionalisation of the modelling industry which allowed women to be independent and earn their own living. Eileen was a strong character who had a great impact on all she came in contact with. A good complement to a recent book I read about Marjorie Hillis, who wrote on women living alone.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This was a really enjoyable history book. I did not expect to love it as much as I did. It was a fast paced and fascinating glance into and industry, culture and powerful couple that I knew nothing about beforehand. Excellent read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Beth Gordon

    I knew nothing of Eileen Ford or modeling agencies. I learned a great deal about both.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Well written, insightful and very illuminating.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Charity Kelly

    Interesting biography of Eileen Ford and The Ford Agency. Great look into the world of modeling over the years.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robbin Dean

    I need to start by stating that I won this book from a Goodreads drawing. I really, really wanted to love this book. I think that I anticipated lots of gooey details about the glitz and glam of the world of Eileen Ford and her models. Sure there were many big names dropped throughout the book, but I was disappointed with the lack of stories that failed to accompany them. I even found myself wishing that the book would just end at certain points during the doldrums that come up way too often. This I need to start by stating that I won this book from a Goodreads drawing. I really, really wanted to love this book. I think that I anticipated lots of gooey details about the glitz and glam of the world of Eileen Ford and her models. Sure there were many big names dropped throughout the book, but I was disappointed with the lack of stories that failed to accompany them. I even found myself wishing that the book would just end at certain points during the doldrums that come up way too often. This book is truly about the business of managing models. That is all it is about. The famous faces on the cover tend to make you think that you are going to hear lots of juicy gossip about the beauties that entrusted their careers to the Fords. I do want to say that I think that the author writes well and did a lot of good research for the book. I just think that he was true to his subtitle. This book IS about the business of beauty. Unfortunately, the average consumer is going to expect some meatier stories about the models and Mrs. Ford.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ex Libris Meis

    Eileen Ford was considered “the empress of American modeling”. Together with her husband, she created the famous modeling agency FORD in 1947, and in 2007 it was sold for the sum of 50 million dollars. Of course, in those times, nobody expected women to work, but only to become housewives. “For some reason, I always expected that I would be earning my living when I grew up. I never expected anything different. My father expected me to aim high- and so did my mother.” http://www.exlibrismeis.com/en/2 Eileen Ford was considered “the empress of American modeling”. Together with her husband, she created the famous modeling agency FORD in 1947, and in 2007 it was sold for the sum of 50 million dollars. Of course, in those times, nobody expected women to work, but only to become housewives. “For some reason, I always expected that I would be earning my living when I grew up. I never expected anything different. My father expected me to aim high- and so did my mother.” http://www.exlibrismeis.com/en/2017/0...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mrs. Palmer

    Interesting story about the development of the modeling industry. There's a focus on Eileen Ford, who of course had a lot of influence. Some of her attitudes and the descriptions of her personality were...grating. She was definitely a character, and for better or worse, she truly impacted modeling and the fashion industry. Interesting story about the development of the modeling industry. There's a focus on Eileen Ford, who of course had a lot of influence. Some of her attitudes and the descriptions of her personality were...grating. She was definitely a character, and for better or worse, she truly impacted modeling and the fashion industry.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I would add this book to a career and inspirational shelf. I was surprised with how quickly I read this book and how much I liked it. The book delivers more than the business of modeling, taking place from the 1930's to 2014 the life of Eileen Ford was very successful and the biographer doesn't paint her in simple broad strokes. I would add this book to a career and inspirational shelf. I was surprised with how quickly I read this book and how much I liked it. The book delivers more than the business of modeling, taking place from the 1930's to 2014 the life of Eileen Ford was very successful and the biographer doesn't paint her in simple broad strokes.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Exapno Mapcase

    This is a Goodreads First Reads review. Lacey provides an even handed look at a somewhat polarizing industry. The emphasis is primarily on Eileen Ford, but he offers stories on all the major players, so even if you aren’t a modeling aficionado you can still get the entire story.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karen Butler

    Motivating! I guess there is a market for everything. You just have to find your niche. That gives the rest of us hope that we may strike it rich one day by finding a market that others have missed.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Neal

    3 1/2 stars really for me I enjoyed this look at the life of Eileen Ford and Ford Models. There were a lot of interesting anecdotes. It was a bit if a slow read, but don't give up on it. 3 1/2 stars really for me I enjoyed this look at the life of Eileen Ford and Ford Models. There were a lot of interesting anecdotes. It was a bit if a slow read, but don't give up on it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    JDAZDesigns

    I'm pretty sure we need to call her Saint Eileen from now forward. Read the book and you can figure out the rest. I'm pretty sure we need to call her Saint Eileen from now forward. Read the book and you can figure out the rest.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Linda Smolenski

    Fascinating look into the life of Eileen Ford and the modeling business in general. Very enjoyable and informative

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Croley

    An intriguing look into the Modeling world. Eileen Ford was one strong woman, who created an empire that is still going strong today. This is an interesting story. I won my copy from First Reads.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    I grew up hearing about Ford models but didn't know much about the woman who started the agency. Fun to read about the frivolous cut throat world of modeling. I grew up hearing about Ford models but didn't know much about the woman who started the agency. Fun to read about the frivolous cut throat world of modeling.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Karolina Kozlowska

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hillary

  29. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Allex

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gayle Reiten Talaga

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