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My Lunch With Eileen

Posted By Lois Joy Johnson On July 17, 2014 @ 12:08 pm In Be Your Best | No Comments

Eileen Ford New York 1977 [1]I was at my desk at Ladies’ Home Journal [2] one spring morning in 1996 when the phone rang.

“It’s Eileen Ford,” said a cultured voice. “I’d like to take you to lunch.”

At first I thought it was my office assistant, playing a practical joke. Why would the godmother of the supermodel [3] (who died July 9 at 92) be calling me?

As a young editorial assistant, I had done photo shoots with some of Ford’s top discoveries – Cheryl Tiegs, Lauren Hutton, Christie Brinkley [4] – but I had never met the woman who almost single-handedly transformed the modeling industry into something both legitimate and lucrative. By 1996, however, I was the beauty and fashion director of a top women’s magazine, and we were on the verge of launching a new publication – MORE magazine – aimed at women 40 and up. Could that be why Ms. Ford wanted to see me?

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Eileen Ford on phone [6]Remember, girlfriends, this was back in the Dark Ages when no normal woman admitted to being 40, let alone 50! So I was curious – and nervous – about the prospect of lunching with the legendary queen bee of beauty. (Which didn’t stop me from talking about it – OK, bragging about it – for days beforehand.)

Lunch was at the Four Seasons on East 52nd Street – major power-broker territory. The 74-year-old Ford showed up glowing with energy; tanned and toting a chic handbag, she looked slim and trim in a pink tweed suit I’d swear was Chanel. We introduced ourselves, bonded over the discovery we were both Long Island girls, then ordered. (Ford’s choice of entree – a baloney sandwich on rye – was not on the Four Seasons menu, trust me.)

“What makes a great model?” I asked Ford.

“It’s an undefinable factor, like a special chromosome,” said the talent titan famous for spotting supermodel Vendela in a Stockholm restaurant. “I can’t describe it. I just know it when I see it.”

Then, kicking off her heels under the table, Ford revealed her agenda: “How do you think advertisers will respond to a magazine that celebrates older women [7]?”

I was used to that query by now, so I was ready with a response: “Hopefully, they’ll realize we’re the ones who have all the money!”

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Once MORE was launched and thriving, I wound up featuring many a Ford model in its pages: Beverly Johnson, Brooke Shields, even Twiggy. Their longevity in the business is a testament to Ford’s eye – and foresight.

Back at that lunch table, meanwhile, she was not quite finished flouting convention: When we got around to coffee, Ford pulled a bag of Famous Amos chocolate-chip cookies out of that designer bag and asked me if I’d like a couple for dessert. The mother of all supermodels [9] was really just one of the girls.

I never saw Eileen Ford again, but I’ll never forget how she exuded youth without trying to look young [10]. In a world of wannabe beauties – pumped, plumped and primped, filled, whittled and chiseled – Eileen Ford was the real deal.


Photos: Marty Lederhandler/AP Photo; Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images


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Article printed from AARP: http://blog.aarp.org

URL to article: http://blog.aarp.org/2014/07/17/my-lunch-with-eileen/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://blog.aarp.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/AP7706290165.jpg

[2] Ladies’ Home Journal: http://blog.aarp.org/2014/04/25/sad-ending-to-ladies-home-journals-era/?intcmp=AE-BLIL-BL

[3] the godmother of the supermodel: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/11/business/eileen-ford-a-founder-of-top-modeling-agency-dies-at-92.html

[4] Christie Brinkley: http://blog.aarp.org/2014/01/31/heres-whats-great-about-seeing-sexy-at-60/?intcmp=AE-BLIL-BL

[5] >> Sign up for the AARP Health Newsletter : http://www.aarp.org/online-community/people/subscribeFromEmail.action?id=19061&intcmp=ILC-EMAIL-SUB-HLTH

[6] Image: http://blog.aarp.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/180676100.jpg

[7] older women: http://blog.aarp.org/2014/06/26/donnalou-stevens-stands-up-for-older-ladies-in-viral-video/?intcmp=AE-BLIL-BL

[8] >> Get travel discounts with your AARP Member Advantages.: http://discounts.aarp.org/travel/index/uSource/HCTN?intcmp=AE-BL-TRV-DISC

[9] mother of all supermodels: http://blog.aarp.org/2014/07/11/eileen-ford-she-created-supermodels/?intcmp=AE-BLIL-BL

[10] without trying to look young: http://blog.aarp.org/2014/07/01/oh-grow-up-four-ways-to-fight-ageism/?intcmp=AE-BLIL-BL

[11] The 5-Minute Eye Wakeup: http://blog.aarp.org/2014/07/16/the-5-minute-eye-wakeup/?intcmp=AE-ENDART1-BL-REL

[12] Too Old for Long Hair?: http://blog.aarp.org/2012/10/17/too-old-for-long-hair/%20?intcmp=AE-ENDART2-BL-BOS

[13] Fight Fraud and ID Theft With the AARP Fraud Watch Network: http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/fraud-watch-network/?intcmp=AE-BL-ENDART-ADV-FWN

[14] Join AARP: https://appsec.aarp.org/MSS/join/application?keycode=U9ZTPH9&intcmp=AE-ENDART3-BL-MEM

[15] AARP home page: http://www.aarp.org/?intcmp=AE-ENDART3-BL-HP

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