Carmen Dell’Orefice wasn’t the most famous model of her time, but she is one of the only ones who are still actively working. Carmen’s celebrity really rose over the past twenty years, in which she has graced more magazine covers and advertising campaigns then in her heyday in the 1950’s. Carmen has been modeling for more than sixty years and such record did not go unnoticed. The Guinness World Records awarded Carmen the record of “The Longest career as a catwalk model”. Proof of that is that Carmen remains active on the runways, making appearances for John Galliano in 2000, Hermes in 2004, Alberta Ferreti in 2011 and twice in 2012 for designers Norisol Ferrari and Marimekko. But Carmen’s start and early development wasn’t easy. She was discovered at the age of 14 by a woman on a bus in New York City, where she was born and raised. The young girl then did a photo shoot for Harper’s Bazaar but was not deemed photogenic by the magazine. Two weeks later however, Carmen was sent to Vogue, where the beauty editor Carol Phillips saw her and thought she was in fact photogenic. The difference of opinion through the lens of a photographer created a relationship between Vogue and the model which eventually landed her on their cover, in 1948 at the age of fifteen.
Carmen’s studies at the Ballet Russes were useful in this new career as the ability to move gracefully came easily to her. That did not go unnoticed. Photographers like Horst P. Horst, Irving Penn, Norman Parkinson, Francesco Scavullo, John Rawllings and Constantin Joffe lined up to shoot her pictures. It was Cecil Beaton who introduced Carmen to Salvador Dali when she was 15. Dali painted a topless portrait of the model which is now owned by Queen Elizabeth from England. Carmen’s career soared smoothly through the 50’s. A 10-year contract with the well-known lingerie brand Vanity Fair became iconic and a campaign for Revlon’s “Queen of Diamonds”, photographed by Richard Avedon was a game changer in her career. With a new breath of photographers to work with, Carmen was now ironically being photographed for Harper’s Bazaar too. Lilian Bassman, Tom Palumbo, Carmen Schiavone and Gleb Derujinsky, along her longtime friend Richard Avedon were some of them. Carmen took a brief pause from her career in 1966 and then returned for an astonishing second phase that lasts to this day. With cameo appearances in major motion pictures, such as Woody Allen’s “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” and Martin Scorcese’s “The Age of Innocence” as well as a long list of magazine covers and ad campaigns for distinguished brands such as Rolex, Delvaux and Missoni, Carmen doesn’t seem to get tired. Her remarkable career has been subject for a documentary, Carmen: A Life in Fashion. Produced by the University of the arts in London, which awarded her an honorary doctorate, the movie was accompanied by an exhibition which showcased Carmen’s magazine covers as well as other highlights taken from her personal archives. Most recently, Carmen could be seen in HBO’s documentary About Face, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and aired in 2012.