The world’s oldest working model looks back on more than 60 years of photographs in Harper’s Bazaar.
Carmen Dell’Orefice was just 13 years old when she was discovered on a crosstown bus on New York’s 57th Street, some 73 years ago. Now, at 86, she’s still at it, which makes her the longest-working model in history. That’s her story and she’s sticking to it. And why not? It happens to be true.
I’ve known Carmen (she goes by her first name only) for more than 20 years. But even today when I am in her company, I cannot take my eyes off her. That’s how strikingly beautiful she is. She’s also one of the sweetest people on the planet. There’s not a diva’s bone in her five-foot-nine-inch body—though she’d be the first to admit that her bones are a bit more brittle these days. Her relationship with Harper’s Bazaar began sporadically in the early 1950s, following her career at Vogue and an ongoing campaign for Vanity Fair—the lingerie company, not the magazine. When she seriously caught the eye of Diana Vreeland, Bazaar’s extremely particular fashion editor, she was already 26, nearing retirement age for most models at the time. Mrs. Vreeland wanted Richard Avedon to bring Carmen to Paris to shoot the collections for the September 1957 issue, but Avedon was resistant.