Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dovima the Divine

~Kate Moss (Calvin Klein)~
Since the invention of photography, the fashion model has helped to shape and advance Western culture's idea of feminine beauty. These models continue to reveal powerful aspects of their respective generation of women and society's perception of femininity, sensuality, and sexuality - a woman's mystique. The model is not just the canvas or manikin which designers have used to reveal the future trends in fashion, she embodies, represents, and creates the desired female silhouette of a unique era and the evolving ideas about women and what it has meant - what is means - to be female. 

~Peggy Moffitt~
Current trends in the fashion model industry include exotic, international darlings stomping the runway, curvaceous, full-figured beauties featured in printed spreads, and models creating their own entertainment and product empires, like Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum. In the 1990s, model Kate Moss became the center of an industry health controversy and crisis when heroin chic stormed the fashion world and size triple-0 embodied the idealized female silhouette. The Glamourpuss, or million dollar baby, emerged in the 1980s with models like Christie Brinkley, Naomi Campbell, and Elle McPherson, and replaced the Hollywood starlet as the symbol of beauty and wealth. The 1970s introduced the fit and toned athletic models, like Cheryl Tiegs and Bev Johnson, spread over the pages of Sports Illustrated and Vogue magazines, sporting sun-kissed skin, baby-pink lips, and free-flowing trusses of hair. These healthy-looking and physically fit models were a welcome replacement for models like Twiggy and Penelope Tree, who exemplified the emaciated look of the 1960s, or the sharp androgynous look of models like Peggy Moffitt. 

But it was in the 1950s when the supermodel began her climb to the standards in fashion and popular culture which we are so familiar with today. Jean Patchett, the sisters Suzy Parker and Dorian Leigh, Lisa Fonssagrives, and Carmen Dell'Orefice - all sensational beauties whose images captured the fabulous post-war age of Western peace, stability, and growing wealth. 

~Dovima (Funny Face, 1957)~
But, no one was Dovima. 

Born December 11, 1927 in Queens, New York, Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba was the oldest child of Stanley and Margaret Juba.[1] Although she had a brother, Stan, who was two years her junior, Dorothy recalled a very lonely childhood where she always felt like “the child who never belonged.”[2] In 1937, she contracted rheumatic fever and spent the next seven years confined to her parents’ New York apartment and taught by tutors. Perhaps it was a childhood of isolation and loneliness that compelled Dorothy to marry the boy a few floors up, Jack Golden, at 18. If she desired freedom from her over-protective mother and a new life outside of her childhood home, the marriage to Golden offered her no hope for either – he simply moved in with her and her parents.[3]

In 1949, still married to Jack Golden and still living with her parents, Dorothy lost her position as an assistant artist in a Manhattan advertising agency. She decided to meet up with a friend that afternoon for lunch, and while waiting for her luncheon date outside of a building on 42nd Street, Dorothy was approached by a female magazine staffer from Vogue who asked her if she had ever modeled before. Persuaded by the woman to follow her upstairs to the Vogue studios for a few head-shots, Dorothy reluctantly missed her lunch, but left the magazine that afternoon with a check for $17.50 (approximately $180.00 in today’s money) – she filled in for a model who called in sick.[4] The following afternoon, Dorothy was back at Vogue studios being photographed by Irving Penn. When the session was over he asked her name and she replied, “Dovima, just Dovima,” the name of the alter-ego she has created for herself as child, a combination of the first two letters from each of her three given names.[5]

~Dovima (Hattie Carnegie, 1952)~
Weighing 115 pounds and standing five-feet eight-inches tall, Dovima never considered herself beautiful, but a “gangly, skinny thing.”[6] Despite her self-image, she became a modeling sensation almost immediately. A year after her first photo shoot with Penn, Dovima was the highest paid model in the world, commanding thirty dollars an hour, where top Parisian models were topping out at twenty-five.[7] She became the subject and muse of renowned fashion photographer, Richard Avedon, who described her as “the last of the great elegant, aristocratic beauties…the most remarkable and unconventional beauty of her time.”[8] Dovima was anything but the girl next door.

However, Dovima’s title as the world’s top fashion model was far from glamorous and charmed. Two years into her modeling career she and Jack Golden divorced. He struggled to accept her fame and drank to excess.[9] Dovima remarried shortly after her divorce from Golden to Alan Murry, an official with the United States Department of Immigration. By then, Dovima was making $75,000 a year, and the couple lived in her palatial 7th Avenue apartment in Manhattan. In 1958, the couple welcomed their first child together, a daughter named Alice.[10] But from the onset, their marriage relationship was abusive. Fellow model and friend, Carmen Dell’Orefice, said, “I’d find [Dovima] on my doorstep black and blue and I’d take her in…she chose men that beat her.”[11] After discovering that Murry had mismanaged and squandered her money, Dovima divorced her husband in 1963, a year after she had officially retired from the modeling industry. With Alice, Dovima moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, but Murry had her charged with kidnapping, and she lost custody and was denied visitation with her young daughter.[12]
~Dovima (Harper's Bazaar, 1950)~
The acting parts offered to Dovima were few and small, with little recognition, and she was forced to return to New York City in the late-1960s. In 1974, she was living in a run-down apartment and working as a sales clerk at Ohrbach’s department store on West 34th Street. Destitute and sick with pneumonia, an old friend from her former modeling days encouraged her to leave the city and move to Ft. Lauderdale with her parents.[13] There, she met West Hollingsworth, her third husband and love of her life. They were together for twelve years before he died in February 1986.[14] When John DeGroot, journalist for the Orlando Sentinel, interviewed Dovima later that same year in August, she was working as a hostess at Two Guys Pizza in Ft. Lauderdale. She died four years later, at age 63, on May 31, 1990, from lung cancer. 

~Dovima (Nelly Don, 1955)~
Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba, the Irish-Polish American girl who dreamed of becoming a painter, shot to the stars as the world’s top fashion model of the 1950s. Dovima the Divine, she graced the covers of more than 500 magazines, raked in $75 an hour at the height of her career, and epitomized the sophisticated and patrician beauty so coveted by the fashion industry of her time. Vogue photographer, Richard Avedon, said, “The ideal of beauty then was the opposite of what it is now. It stood for an extension of the aristocratic view of women as ideals, of women as dreams, of women as almost surreal objects. Dovima fit that in her proportions.”[15]  Her grace and beauty were, indeed, transcendent.

[1] Edwards, Owen. “Fashion Faux Pas,” Smithsonian Magazine, October 2005.
[2] DeGroot, John. “Still Life as the World’s Top Model, Her Life Was Like a Hollywood Script. Now Dovima Is Waiting For Her Happy Ending,” Orlando Sentinel, August 17, 1986.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Edwards, “Fashion Faux Pas.”
[5] DeGroot, “Still Life as the World’s Top Model.”
[6] “Dovima the Divine.” Errant Aesthete:  Essentials for the Cocktail Swilling Savant. WordPress, September 23, 2009.
[7] Edwards, “Fashion Faux Pas.”
[8] Edwards, “Fashion Faux Pas”; “Dovima the Divine.”
[9] DeGroot, “Still Life as the World’s Top Model.”
[10] “Milestones.” Time Magazine Vol. LXXII No. 2 (July 14, 1958).
[11] “Dovima Bio.” (Accessed September 21, 2013).
[12] DeGroot, “Still Life as the World’s Top Model.”
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid. 
[15] “Dovima the Divine.”

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