Dovima the Divine
“The clothes have a structured beauty;
the gloves are mandatory;
the necks are long.
Elegant men with
cigarettes between their fingers
occasionally enter the frame,
who appear utterly indifferent
to their attention.”
Featured: Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba,
later known as Dorothy Horan,
best known as Dovima.
A name she, herself, created:
“Do” for Dorothy,
“vi” for victory,
and “ma” for her ma.
“Dovima, New York,” 1954, reinterpreted in 1994.
Photo: From “Lillian Bassman: Women” (Abrams)
“She was the last
of the great elegant,
the most remarkable
and unconventional beauty of her time.”
”I never thought of myself
as a beautiful woman.
As a child,
I was a gangly,
skinny thing and
I had this ugly front tooth
that I broke
when I was playing dress-up
in my mother’s clothes.”
Legend has it that Dovima was discovered while waiting for a friend outside of a Manhattan Automat, (life-changing encounters seemed to have happened with some regularity in those days). Reportedly, a woman approached Doe (a nickname affectionately conferred on her by family) on the street to ask if she had ever modeled. As fate and fortune would have it, the woman worked for Vogue and took her to the offices on the spot for some test shots.
From the chronicles of “overnight success,” the following day Dovima did a shoot with the legendary photographer Irving Penn. Insecure about her smile because of the broken front tooth, Dovima wisely kept her mouth closed which resulted in a kind of mysterious look reminiscent of the Mona Lisa. The series of shots propelled her onto fashion pages aross the country for the next decade. Thus, the highest paid model in the fashion world with a face that evoked the term “supermodel,” long before the term was coined, was launched.
“She was the super-sophisticated model
in a sophisticated time,
definitely not the girl next door.”
~Jerry Ford, Ford Models
“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.”
“I would just never appear
without looking like Dovima,
who was to me an image of myself.”
She left modeling in 1962, at the age of 35, saying,
”I didn’t want to wait
until the camera turned cruel.”