She launched the careers of supermodels like Christie Brinkley, Cheryl Tiegs, Veruschka, Jerry Hall, Grace Jones, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Elle Macpherson, as well as big-name actresses like Jane Fonda, Ali MacGraw, Brooke Shields, Candice Bergen and Lauren Hutton. Eileen Ford, the head of one of the world’s most famous modeling brands, died earlier this week at the age of 92. In the late 1940s, Eileen and her husband Jerry created Ford Models, which became the top agency in the world and elevated the modeling profession into a serious business with one-million-dollar contracts. She had a reputation for protecting models from underhanded deals and sexual misconduct (especially resonant in the wake of the Terry Richardson saga). “They have to account for their time to me,” she said in a 1984 Forbes article. “I don’t ever want to tell a mother I don’t know where her daughter is at 2 a.m.” At the same time, she made no apologies for upholding particular beauty standards and frequently told her girls to lose weight and get nose jobs. Challenged in 1971 by a guest on The Dick Cavett Show, who compared a model agency to pimping, Mrs. Ford replied, “I never worry about fat people worrying about thin people, because slender people bury the dead.”
As the head of Ford Models, Eileen Ford and her husband elevated the profession of modeling. She was known for protecting her models, while also holding to particular beauty ideals.