How the Modern Modeling Agency Came to Be

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This was a precursor for what would become the protocol by which models were paid for the rest of the century, but as Natálie [Nickerson] put it to Eileen [Ford] in their late-night Barbizon conversations, the system was back to front. According to Eileen, Natálie told her, “Models were treated as if they worked for the agencies, instead of the agencies working for them. There was too much sink-or-swim. Models needed to know exactly where they had to be for a job, and what they were supposed to bring with them, and the big agencies were not efficient in making sure their girls knew even such simple things. There was no career planning, no special training or care, no help with hair or makeup—no real system at all.”

So the two women decided to work out a system together. Eileen would act as secretary and booker to Natálie and to another model, Inga Lindgren, a Swedish beauty with high-arching eyebrows and meticulously manicured nails. Each model would pay Eileen $65 per month for her secretarial assistance and for making phone bookings, while Natálie would act as a discreet publicist and drummer-up of business, quietly recommending the energy and efficiency of Eileen’s services to other models. “I realized,” Natálie explained to Michael Gross, “that for any new operation to be successful, they had to have at least one top girl, and I was the model of the moment.” Natálie beat the bushes well. Eileen started working for her and Lindgren in the fall of 1946, and by March of the following year Natálie’s word of mouth and Eileen’s proven efficiency had attracted the signing of seven additional successful models—high-flying women who were all fed up with how men were handling their business. Each newcomer paid Eileen a further $65 for her services, which took her monthly income to almost $600—some $7,000 per year.

Robert Lacey writing in Vanity Fair about the history of Ford Models. Started by a pair of newlyweds in post-World War II Manhattan, Ford Models quickly became one of the most powerful agencies in the business and helped “launch the era of the supermodel.” Lacey’s Vanity Fair piece is adapted from his forthcoming book, Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty.

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Heidi Julavits and the Democracy of the Diary

Photo: Silvia Sala

It just wasn’t that interesting to read the entries in chronological order, so I started to play around with different ways to arrange them, like dividing them up into categories like “Friends” and “Children” and “Weather” and … I don’t know, “Sweaters.” But all of those categories kept collapsing back into themselves. “Friends” and “Sweaters” belonged together, and so on. Eventually I had one big pile of entries again. The metaphor I’ve been using to describe my eventual assembly process is the “mix tape metaphor.”

— Heidi Julavits kept a meticulous diary as a child. In preparation for a new project, she returned to journaling, only to discover that the journal itself would be her project. LARB interviews Julavits about her book, The Folded Clock, the result of two years’ diary entries, “when my life counted as my job.”

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Why Are Cities Still Subsidizing For-Profit Development?

Photo of Kansas City Live! by Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Kansas City Live! by Wikimedia Commons

But at what point should cities make this decision to stop subsidizing for-profit development? And how do they know when enough is enough? That’s the question being asked in Kansas City and in cities around the nation as downtowns bounce back from years of abandonment only to find that developers still expect the aid they were receiving when downtowns were far less profitable places to be.

“Urban leaders still tend to overpay for development because they internalized low civic self-esteem bred by decades of being told they were too polluted, too dangerous, or too school-deficient to attract investment,” says Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, an organization that advocates for economic development policies that lead to better job opportunities for working families. “When the back-to-the-cities trend started taking root, albeit very unevenly, cities were so glad to finally land deals that they routinely overpaid, not having a solid grasp of the demographic and market forces they should have been channeling instead of subsidizing. It’s especially true for retail and entertainment projects, which generate very poor-quality jobs. I have yet to find a city that has figured out how to ‘take the foot off the pedal’ and stop over-subsidizing, even when gentrification becomes a problem.”

Sandy Smith writing for Next City about Kansas City’s KC Live development, and and why cities are still paying developers to build in their downtowns—despite the fact that many downtown areas have become profitable again.

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The Creator of #YesAllWomen, One Year Later

Lots of Hash, by Michael Coglan ((CC BY-SA 2.0).
Lots of Hash, by Michael Coglan ((CC BY-SA 2.0).

Not everything about #YesAllWomen makes me proud. I am particularly bitter, and disappointed, that it did not live up to its name and its promise. As a marginalized woman, even I could not provide a safe space for more than a few hours for others like me.

But for those few hours, I loved what it was and could be.

Diversity Advocate Kaye M., who started the #NotAllWomen hashtag, reflects in The Toast.

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How to Be Aca-Awesome

Photo via Rubenstein on Flickr (Cropped)
Photo via Rubenstein on Flickr (Cropped)

Jessica Gross | Longreads | May 2015 | 13 minutes (3,345 words)


After getting her start in the Chicago improv scene, Kay Cannon went on to write for 30 Rock—where she was on staff from the very beginning—and New Girl, for which she was also an executive producer. Her debut screenplay, a quirky a cappella comedy, became the hit film Pitch Perfect. The sequel, Pitch Perfect 2, is in theaters now. Cannon and I spoke by phone about why a cappella is so uncool, the movie’s treatment of weight and race, and Cannon’s feelings about her own teeth.

You first got the idea for this movie while you were at 30 Rock, when someone wrote a line about Toofer having been in an a cappella group in college. You thought it was a complete joke. When you found out that nope, a cappella is real, you thought, someone has to make a movie about this! But what I find really interesting is that you started talking about the general idea of a movie about college a cappella without any specific story or plot in mind yet. I feel like some people would be hesitant to broach such an early-stage idea, even to friends. Is that always how you’ve operated?

Yeah, I kind of put it out into the universe. I’m around a lot of creative people, so you start to talk about ideas, and maybe somebody helps spark something. I actually think this one was kismet for me, because I had said something to Elizabeth Banks, who’s my friend, just in conversation. A long while later, and separate from what I’d said to her, her husband found out about this book, Mickey Rapkin’s Pitch Perfect, and thought it would make a great movie. So when I got the call from them to say, “Hey, would you be interested in writing this?,” it was just such a wonderful collision. Read more…

The Weirdness of Near-Future America


You, Little Sylvia, will come up knowing the truth, but to the rest of the world–to jellyfishes, crackers, finkies, and swells, to Bosom families and Consolidated alike–the stars are not real. The planets are not real. Astronomy, if spoken of al all, is regarded as a delusional cult scarcely more respectable than the Jesus Lovers. The Chiefs long back did the decent thing and decided to put both gangs out of business. The Jesus Lovers dug in; you will see their lowercase t scratched on fenceposts with a ten-dollar nail. But the Astronomers went off quietly without leaving a trace or sign.

They were easily dispatched because their ideas so nearly resembled fiction. You will learn better, Little Sylvia, but to the rest of the world Astronomy is nonsense, magic on par with weather-knowing and poetry cures.

The surest way to hobble any truth is to put it in a story-book. Smart Man Tolemy wrote The Lonesome Wanderer for children so that we would come up knowing Astronomy as a fairy tale. His Astronomers were pale, hairless mountain men who believed the bright flaws in the Night Glass to be distant Suns.  They believed the Wanderers to be other worlds like our own. In contradiction of common sense and observation, their Sun did not circle the Earth but the other way around.

–From Jeffrey Rotter’s second novel The Only Words That Are Worth Rememberinga chaotic romp following the much maligned Van Zandt family as they try escape the law in a near-future America, where astronomy has become a fairy tale, and Earth has returned to its pre-Copernican status as the center of the Universe.
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How Would You Design a Memorial for World War III?

Photo by 準建築人手札網站 Forgemind, Flickr

Architect Maya Lin was a senior at Yale when she designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In a 2000 essay for the New York Review of Books—which she began writing around the memorial’s completion in fall 1982 and then put aside for nearly two decades—she reflects on how she came to enter in the competition, and the concepts behind her design. After seeing a notice announcing a competition for a Vietnam veterans memorial, Lin’s funereal architecture seminar decided to adopt the design idea as their class’s final project. In the excerpt below, she delves into the class’s previous assignment:

At that point, not much was known about the actual competition, so for the first half of the assignment we were left without concrete directions for what “they” were looking for or even who “they” were. Instead, we had to determine for ourselves what a Vietnam memorial should be. Since a previous project had been to design a memorial for World War III, I had already begun to ask the simple questions: What exactly is a memorial? What should it do?

My design for a World War III memorial was a tomblike underground structure that I deliberately made to be a very futile and frustrating experience. I remember the professor of the class coming up to me afterward, saying quite angrily, “If I had a brother who died in that war, I would never want to visit this memorial.” I was somewhat puzzled that he didn’t quite understand that World War III would be of such devastation that none of us would be around to visit any memorial, and that my design was instead a pre-war commentary. In asking myself what a memorial to a third world war would be, I came up with a political statement that was meant as a deterrent.

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The Way Theater Worked in 1955

Photo by Flickr, Roadside Pictures

In 1955, playwright Arthur Miller, author of Death of a Salesman, published the essay “The American Theater” in the American travel magazine HolidayHoliday ran from 1946 and 1977. Joan Didion’s “Notes from a Native Daughter” first appeared in Holiday. Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, Paul Bowles and John Steinbeck wrote for it. Though E.B. White’s Holiday magazine essay “Here Is New York,” and Truman Capote’s “Brooklyn Heights: A Personal Memoir,” were later published as slim, stand-alone books and have assumed canonical status, “The American Theater” is a compelling analysis of Broadway system, and many of Miller’s observations still ring true. Holiday folded in 1977 and just relaunched in France this year. I found Miller’s essay in the 1956 anthology Ten Years of Holiday, though the essay appears in The Theater Essays of Arthur Miller. Below is a short excerpt from “The American Theater”:

All over the country there are nine-year old girls, for instance, who are walking around the house as my daughter is at this very moment, in high-heeled shoes with the lace tablecloth trailing from their shoulders. If mine doesn’t recover before she is sixteen she will wake up one morning and something will click insider her head and she will go and hang around some producer’s office, and if he talks to her, or just asks her what time it is, she may well be doomed for life. …The five blocks [in New York City], therefore, are unlike any other five blocks in the United States, if only because here so many grown people are walking around trailing the old lace tablecloth from their shoulders.

I think also that people keep coming these five blocks [in New York City] because the theater is still so simple, so old-fashioned. And that is why however often its obsequies are intoned, it somehow never really dies. Because underneath our shiny fronts of stone, our fascination with gadgets and our new toys that can blow the earth into a million stars, we are still outside the doorway through which the great answers wait. Not all the cameras in Christendom nor all the tricky lights will move us one step closer to a better understanding of ourselves, but only, as it always was, the truly written word, the profoundly felt gesture, the naked and direct contemplation of man which is the enduring glamour of the stage.

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