Eileen Ford

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Eileen Ford
Ms. Ford (right) with a Finnish model in 1967
Eileen Cecile Otte

(1922-03-25)March 25, 1922
DiedJuly 9, 2014(2014-07-09) (aged 92)
OccupationModel agency executive and co-founder of Ford Models
Years active1946–1995
Gerard W. Ford
(m. 1944; died 2008)
Children4, including Katie Ford

Eileen Ford (née Otte; March 25, 1922 – July 9, 2014) was an American model agency executive and co-founder. She founded the Ford Modeling Agency (now called Ford Models) in 1946.

Ford was born in New York City. She died in Morristown, New Jersey at age ninety-two.[1]

Biography[change | change source]

Eileen Cecile Otte[2] was born in Manhattan and raised in suburban Great Neck, Long Island, the only daughter of four children of Loretta Marie (née Laine) and Nathaniel Otte.[3] Eileen had been a model during the summers of her freshman and sophomore years at Barnard College, modeling for the Harry Conover Modeling Agency, one of the first in the United States. She graduated from Barnard in 1943.

The next year, she met her future husband, Gerard "Jerry" Ford, at a drugstore near the Columbia University campus and eloped with him, marrying in November 1944 in San Francisco.[4]

Ford Modeling Agency[change | change source]

A pregnant Eileen started to work as a secretary for several models, taking calls at her father's New York City law office, charging each model $65 to $75 per month.

Although the Fords' location was terrible, within a year, the modeling agency was the second or third most successful in the United States, grossing $250,000.[4] The Fords' first superstar model was Jean Patchett.[5] The Fords had the capital to instil the voucher system, something that other modelling agencies were not affluent enough to offer. Dorian Leigh described Eileen as "one of the hardest working, most persistent persons I have ever known, two qualities which made her my very good friend for years and later, my unanticipated enemy".[6]

After two years, the Fords began to seriously compete with the Huntington Hartford modeling agency and the John Robert Powers agencies, the two most successful modeling agencies at the time. Leigh, meanwhile, closed her modeling agency when she was pregnant with her third child in 1948. Leigh called Eileen and told them that her 15-years younger sister, Suzy Parker, was making only $25 per hour working as a model for Huntington Hartford.[6]

They soon realized, however, that Parker had the possibility of becoming quite a successful model. Soon thereafter, Parker would become the most successful model of the 1950s, helping push the Ford's agency to number one. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Fords represented top models Mary Jane Russell, Carmen Dell'Orefice, and Dovima.

Retirement[change | change source]

In 1995, Katie Ford took over her parents' agency after their retirement. The 50th anniversary of the agency was highlighted in several articles including the July–August 1996 issue of American Photo magazine and in January–February 1997's Top Model magazine ("Ford at 50!"). She was CEO from 1995 to 2007. In December 2007, Ford was sold to Stone Tower Equity Partners. John Caplan took over as CEO while Katie Ford was on the Board of Directors. Jerry Ford died at the age 83 on August 24, 2008. He was survived by his wife, four children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.[7]

Death[change | change source]

She died at a hospital in Morristown, New Jersey, from complications of meningioma and osteoporosis, on July 9, 2014, aged 92.[8][9][10]

References[change | change source]

  1. Wilson, Eric (10 July 2014). "Eileen Ford Dies". New York Times. Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  2. "Eileen Ford – the model maker". Jewish Chronicle. July 16, 2015. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  3. Moritz, Charles (May 1, 1972). Current Biography Yearbook, 1971. Vol. 32. H.W. Wilson Company. ISBN 978-0-8242-0463-1. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Hargrove, Marion (April 1955). "Beauty and Bedlam". McCall's: 62.
  5. Schonauer, David (July–August 1996). "Glamour". America Photo: 45.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Leigh, Dorian; Hobe, Laura (1980). The Girl Who Had Everything. pp. 67–68. ISBN 9780385143318.
  7. Wilson, Eric (August 26, 2008). "Jerry Ford, 83, Man Behind the Models, Dies". The New York Times.
  8. Wilson, Eric (July 10, 2014). "Eileen Ford, Grande Dame of the Modeling Industry, Dies at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  9. "Ford Model Agency Founder Eileen Ford Dies at 92". Hollywood Reporter. Associated Press. July 10, 2014. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  10. "Eileen Ford, founder of iconic modeling agency, is dead at 92". CNN. July 10, 2014. Retrieved July 13, 2014.