Whereas most rising models do so on the international runway circuit, Lida Fox — apparently her real name — prefers to use editorials as her springboard. Which isn't to say she avoids the runway; quite the contrary, appearances at Saint Laurent, Tom Ford, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, and Chanel prove she's got the mettle for it. But her face is so insouciant, so tomboyish, so cheeky that it screams for a closer, longer look.
Comparisons have been made to Stella Tennant, as well as a young Madonna, circa brunette, although Lida's style is less pop, more polish. The daughter of a ballerina (her mom) and an opera singer (her dad), the South Carolinian has haute drama in her blood. She herself is a dancer (see her twirling for Saint Laurent in the video below) and has said it was her dancer's posture that landed her a spot in a Marc Jacobs show, her first modeling job. The theme that season was Cabaret, so Marc had the girls at his casting assume a Bob Fosse pose, which Lida did with ease and with Marc's nod.
Not that anyone in fashion will ask Lida about opera or ballet, but if they did, she could probably talk their ear off. She recently told Dossier magazine all about Wagner's The Ring Cycle (the one with Valkyries in helmets), which, she says, "is really a saga of four operas that continue the same story. I’ve never actually seen the entire Ring together, but I’ve seen each of the four operas separately. It’s a fantasy and adventure story with lots of good versus evil themes and very thrilling and bombastic music.”
Even in the 1940s and 50s, a time in modeling not especially synonymous with diversity, Bettina's arched eyebrows and quick smile set her apart. Discovered by Jacques Fath — who threw out her given name, Simone Micheline Bodin, saying she looked more like a Bettina — and courted by the rest of the couturiers, she's most closely associated with Hubert de Givenchy, who named his first postwar collection after her. Paris Match at the time called her "the most photographed French woman in France.”
Bettina enjoyed enormous success posing for the likes of Christian Dior, Madame Grès, Balenciaga, and Balmain, but, not entirely comfortable in front of the camera, she quietly bowed out in 1955. Determined to be a self-made woman, she tried her hand at art direction for Emanuel Ungaro and PR for Valentino. She later married, for a short time, the French photographer Benno Graziani and, following the divorce, took up with the American screenwriter Peter Viertel. Much later, in 1960, she suffered a miscarriage after a car crash in Paris that killed her Pakistani fiancé, Prince Aly Khan. By all accounts, she avoided the public spotlight from that point on.
But, wonderfully, Bettina is still with us. Now 90, she may or may not (probably not) make an appearance at an exhibition in her honor at the Galleria Carla Sozzani during Milan Fashion Week. The show will trace her pioneering career with more than a hundred images signed by some of the greatest photographers of the 20th century: Irving Penn, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Erwin Blumenfeld, Jean-Philippe Charbonnier, Jean Chevalier, Henry Clarke, Gordon Parks, Emile Savitry.
Bettina, Sep 16 - Nov 2, 2014, Galleria Carla Sozzani, 10 Corso Como, 20154, Milan