Category Archives: Susannah Bianchi

What It Was Like To Be a High-Fashion Model in the 1970’s

2014 Photo Credit Tom Grill

Models in general have great stories, and Susannah Bianchi, author of the Shebook Model Behavior, is no exception. Here is Bianchi’s take on what the modeling industry was like in 1972 and how it’s changed.

 

1) The industry was more personal.

The modeling world of today is very different than it was back then. It’s become very impersonal but back then, Wilhelmina, my agent, was a very caring lady who did try her best to protect her girls. We had to attend seminars on the 7th floor of 9 East 37th to learn all the things she felt all of her girls should know. She taught me how to walk and talk, to dress simply so people would notice me and not just what was on my back. Whenever I slink into my LBD—little black dress—I think of her. I can hear her say, “Bianchi, less is more. Too many jewels my darling, too many jewels.” Top models came to talk with us so we’d know what to expect. In today’s industry all of this handholding would be unheard of.

Susannah Bianchi

1972 Photo credit: Hank Gans

 

2) We were still plenty wild.

Our job was to build our book, test, test, test, so when the European agents came to town we’d have something impressive to show them. Of course we were still let loose like gazelles all across Europe presumably under the watchful eye of whatever agent took you on, but we got in hot water just the same.

 

3) A Polish surname was career kryptonite.
I owe a lot to Willie for giving me the opportunity to travel and meet all kinds of people in the fashion industry, and from changing my name from Carneski to Bianchi after perusing an Italian Vogue because it wasn’t hip to be Polish in 1972. She was also somebody to look up to because she was so, so beautiful and gracious becoming one of my first real role models that rid me of those awful red, pleather pants, forever.

Susannah Bianchi

1983 Photo Credit Elizabeth Lehman

 

4) Sexual harassment wasn’t called sexual harassment.

When I was 20 and some frisky fashion guy got fresh, one had to be clever or you wouldn’t work. Now you could sue for sexual harassment. Would Willie get a kick out of that.

 

5) Other models were your best friends and support system.

I think close friendships are made when one is very young, and when you’re thrown into a fast world the way we were, it’s almost crucial for survival. We were kids on our own pretty much with about as much sense as you’d expect. We really only had one another.

Susannah Bianchi

 

Check out Susannah Bianchi’s Shebook, Model Behavior

Model Behavior