Eileen Ford: The Death of a Legend

Ford Modeling Agency Founder Eileen Ford
Photo: Patrick McMullan
 Eileen Ford


Eileen Ford was born Eileen Otte in New York City in 1922. She married Jerry Ford in 1944 and over the next few years worked a series of different jobs, including a few modeling assignments. During this time she also helped some fellow model friends seek jobs and found the agencies they dealt with to be less than reputable. In 1946 she decided to do something about this and opened her own agency with her husband Jerry.

Ford Models took off almost immediately, with Jerry managing the business and Eileen acting as the face and actively seeking talent, occasionally following young girls down the street to assess their eligibility. Eileen acted as a mother to her young charges, letting some of them stay at her residence while she taught them etiquette and responsibilities, and making them account for their actions.

Ford was very particular about her models and was known to be blunt, telling aspiring girls who were less than 5’7 to give up their dreams, and turning away others for slight imperfections. The typical Ford Model was tall, thin and more often than not blond with wide set eyes. In the 1970’s Ford started representing men and children, including a then child model Brooke Shields. Other notable Ford Models include Christie Brinkley, Jane Fonda, Ali MacGraw, Candice Bergen, Naomi Campbell, Christie Turlington and many more. Ford Models held weekly open houses and an approximate 60,000 hopefuls attended every year, yet only a small percent made it to the testing stage and even fewer moved on to work as established models.

Over the years, in addition to running the successful agency, Eileen Ford published several books and also had a syndicated newspaper column in the 1970’s. She began the Ford Model’s Supermodel of the World competition in 1980.

In 1995 the Ford’s handed over the agency to Katie, one of their four children. In 2007 Katie sold the agency to Stone Tower Equity Partners. Watch for Eileen Ford’s biography, written in collaboration with historian Robert Lacey, which is slated to be in stores in 2015.