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81 Year-Old Supermodel Carmen Dell’Orefice Defends Plastic Surgery

by Marisa Amorasak

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In 1947, Carmen Dell’Orefice was at the top of her game. The 16 year-old’s razor-sharp cheekbones and startling hazel eyes landed her on the cover of Vogue, a feat not often reached by haute couture’s top models. The Vogue cover and accompanying spread would be the launch pad for Dell’Orefice’s high society career spanning over five decades—unheard of in an industry led by aesthetic perfection, and, er—youth. Dell’Orefice has garnered recent attention with the release of an HBO documentary following the struggles of aging supermodels. Now with a cloud of white hair and the same sculpted cheeks, 81 year-old Dell’Orefice sheds some not-so-bright light on her decision to go under the knife.

“What Do You Do When You’re a Stradivarius and You’re Losing Your Strings?”

About Face: The Supermodels, Then and Now premiered on July 30. The documentary highlights the fact that major supermodels like Dell’Orefice usually begin their careers young, with nary a hint of breasts, hips, or waistlines. Model-actress Marisa Berenson was modeling in Paris by her early teens, proudly referring to herself as one of the “top paid models” of her time. Paulina Porizkova, now 47, lamented the emotional hardship she endured at the beginning of her career: “I don’t think any 15-year-old girl will turn down the chance to be called beautiful. You don’t realize at that point that you are also going to be called ugly.”

About Face was produced by Sheila Nevins, the brains behind 47 Emmy-award winning films and the president of HBO Documentary Films. Nevins said that she found the decay of beautiful women “intriguing,” especially when the woman’s career rested on a pair of perfectly smooth, creamy shoulders. “They are their own instruments,” Nevins said of the models. “What do you do when you’re a Stradivarius and you’re losing your strings?” Many of the aging models in the film use this same type of logic-based rationale to back up their plastic surgery. Somehow, getting a tissue-glue facelift is a lot less about vanity and more about paying the bills.

Keeping Up With The Competition

The veteran models aren’t as jaded as you may expect. While their matter-of-fact attitude about distorted self-images is saddening, they’re also quick to glamorize infamous model taboos, like eating disorders and drug use. Former fashion editor Jade Hobson acknowledged cocaine use by many runway scorchers, and more or less let it slide. “We let it go. We maybe exploited these girls because it brought a certain look to the photographs,” she said. But as soon as the “look” of these young women fades, they’re disposed of more quickly than a pair of faux lashes after a Versace show. It’s not like there aren’t thousands of willowy, impressionable 15 year-old girls to take their place.

And that’s where some models tuck their chops away, and try their hand at a less exclusive career. Hollywood and entrepreneurial opportunities open them with welcome arms, as their already recognizable names and good looks (however diminished, by some standards) are easy to bank on. The same goes for commercial modeling. Staying in the ranks of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and other top-tier markets seems impossible without some surgical nip and tuck—or at least that’s what they models are saying. When it comes to plastic surgery, they present their decisions as nearly business-like.

“If you had the ceiling falling down in your living room,” Dell’Orefice challenges, “would you not go and have a repair?” The octogenarian is arguably the most successful—and I use this term with hesitation—elderly model of all time. Dell’Orefice is hush-hush when it comes to naming specific procedures, but facelifts, eyelid surgery, anti-aging, and clinical facials like eMatrix are common anti-aging solutions. She’s a gleaming example of tasteful plastic surgery—which is why she continues to grace the charity and special event runways.

Karen Bjornson also advocates the work she’s had done. Once the face of Halston, the 60 year-old underwent eyelid surgery to look more lively, refreshed, and of course younger. Since the surgery, she’s continued her career at the Ralph Rucci fashion house. “It was money well spent,” Ms. Bjornson said, “getting the product in shape again.”

Booking a Plastic Surgery Consultation

Without exception, the women of About Face have been under the knife of some seriously talented doctors. Choosing a reputable medical professional that you feel comfortable with is the most important step of the surgical process. New Image Specialists has an exclusive network of certified aestheticians, easily accessible to you via our Doctor Finder tool. Book your free consultation for Botox, Juvederm, IPL PhotoFacials, laser skin rejuvenation, body contouring, and more through New Image Specialists now!

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