Dorian Leigh – – The World’s First SuperModel?

Dorian Leigh (born Dorian Elizabeth Leigh Parker) (April 23, 1917 – July 7, 2008 – Age 91) was an American model and one of the earliest modelling icons of the fashion industry. She is considered one of the first supermodels and was well known in the United States and Europe.

Dorian Leigh Parker was born in San Antonio, Texas, to George and Elizabeth Parker. Her parents married when they were around 18 and 17 years old and Elizabeth promptly gave birth to three daughters in quick succession: Dorian (1917), Georgiabell (1918), Florian (1919). Fifteen years after the birth of her first daughter, she gave birth to her fourth daughter, Cecilia (1932) (who became known as model/actress Suzy Parker). The family moved to Jackson Heights, Queens soon after Dorian’s birth and later to Metuchen, N.J. There George Parker invented a new form of etching acid, production of which gave him enough income to retire. Dorian graduated from Newton High School in Queens, NY, in 1935 and enrolled at Randolph Macon Women’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. There she met her first husband, Marshall Powell Hawkins, whom she married on a whim in North Carolina in 1937. They had two children: Thomas Lofton (“TL”) Hawkins (1939) and Marsha Hawkins (1940). The couple separated in the 1940s.

 Dorian then worked as a file clerk at a department store in Manhattan and as a tabulator keeping track of radio program ratings. Dorian found that she had an aptitude for math, mechanical engineering, and drawing. She began to go to night school at Rutgers and said she learned about mechanical engineering at New York University. Dorian worked at Bell Laboratories and then, during World War II, she was a tool designer at Eastern Air Lines (with their Eastern Aircraft division). Dorian assisted in the design of airplane wings, beginning at 65 cents an hour and ending up with an hourly wage of $1.00. After failing to be promoted because of a wartime freeze on positions, Dorian quit and took a job with Republic Pictures as an apprentice copywriter. While writing ad copy for the B movies Republic rented and distributed to movie houses, she was encouraged by a Mrs. Wayburn to try modeling.

 

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