Did you ever wonder what happens to the superstar model once she’s glittered for her last close-up? Well some of them, like Carman Dell’Orefice, just keep on posing. The white-haired Dell’Orefice has been modeling since 1947 and is still slouching with the best of them.
HBO is offering an intimate view of some of the world’s most famous faces when it premieres the documentary, About Face: Supermodels Then and Now.”
But “now’ is not always the end of the runway. Many models answer the siren call of film and television, extending their careers long after others have gone to the bone yard (so to speak).
Charlize Theron’s ( Snow White and the Huntsman) father died when she was 15. That same year she left her native South Africa to become a model in Europe. “My mom entered me in a local modeling contest as a joke with some of my friends who came up with the idea,” she says.
“But they needed a parent’s signature. So my mom got in on it as well. They entered me in the contest, which I won. There was a burning ambition to be an actress, but it didn’t have a name for me. I didn’t grow up in a society that really celebrated actors … So I just always thought it was some great thing that some guy next door got to be in movies. I never thought: ‘I want to grow up to be an actor.’ But I’ve been subconsciously acting my entire life.”
Wendie Malick ( Hot in Cleveland, Just Shoot Me) did it the other way round. “I took a detour into modeling. It was kind of on-purpose because I suffered from extreme wanderlust and needed to see the world,” she says.
“My grandparents traveled a lot, and I used to get these postcards from them from exotic places and thought, ‘Oh, I want to go there. I want to do that.’
“There was no place that didn’t sound interesting to me … My junior year I went aboard and studied in Amsterdam. We landed in Paris and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve got to come back and live here.’ … I decided to take five years off from acting because I was making $75 a week doing off-off-Broadway and dinner theater in New Jersey, so I was approached by someone from Wilhelmina (modeling agency) and I thought, ‘This is my ticket to see the world.’ And it was.”
She gave it five years. “I had a great ride, I’d saved a bunch of money and got to live in these great places, and it was wonderful, but I thought, ‘Now I have to go back and do this thing I know I was designed to do.’”
Sofia Vergara ( Modern Family) remembers she was a 17-year-old at the beach in her native Colombia when she was discovered. “I wasn’t a model or anything. I was just a girl at the beach. And they said, ‘Can you do this commercial?’ I said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ And I did this Pepsi commercial, and it became huge. Everybody goes: Who’s that girl?’
“But I was in Catholic school my last year of high school. I just wanted to finish high school and go to dentist school, which I did for three years. But then things started changing, and you start getting opportunities and getting offers of money and you start following your instinct. And here I am.”
Angie Harmon ( Rizzoli & Isles) nabbed her first modeling job when she was still a baby. “It was in a hospital where they teach you how to give your child a bath. They said, ‘Let’s take the Harmon baby.’ And my father went, ‘Oh, no.’
“And (I posed in) little car seats, then newspapers and it sort of escalated until I got to that gangly, awkward, huge-buck-teeth phase. So I quit for a while and started back up again when I was about 12 or 13.
“It wasn’t something that my parents pushed me into. First of all, because I wasn’t pretty all my life. But I just enjoyed it. I think the girls now realize it’s a business. I think it’s good you realize it’s a business. But on the other hand, we had so much fun back in my day. But I think you have a tendency to get wrapped up in, ‘Oh, this is fun’ but then you realize this is a job and people are paying me and I have to behave and look professional and look good. And I’m supposed to do exactly what they’re hiring me for.’
“When I was 12 I looked like I was 18. It was terrifying for my parents. I don’t look forward to that with my daughters at all.”
Andie MacDowell ( Jane by Design, Groundhog Day) was a model for several years and can still be found in L’Oreal ads. But she thinks there was more to her success than just a pretty face.
“To be honest with you, I really don’t think I made it on my looks alone by any means. The first commercials I ever did for Calvin Klein I think were done with a sense of humor and personality and comedy. And that’s what made them. If you go back and look at them I was kind of chunky. It was all about this character that I played that made it work.”
She says she didn’t always do the flashiest assignments and she wasn’t the kind to grace all the magazine covers. “But I did interesting work,” she says. “I worked for Saint Laurent and interesting photographers could see the oddity about me, or something that they liked.”
She took a cut in pay to go into acting.