Today (or possibly tomorrow) is the 78th birthday of one of the world’s first supermodels: Jean Shrimpton. Her beauty is undeniable. I love that she up and left the modeling world when it stopped suiting her. It takes a level of bravery to leave the known and go into the unknown. The world is a better place to have her in it.
NAME: Jean Shrimpton
BIRTH DATE: November 6, 1942
EDUCATION: St. Bernard’s Convent, Slough
PLACE OF BIRTH: Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
BEST KNOWN FOR: Jean Shrimpton is known for being one of the world’s first supermodels, the highest-paid model of the 1960s and the face of “Swinging London,” as well as for popularizing the miniskirt.
Jean Rosemary Shrimpton was born to upper-class parents in Buckinghamshire, England on November 7, 1942. Raised on a farm and educated at a convent school, Shrimpton moved to London at 18, and enrolled in a typing and shorthand class. While having lunch in Hyde Park, she was discovered by a photographer and encouraged to enroll in the Lucie Clayton Charm Academy, a modeling school in London.
When fashion photographer David Bailey spotted a then-relatively unknown Shrimpton at a photo studio, he was instantly taken with the gamine beauty. Despite the fact that Bailey was married at the time, the two soon began a romantic relationship that would last four tumultuous years. In Shrimpton’s 1990 autobiography, she wrote of Bailey, “We were instantly attracted, and whenever we worked together this attraction created a strong sexual atmosphere.”
Bailey insisted on using Shrimpton for a British Vogue shoot in 1962, helping to catapult both of their careers. One of the first models to be labeled a “supermodel,” Shrimpton was the highest-paid model of her time. Speaking about Shrimpton in 2001, Bailey told the BBC, “She was magic and the camera loved her too. In a way she was the cheapest model in the world—you only needed to shoot half a roll of film and then you had it.” Saying she was lucky rather than ambitious, Shrimpton told the Guardian in 2011, “I never liked being photographed. I just happened to be good at it.”
With her long, lean figure and wide eyes, Shrimpton popularized the waifish look and was nicknamed “the shrimp.” In 1965, when she appeared at Derby Day in Australia, wearing a white shift dress that ended four inches above her knees, Shrimpton caused a scandal and popularized the miniskirt.
Shrimpton tried her hand at acting, starring in the 1967 film “Privilege,” but she quickly gave up on the idea of an acting career. In 2012, Time magazine included Shrimpton in its list of “All-TIME 100 Fashion Icons,” calling her “the embodiment of swingin’ London in the 1960s.”
After her relationship with Bailey ended, Shrimpton had relationships with actor Terence Stamp and poet Heathcote Williams.
Disenchanted with the fashion world, in 1975, Shrimpton quit modeling and left London for Cornwall, where she opened up an antiques store and met Michael Cox, whom she married. In 1979, she gave birth to their son, Thaddeus. Shrimpton and Cox purchased the Abbey Hotel in Penzance, which they continue to operate.
Author of books:
Jean Shrimpton, an Autobiography (1990, memoir)