Bella and Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, and Kaia Gerber are some of the most talked about models in the fashion world today. But do you know who the woman considered America’s first supermodel was?
It was Audrey Munson, whose fascinating life story combines success, fame, and tragedy.
Audrey was born in Rochester, New York, in 1891. Audrey’s parents split when she was eight, and Audrey moved with her mother ‘Kittie’ to Providence, Rhode Island.
As Audrey grew older, her mother recognized her beautiful looks and moved them to New York City to push her towards performing and live theater. In 1908, when she was 17, Audrey began performing on Broadway as a chorus girl.
While walking around the streets of Manhattan, Audrey encountered photographer Felix Benedict Herzog, who convinced her to pose for him at his studio and eventually introduced her to his friends in the art world.
By the 1910s, Audrey gained a reputation as a beautiful model and began accepting modeling jobs all over the city, posing for photographs and sculptures. Some of the country’s biggest artists began commissioning Audrey to pose for sculptures, and today, there are sculptures inspired by her all over New York City.
For instance, if you’ve ever entered Central Park from Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan, you may have seen the massive USS Maine National Monument, with a bronze statue of a woman representing Columbia Triumphant sitting atop it. Audrey posed for that sculpture, which now sits forever at the entrance of one of America’s most famous public parks.
By 1915, she was one of the most recognized models in the art world, especially after she modeled for a series of pieces featured at the World’s Fair in San Francisco.
Around this time, Audrey began appearing in silent films, famous for her courageously revealing scenes. She also had a voice as a writer and wrote a series of articles in the 1920s about her life and her opposition to wage gaps between male and female models and actresses.
Unfortunately, the early 1920s was when Audrey’s life became riddled with drama, causing a decline in her fame and mental health. She was involved in two scandals, one of them being an incident where her landlord murdered his wife, and the authorities believed it was because he wanted to be with Audrey instead.