Gayle King’s composite.
Gayle King was one of my go-to models for many years…her professionalism, adaptability, Joie de vie, made her one of the best! I am delighted to share her story with you, I know you will be enchanted with her journey and I thank her for letting me include her as one of my Monday Profiles. Here are her recollections….
“I started modeling at the age of 16. I did a fashion shooting for the Gary Post-Tribune. I remember it well because I wore a red wet-look coat, white pants and a navy and white top. After this, I knew modeling was something I enjoyed and came naturally for me. When I was still in high school, my best friends mother introduced me to John Johnson, the publisher of Jet and Ebony Magazines. He and Eunice Johnson met with me and told me I was too young to work for them but they kept my contact info. I was asked to me a hostess for an Open House of their new building at 820 South Michigan Avenue. Of course, I said “yes”. All of the hostesses were told they could audition for the Ebony Fashion Fair. I was the youngest member of the show that traveled in 1973. I was 19 and newly divorced! My ticket out of Gary, Indiana. I traveled with EFF for 2 1/2 years.
The mannequin is from the Inspiriting Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair exhibit at the Chicago History Museum. It was made with my features, with a change of the shade of skin and hair color.
After this, I went to school and graduated from Roosevelt University with a degree in Business Administration. It was the fall of 1979 when I decided to get back in the modeling biz. I interviewed with Susan Glick, upon the encouragement of Diane Hollowell, who also was an ex-Ebony Fashion Fair model. After doing the market shows at the Apparel Center, I met Susanna Johnson who was just starting a modeling agency and was looking for models to represent. I quickly started working in Chicago at several stores. I was sent on a go-see to Saks Fifth Avenue to meet you! The rest is history.
One of my favorite Saks Fifth Avenue fashion shows was Jacqueline de Ribes on August 4, 1985, for United Way/Crusade of Mercy. She had a style like no other, her clothes were so detailed, they made you feel like royalty. There were so many great shows at Saks with two of my other favorites, Adolfo and Bill Blass, as well as Pauline Trigere, James Galanos and more.
Gayle wearing a Jacqueline de Ribes evening piece in an in store Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago benefit fashion show.
My favorite designer was Adolfo. He is the kindest, sweetest designer I ever met. I met him at Saks doing a trunk show. After doing several shows for Adolfo, he asked me to come to New York for the Spring Shows in 1988. Nena and I were super excited about the opportunity….New York City!!!! Which leads me to my favorite “behind the scenes story”.
Gayle wearing Adolfo.
I arrived in New York several days before the Adolfo shows. The day of the show, I thought I had everything under control. I stayed with my cousins in Brooklyn, the few days before the show, and my cousin drove me to NYC near the hotel where the show was held. I had about 2 hours to kill, so I went to a cafe and had a cup of coffee and leisurely made my way to the show with intentions to apply my makeup and prepare for the show. When I walked in, all of the models were in line and the show had begun!!
Somehow, I was an hour off on the ” be there” time. I thought I would faint from total embarrassment. Adolfo came up to me and said “don’t worry, you are fine” But I don’t have on my makeup. He said, “you look beautiful just the way you are”! I could have kissed this man! Needless to say in between each garment I was putting on makeup, lips, blush and eye shadow. I was totally made up by the end of the show.
I’ve been a mortgage loan officer for about 24 years now. While doing informal modeling at Saks, which I did a lot, I met Sharon Rizzo in the beauty salon. Sharon reminds you of Wonder Woman. She is about 5′ 10″ and gorgeous. She too had been a model and asked me what I was going to do once I was finished with modeling. I told her I had a degree in BSBA and would probably get back into the world of finance as I had interned at Northern Illinois Gas Company one summer in their accounting department.
She was a realtor and suggested I get my license to sell real estate and give her a call when I had done so. I did exactly that and was hired at American Invsco ERA. After selling real estate for a few years, I got married and had a daughter, Halle. I no longer wanted to show property all day and night. I was then encouraged to be a mortgage loan officer and started working for Koenig and Strey’s mortgage department known as Windsor Mortgage. I currently work for Associated Bank.
Gayle in a “glamour” shot last year…still has it wouldn’t you agree!!! Photo credit Ernest Collins
Modeling prepared me for the world. Through modeling, I traveled to every major city in the United States and many small towns when I was with the Ebony Fashion Fair. We also went to several Islands. After settling in Chicago and working as a model here, I was exposed to many different people from all over the world. I did a lot of informal fashion modeling and that helped me develop my sales skills.
Karen Williams appeared on the cover of Essence Magazine many times during her modeling career. And Madelyn Oparinde, used to be a full-sized model with Ebony Fashion Fair. She has since lost over 100 pounds. We all got together with photographer Ernest Collins. He wanted to get all the girls from the 80’s together for a photo shoot. The pictures were published in the Sophisticate’s Black Hair Magazine in the November 2016 edition
After all, I was selling fashion, hair care products, makeup, perfume and myself. That’s what you are doing when you go on countless auditions. You also develop a thick skin because you learn to take the “no’s” without feeling rejected personally. So I guess you can say modeling has taught me to be determined no matter what. I’m still selling…mortgages and my word that I will do everything possible to help my clients obtain ‘The American Dream’.” (Nena’s note, I think we can all agree, Gayle achieved hers!)
Gayle today, still with that memorizing smile and the endearing personality. Thank you, Gayle, for being you!
All photos courtesy of Gayle King.
So lovely. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of your walk down memory lane. It’s been quite a journey. And, we’re still here shining as brightly as ever. You look fabulous, as always.
Thanks Tom….I will continue the Ebony Fashion Fair journey tomorrow and Friday. I know you enjoyed the exhibition and Gala, you can relive it a bit through the posts!
Great article Nena
I remember meeting Mr. Johnson & Gayle King at Johnson Publications when we broke with Fashion Fair Cosmetics at SFA.
So many wonderful memories we shared at SFA.
Yes, many, many great shared memories. We must have more!!! Thanks for following nenasnotes means the world!!
Hi Nena…that was a beautiful story. I remember Gayle as an amazing and gorgeous professional model as well. I follow her on Facebook and can’t help marvel at her accomplishments and ageless beauty.
Nena, beautiful article on Gayle. So many fond memories. So glad we all got a chance to work together! XXOO
Thanks Shelley. She is a delight as all my “regulars” have been. You all had I individual personalities on the runway not so today. Miss that.
I stumbled on your blog just now (congratulations) and very much enjoyed reading this fascinating bio about Gayle.
I want to thank you, very belatedly, for booking me and for being so kind and FABULOUS as the Fashion Director of Saks. I very much enjoyed working for you (and with Ruth, of course) and with all the models and designers.
Gayle was special to me and only after the fact have I realized how wonderful and generous she was to me. Among other kindnesses, Gayle introduced me to Oprah (as Oprah would say, “the OTHER Gayle King) and is/was always the epitome of class and elegance.
I left the business in 1991 after a horrible car accident and became a pastry artist (www.fondant.com) quite by accident. My clients must live up to “Nena standards” and I know everything will be fine.
All the best to you, Nena and to you, Gayle if you are peeking in.
I’m off to explore more of your Nena’sNotes~
What a lovely note thank you so much. I’m so pleased you “stumbled” upon nenasnotes. I hope you will follow it. I’m having a fun time with it. I will most certainly check out fondant.com. All best.