PROFILE MODEL MONDAY: MAUREEN MUELLER

imageMaureen’s comp when she was modeling in Chicago.

Here we go again with one of my outstanding models….why would I highlight anyone else….Maureen was another of my models with a unique look, a cross between an all American girl and a femme fatale!  She was always playing a part (that is what makes a model a success, in my opinion!) and did that perfectly so much so she has gone on to a successful career in television.  She has defied the years and looks spectacular to this day…I really must know what my models are drinking to keep the years away, I want what they are having!!!  Seriously!  Let’s see what Maureen has to say, in her own words.

“I was a singer based out of Denver when I was approached to be a model.  I was introduced to an agent from Paris Planning soon after and a year or so later, I hung up my singing career, (I was no Shelley MacArthur), and moved to Paris.  I had always wanted to live in Europe and modeling made it possible.  I worked almost every day and spent all my money on restaurants and traveling. Heaven for a girl from a working class background.
One of my favorite behind the scenes stories came when standing around waiting for my first job, the Valentino haute couture show to begin. everyone was racing around and acting very nervous.  I couldn’t understand this because it wasn’t like they had to sing or perform or anything.  They just had to make it to the end of the runway and then come back. I spotted a beautiful woman on the other side of the room who looked calm and she immediately looked familiar to me.  I was convinced we went to high school together but I couldn’t think of her name.  I asked the guy standing next to me if he knew who she was. He said, Do you mean Beverly Johnson?  I wish I could say that this was the last time that has happened to me but I’ve made a career out sticking my feet in my mouth. I also signed with Ford in New York but wasn’t happy there.  This was 1980 so it was still a bit dangerous and loud and dirty and everything that Paris was not. So back I went.  Still playing hooky.
image
All this time, I knew I should be trying to find a way to be an actor.  I heard that Chicago had a thriving theatre scene and I figured I would be able to support myself with modeling while I tried to find a way into the business. But Chicago was not buying what I was selling.  Not for quite awhile. The first woman I met, (who shall remain nameless), didn’t believe that I had done the shows in Paris.  I was dumbfounded that she would think I would lie about such a thing.  She said she had been at the Valentino show and she didn’t see me in it.  She carried a lot of weight in town and I was on her Absolutely NOT list.  Once I finally started working, she would still pop up to torture me.  Sometime later, someone hired me for a show and she said, “I have no idea who that is”.  When she was reminded that I was a regular at the Apparel Center and Saks, etc, she said, “Oh yes, that’s the one that never brushes her hair”. Whatever. I learned a valuable lesson from her.  Some people just aren’t going to like you. So just keep moving in the direction you want to go and try not to take things personally.  Easier said than done, but I still try to practice that.
image
I had the opposite experience when I met Nena. There was no interrogation. She sized me up, expected professionalism and left me alone.  I always loved a SAKS booking because Nena ran such a well-oiled machine. She expected you to bring your A game and you didn’t want to disappoint her.  It was no easy task, however, standing next to D’arry or Jeanouche.  Still two of the funniest women I’ve ever met.  Through Nena, we met every big designer in the world. I always loved when Pauline Trigere came to town, (such a character).  Also loved Jacqueline de Ribes and Donna Karan.  But my favorite designer, by far, was Mark Heister!  I adored his clothes.  Such attention to detail and so glamorous.  And the man himself was so lovely.  A gentleman full of humility and grace. He is a world class talent.
imageOn the catwalk.
Looking back, I can’t believe how lucky I was to get to make a living playing “how fast can you change clothes and then walk around for a bit”.  And get to live in one of the great cities of America on top of it.  I had the time of my life in Chicago. I met and befriended some of my favorite people on the planet there.  I’ll never forget driving out of town headed to Los Angeles to start a new chapter.  I looked in the rearview and thought it was raining.  But it was tears.  Buckets of them.  I miss it still.
imageMaureen today, always a stunner!
Since then, I’ve pursued acting in earnest.  I was lucky to be able to get some work in LA. When I got older, (back then it was illegal to get beyond a certain age), I moved to New York.  Just because I always wanted to live there.  I had no idea if I would get any acting work but the gods were with me, at least enough to support myself.  A few years later, I met my future husband.  He puts up with me and I adore him. 
I still work now and then and hope springs eternal.  I’m still ready for my big break.  I feel so blessed to have had such a wonderful life so far, full of great memories.  The best is yet to come.
image
Thank you, Nena, for being such a big part of my time in our beloved Chicago.  Carry on.”
Thanks Maureen for sharing some of your journey with us. Let’s all watch for Maureen’s next TV stint, she is always worth watching, what a thrill to see one of our Chicago runway stars become a star in our homes! Love it! 
 
All photos from Maureen Mueller.

 

MODEL MONDAY PROFILE: KAREN RYAN

image

As with all my profiles, I give my “subjects” a questionnaire to answer and the models questions, are, of course, different from my other profiles.  Karen, along with the other models I have “interviewed” for nenasnotes, was a total joy to work with, taking professionalism at its true meaning…always on time and show ready, glamorous when the garment called for that, sporty if need be, turning into a businesswoman for our Working Women Seminars, etc. Modeling is really acting and letting your audience think what you have on is the most fabulous garment they have ever seen and they must want to add it to their wardrobe!  It is all about “selling” that is, after all, the end result.  She always listened to instruction, and most importantly respected the designers (again, all my models did this, if they didn’t why book them again!!!!) Karen had a girl next door quality, relatable but with an edginess.

image

imageKaren Ryan’s first composite.

Let’s see what Karen has to say about her modeling career and what she is up to now….

When did you start your modeling career, was this something you always wanted to do?

I had never even thought about being a model, even though people had always said to me, “with your height (5’8 ½”), you should model”. I had gotten an MA in journalism at the University of Kentucky in 1974, shortly before marrying my husband, Bill, and moving to Chicago.  In Kentucky, I worked for one of the original educational television stations, Kentucky Educational Television (KET).  I got to watch PBS and its wonderful programming years before most of my friends and family.  When we moved to Chicago, I eventually worked for Pioneer Press, the local suburban newspaper chain, and by the mid-’70s, had worked my way up to Promotion Manager.  As such, my staff was responsible for special sections.  We did a fashion section every Fall, and in 1977, it was my responsibility to publish the fashion section with the help of writers and a budget for a photographer we had used in the past.  Ann Taylor was loaning us the clothes, but we had no budget for a model.  My staff and the photographer, Paul McCall said, “what about you, Karen”? I was not really interested in doing it, but I was overruled.

imageFrom another shoot very space age, very of the period!

I went to a makeup shop on Oak Street, learned how to do makeup for black & white photography, and we did it!  I wish I had kept that fashion section, but my first comp has pics from the photo shoot (see comp at top of profile).  I think I looked silly in a couple of them, but that was 40 years ago!  I found out that the camera didn’t love me (my jaw is too square) (Nena’s note, I so don’t agree!!!!), so I didn’t do much print work.  I started auditioning for fashion shows and was very surprised to feel comfortable and natural walking the runway. To use an old expression, the rest is history…I was lucky enough to meet Nena Ivon and work for Saks Fifth Avenue!

imageThis isn’t Karen’s favorite comp but I love it so I am including it…apologies, Karen!

imageFrom Karen’s scrapbook.

What was your favorite Saks Fifth Avenue Show(s)?

My favorite Saks shows were the Misericordia benefit shows.  Backstage we were usually so rushed that we didn’t pay attention to the happenings outside the dressing area curtains.

image

But I remember the first time I heard the voice of an angel, Sister Rosemary Connelly.  She spoke from the heart and to our hearts about the special people who live and work at Misericordia www.misericordia.com.  I should backtrack here and tell you that before we married, my husband taught special needs adults. We’ve been avid supporters of Misericordia for many years, and I joined the Women’s Auxiliary over 25 years ago. The Auxiliary does many things, but my favorite event is the annual fashion show.  I always get a couple of tables at the show and get to catch up with all my besties from our runway days, including Nena of course. (Nena’s note, I will profile Misericordia in a future post.)

imageSome of the “gang” at this year’s Misericordia Fashion Show, all profiled in nenasnotes with the exception of Debra Balchen (Candace Jordan wasn’t one of my models but did model and was a room mate of Jeaounche).  The gentleman is Avron Fagel, a dear friend to all of us and the “music guru” for all my shows!

Who was your favorite designer and why?

Adolfo, hands down!  He was so nice to the models…before we walked out onto the runway, he would say, “You look so pretty”!  Other favorites were Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, Bob Mackie, Alexander Julian, Halston, Bill Blass (also very nice to the models) I especially remember the elegance of Saks’ Jacqueline, Comtesse de Ribes’ show at The Casino. I never actually worked with Diane von Furstenberg, but she is one of my favorites and I wear her wrap dresses today!

image

imageNewspaper clipping with Terri D’

What was your most favorite “behind the scenes” story?

Of all the people who assisted backstage at Saks Fifth Avenue, my favorite was Ruth Ivon, who we affectionately called Ruthy.  In 1981 we were doing a series of shows and I wore a full-length strapless gown just one week before this incident. The next week I was to wear the same gown and Ruthy could not get the top of the zipper to go up, even with me pushing it together with both hands. I was 3+ months pregnant at the time, which of course both you and Ruthy knew. She called Nena backstage, and sweet person that you are, you said: “skip it”! Who knew the body could change that much in just one week. (Nena’s note…this doesn’t only happen when we are pregnant but as we age our rib cage settles….its called gravity! and our bodies change and I would have to adjust what I pulled for my models!)

What are you up to now and how did you begin your new career/passion?

My career now is grandmother!  And it’s been my favorite stage of life…the joy and love that my grandchildren bring me are unbelievable.  As I mentioned before, another passion is volunteer work, especially with Misericordia. I also volunteer at a soup kitchen once a month along with hubby Bill.  Another passion is gardening!  We have a summer home in Wisconsin which I have landscaped with very little help from professionals.  The only landscaping I kept from the original plan when we built the house in 2003 were trees and shrubs. I have planted hundreds of flowers and shrubs on my own.

imageWith Ruby when she was a baby.

image

With the gorgeous grandchildren, Ryan and Ruby.

image

Karen in her Wisconsin garden with Ryan this Fourth of July.

What did your modeling years teach you that you are using now?

Humility, sometimes I simply didn’t get the gig.  I never asked why, and when one door closed, another usually opened.  Some of my best fashion shows were last minute replacements. This was before the days of cell phones. Early in the business, we worked directly with the fashion director at the store. If a friend could not get in touch with the director, and could not make a show,  she would call me and ask how fast I could get to Saks or wherever.  The models were very supportive of each other, hard to believe for those who don’t know the business, and maybe it’s different in 2017, but we had each other’s back.  Some of my best friends to this day are the people I worked with back then:  Nena, Jeanouche, (I am her son’s godmother and she is mine) Shelley, Shauna, Terri, D’Arry, Dori, Elsa, Diane, Debra … I know I’m forgetting many, please forgive!

imageKaren and Jeanouche in a photo shoot back in the day have no idea what this was for?????? Interesting composition! (Definitely a Nena’s note!)

imageThe best friends having lunch at Jeanouche’s home a couple decades later, from Nena’s photo album.

imageA Nena’s note…..at a “reunion” show when I was doing a “Hooray for Hollywood” lecture and had my model girls in garments from Saks Fifth Avenue to illustrate the garments in the films I was discussing, a fun show.  They still all can, most definitely, walk the catwalk.  Karen leads the parade on the left ombre blue chiffon one shoulder gown.  Of the ten pictured,  I have profiled six in nenasnotes….I hope I can persuade the rest to come on board!!!!  This is from Nena’s photo album.

I also learned patience and grace under pressure…occasionally we had wardrobe malfunctions backstage, and had to make the most of it, walk out on the runway cool, calm and collected. And most important: posture, posture, posture! When I was in high school (back in the stone age), it was not “in” to be tall.  I slouched, but for some reason, when I walked out on the runway, my shoulders were back, my tummy was in, and I felt a confidence that I had never had as a youth.  The models who worked for Saks Fifth Avenue had the best posture on the runway because we had the best example, Nena Ivon!  Thank you, Nena.

No, thank you, Karen, for being the consummate professional, loving friend, caring individual and perfect wife, mother and best gran ever!

All photos, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of Karen Ryan.

PROFILE: MICHAEL RAMION

image

Michael in an early comp.

imageMichael today!!!

In my Model Monday Profiles, I have been featuring my “girls” with the exception of Marcellas Reynolds (go to the archives of nenasnotes for his profile)…I also worked with many fabulous “guys” who were professional, extremely nice, looked fantastic in the clothes, and were drop dead gorgeous!!!!  And best of all, no egos were apparent which made them even more attractive.  I started using the male models as “props” in many of my shows wearing a piece or two and always in black tie for the glamourous finales.  If a designer did both women’s and men’s garments they usually didn’t show them in the same show (this is still the case with many of the designers although they are getting more integrated).  When I first started using the gentlemen I would do a fitting (all men’s clothing had to be tailored, at least the hem of the trousers, we didn’t do major alterations, it is the model’s job to “fit” the clothes not only in size but in attitude), and I had to pull for each model since they were different shirt sizes, inseams, etc.  Once I got to know them, just like the ladies, I would just pull and we would baste the hems.  It always worked well.  I had my “stable” of male models just like my females.  I knew who wore what looks best and how they would project to the audience.  I must admit that whenever I had male models in the shows the audience, mostly women, would go wild.  It was like I was doing a show with the Chippendales!  We did many, many all male shows for visiting designers and from stock both in and out of the Store.  The comradery between both sexes was wonderful and we all had great times.

When I asked Michael Ramion to answer my model’s questionnaire he did so without hesitation….here are his words and some super photos from his portfolio.

“I started my modeling career in late 1979, and I actually stumbled into it by accident. I was a hair stylist at that time, doing quite well at it and enjoying the lifestyle that the styling biz offered…a crazy bunch in that business and at that time it was a really diverse crowd to work with.  I was at a party in Indiana and a beautiful woman and her husband approached me and asked if I would be interested in doing a photo ”test” with them…didn’t have the slightest idea what they were talking about, but they gave me their card and we traded info and I thought nothing would come of it but three weeks later Curtis Kulp did indeed call me and set up the test shoot! His wife was Debbie Gephardt, and she was with a new agency called Susanne Johnson that specialized in runway shows…again nothing I knew a thing about, but this whole situation was foreign to a small town boy from Indiana! We shot the pictures, and Debbie took me into the agency to meet with her agents…they signed me on the spot without seeing any pictures and my first booking was a bridal show for Carson Pirie Scott and Co. and that’s where I met the majority of the models I would end up working with for the next several years…Gayle, Tina, Elaine, Shelley and Shauna, Diane, Val…it goes on and on.
image
As far as a favorite Saks show I don’t think I could pick one to be honest…you always had the guys dressed to the 9’s and I always appreciated your taste in clothes, so it was always a sure thing when we got hired that we were going to look great! I remember having to go to the Saks store and audition for you and being extremely nervous because the agency placed such high expectations on working for Saks…obviously it ended up being one of the best working relationships I ever had in my career and it was always a joy to do those shows! (Nena’s note ditto, Michael!!!)
My favorite designer in those days was Armani, without a doubt…just that classic Italian style was right down my alley and the fit was right for me…he was ahead of the game when it came to making clothes for the more ”athletic” type body and I was always a bigger type than the regular 40R type that was prevalent in those days. To this day I have a box with at least 20 pairs of Armani dress slacks that I keep because they were so beautifully made and the fabric is still amazing…couldn’t bring myself to let them go!
image
As far as behind the scenes stuff goes I can’t pin any particular moment down…the crew that you always hired were people that became great friends to me and to this day I stay in touch with some of them…it was always a good time doing those shows and working with those people made ”work” way more fun than anything resembling what I was used to doing for a living!
I’ve done a variety of things over the years and actually have stayed in the modeling/commercial acting biz off and on all these years…and a few years back I actually took off from that business and decided to ”drop out” and went to school and acquired my Class A CDL license to drive 18 wheelers, and after that I drove fuel tankers in Pennsylvania for a bit then worked in the oil fields of North Dakota during the big oil/natural gas rush that was happening up there. The oil business was just about the most chaotic world you could work in because there was so much money to be made and basically not enough drivers willing to work the hours that they demanded from you, and basically there was no such thing as holidays or a normal schedule…my actual work schedule was 12 hours a day, 30 days on and a week off, but that was a joke because I usually worked at least 14/18 hours a day in Montana and ND delivering fuel to frack sites and oil rigs, and it was very physical work and I didn’t mind that at all, to be honest! That oil boom obviously fell apart and pretty much everyone lost their jobs or moved on after the money dried up…we got spoiled because of the amount of hours we worked added up to some big paycheck,s to say the least. That lifestyle in ND was basically all work, very little sleep and that’s about all we did…there was no free time and it was an extremely dangerous environment to be in…driving 5000 gallons of fuel that burns, on mostly roads that were made just to get you into wherever they could drill or frack for natural gas…crazy business!
imageOn a motorcycle instead of a rig!!!!
I actually was home on my break when my agent called to see if I was in town because he had a client that wanted to use me in a commercial that was shooting while I was home…no audition, the client saw my stuff online and hired me from that…ended up that I basically did that job and a few other things came up and I was right back in the business…shot new headshots, did a bunch of updated pictures for a new composite and got right back in the game…it’s obviously a much smaller window of opportunity for guys my age but there’s still work for my age bracket out there…boomers still have disposable income and advertising knows it!
imageI, must once again, state that my models don’t age….I want what they are having!!!!
As far as learning anything from this career goes…I always approached it like it was any other job I had, and there were plenty of those over the span of my life…be on time time, be professional in your approach, have the necessities the job called for, be prepared as best you could be and just be kind and courteous to people no matter their station in life…I never considered myself to be special in any way, I considered myself lucky to have been fortunate to work in a business that paid us well for doing what we got to do, and for that I’m always going to be grateful…for what I thought would be a nice way to make some extra money I’m still at it 37 years later!”
Nena’s note…I would hire Michael in a split second…next time I do a “reunion” fashion show, I can guarantee that I will include both my male and female models…the “older” generation (what does that even mean!!!!) is definitely the news of the day!  Yay!!!