Before there was Cindy Crawford, Twiggy or Naomi Campbell, the German Countess Veruschka (website) reigned supreme in the world of modeling. The 60s-era German icon begin her career at the Ford Modeling Agency and became a muse for famed fashion photographers like Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. She was on the cover of LIFE magazine, worked for Yves Saint Laurent, dated Warren Beatty, worked with Salvador Dalí and her five minute camero in 1966 cult classic Blowup by Michelangelo Antonioni was considered the sexiest scene in film history (although there was no nudity). At her peak, she earned as much as $10,000 a day.
Six feet one inch tall model’s most famous works came after she paired up with Peter Beard, who took her to Kenya. There she painted herself with black shoe polish to resemble surreal plants and animals in an attempt to “go native”. That body paint would remain her style for the rest of her career. In 1985, she entered the art world, putting on a body-painting show in Tribeca; on her naked body, she was painted with different outfits transforming her into wild animals and several archetypes, such as film stars, dandies, gangsters, and dirty old men.
In 1975 she retired from the fashion industry after disagreements with Grace Mirabella, the new editor-in-chief of Vogue, who wanted to change her image to make it more approachable to average women. She remained away from the public eyes until 2008, when she resurfaced to market her book, succinctly titled Veruschka.