Christie Brinkley didn’t become a household name on her own. Long before Billy Joel swooned over the supermodel she was being shepherded by the good folks at Ford Models, founded by Eileen and Jerry Ford in 1946. Eileen went on to become one of biggest names in fashion and modeling, with an eye for talent and a feeling for trends that launched the careers of Jerry Hall, Elle Macpherson, Lauren Hutton, Twiggy, and Cheryl Tiegs.
ABC is bringing the drama of the 1970s modeling world to TV with a pilot order for Model Woman, a period drama based on Robert Lacey’s book Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty. The show will be a family soap centered on fictional Bertie Geiss as a loose adaptation of Eileen Ford, the matriarch of a successful agency.
Deadline reports that the new show will be produced by Sony TV’s reorganized TriStar Television, with Helen Childress (Reality Bites) penning the script.
Ford Models ruled the New York modeling scene until John Casablancas arrived and founded Elite Model Management, paving the way for other agencies and instigating the little-known model wars of the late 70s and 80s.
Eileen Ford was a model herself while a student at Barnard. She went on to work as a stylist and fashion journalist before founding Ford Models after her husband returned from WWII. They invited new models moving to New York to live in their home, and were the first agency to pay a model for work in advance of the client’s payment to the agency. They advocated for standardization in the modeling field and kept strict rules for their models in lifestyle and work.
As Elite began poaching some of Ford’s top models women started moving quickly between those two powerhouse agencies, and smaller competitors. Their earnings skyrocketed, ushering in a golden age of supermodels in the 1980s, when Linda Evangelista famously quipped supermodels didn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day.
Scripted shows about models haven’t always fared well, though Tyra Banks reality competition America’s Next Top Model drew audiences for 22 seasons before wrapping up this year and The Devil Wears Prada has rabid fans. Paper Dolls and Models Inc. only lasted 1 season each in the mid 80s and 90s, and though sitcom Just Shoot Me! lasted 7 seasons it centered on an entire publication rather than just modeling.
Period-set shows have a better track record however. Aside from Downton Abbey, shows like Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, The Wonder Years, and the underappreciated Manhattan have managed to wrap drama into the mystique of an era. This new show may get some competition though, Cindy Crawford is also rumored to be developing a fictional drama based on her experience in the industry.