Thursday, March 11, 2010

HerStory: China Machado

Just one look at this photo, and a viewer is captivated. As exquisite as her photographs, China Machado is stunning. Model muse of legendary photographer Richard Avedon, China Machado, of Portuguese and Chinese descent, became the first non-Caucasian model to ever appear on the cover of a Western publication (Harper’s Bazaar) in 1959.

A multiracial glamour with striking features, China’s image redefined the image of what a woman could be, allowing the world of fashion to begin relating to people other than it’s usual Caucasian base. When Avedon booked China for a photo shoot, the publishers of Harper’s Bazaar initially refused to run the photographs for fear that her look was too “different”, too alienating. Yet, one look at this infamous icon, and her elegance is unmistakable- the perfect union of grace and toughness that offers an alternative angle of a woman’s presence, an alternative angle of the kind of woman who was allowed to own the title of ‘glamour’.

More than a pretty face, China went on to be a force in the fashion world outside of her photographs. Though Harper’s Bazaar once objected to publishing her images, even they weren’t able to resist her prowess and asked her to be the fashion editor of the publication. She went on to be produce fashion TV shows for networks like NBC, runway shows around the country, and worked as a costume designer for several films.

“She had this incredible way that mixed elegance with nonchalance. Maybe it’s the sophistication of an era that will never happen again. That type of model, that type of photographer (Avedon),- there’s an incredible perfection. It doesn’t come close to those days, what we’re doing today in fashion.”- Francois Nars, of Nars Cosmetics

One look says it all. As Avedon and China prove, one photograph can say a million words.

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