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Monday, April 30, 2007

Wilhelmina Cooper


Wilhelmina (1940–March 1, 1980) was a supermodel who began with Ford Models and, at the peak of her success, founded her own agency, Wilhelmina Models, in New York City in 1967.

Born Wilhelmina Behmenburg in The Netherlands, she was known professionally as simply "Wilhelmina" or "Willy" to intimates. She moved with her family to Chicago, Illinois, USA, in 1954. She married Bruce Cooper, former executive producer of the Johnny Carson The Tonight Show in 1965.

Eileen Ford was hurt and angry at first when she learned that one of "her own" that she had built and groomed was to become the competition. Internationally known at the time, known for working hard, she knew everyone in the fashion industry. She called top photographers that she had worked with extensively, to share her excitement over her new venture. To her credit, she was able to translate her knowledge of the business, and give new talent a look based on her own personal philosophy of beauty, glamour and elegance. Wilhelmina Models became the other leading model agency with Fords years before Elite and other agencies began.

Cooper was portrayed by Faye Dunaway in the 1998 movie Gia which tells the story of Gia Marie Carangi, a supermodel, who was discoved by Wilhelmina Cooper and later died of AIDS.

She continued to guide the agency into the late 1970s until her premature death from lung cancer at the age of 40 in Greenwich Hospital, Greenwich, Connecticut.

She was a resident of New York City and Cos Cob, Connecticut.