Audrey Munson is considered the first supermodel in history. At the height of her career, she was so famous she was nicknamed Miss Manhattan and Venus of Washington Square. Audrey led a long life (she died in 1996 at the age of 104!) but unfortunately not a happy one. She was born in Rochester in 1891 and ended up moving to Manhattan with her mother at the age of 8 after her parents divorced.
Audrey’s modeling career began when she was just a teenager as the sculptor Isidore Kanti noticed her beauty and asked if she would be willing to pose for a large piece he was working on. Both Audrey and her mother were reluctant but they eventually agreed as they needed the money. Audrey went on to pose for many more sculptures, paintings, and photographs and even had a short stint in Hollywood.
The decline of her mental health was probably due to the controversy around her work and the criticism it ensued (she was even arrested once for nudity) and the trauma caused to her by one ‘admirer’ Walter Wilkins. In 1919, Wilkins, a 65-year-old physician and the owner of a house Audrey and her mother had been tenants in, murdered his wife in the hope Audrey would then agree to marry him. He was sentenced to death but committed suicide before the execution took place.
Audrey fled to Canada in order to get away from Wilkins but it seems she never recovered from the incident. In 1931, when she was 39 Audrey’s mother had her committed to a psychiatric hospital, where she stayed until the end of her life. Hardly anyone visited her, and soon Audrey Munson fell into obscurity. In 2016, a book was published about the pioneer model’s life called 'American Venus: The Extraordinary Life' by James Bone.
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On June 25, 1906, Evelyn’s husband Harry Kendall Thaw publicly shot and killed the architect and New York socialite Stanford White in front of hundreds of witnesses at the rooftop theater of Madison Square Garden. The incident led to what the press called the 'Trial of the Century' and brought worldwide attention to Evelyn. She later testified that five years prior to the murder she was involved in an abusive relationship with White and that he sexually assaulted her.
Evelyn eventually divorced Harry Thaw in 1915. In the following years, she had moderate success as an actress in silent movies and later worked on burlesque stages around the US. During the 1930s she struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. Evelyn Nesbit was never able to disconnect herself from the murder and was forever remembered as The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing. A movie based on her life bearing her name was released in 1955. Evelyn died at a nursing home in California in 1967, at the age of 82.