January 26, 2023 | Dancy Mason

The First American Supermodel Crashed And Burned

The supermodel Dovima may be obscure today, but her story is as classic and as heartbreaking as any diva ever gets. For one thing, she was the very first supermodel to use a one-word name. Her real name was Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba, and “Dovima” came from the first two letters of her three given names.

Even the way Dovima became a model is old-school. An editor at Vogue discovered her while she was walking on the street, then set her up on a photoshoot with Irving Penn the very next day. From there, her rise was astonishingly fast. It wasn’t long before she was the muse of the legendary photographer Richard Avedon, and their elegant collaborations are still some of the most famous in fashion history.

With that fame came an attitude to match. Dovima, who knew her worth, demanded $60 an hour as pay. This was a mind-blowing sum—more than double what other models were making at the time. All the same, photographers and magazines happily coughed it up, earning her the name “The Dollar-a-Minute Girl." She also took her talents to the screen, taking small roles in films like Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn.

DovimaGetty Images

Sadly, though, Dovima never got a happy ending. After a searingly successful modeling career in the 1950s, Dovima began to lose her luster. Never lucky in love, she went through two divorces, the last of which left her nearly penniless. When she married for a third time, she was only with her husband for four years before he died.

By the 1970s, Dovima’s star hadn’t just faded; it had crashed and burned. After moving back in with her parents in Florida, she tried to keep the old glamour of her career going. She failed. Soon enough, she was working as a hostess at a pizza parlor in Fort Lauderdale. It couldn't have been the way Dovima had envisioned her future while posing for Richard Avedon, and the bad luck didn't let up.

In May 1990, the 62-year-old former model died of liver cancer, leaving behind very little. Except, that is, her lasting legacy on fashion photography.

Source: 1

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