Stunning Facts About Suzy Parker, The First Supermodel

September 2, 2022 | Alicia B.

Stunning Facts About Suzy Parker, The First Supermodel

Suzy Parker, the first supermodel turned movie star, had it all: beauty, fame, and wealth. But she paid the price with pain, heartbreak, and utter tragedy. Despite everything, Suzy spent her groundbreaking career searching for happiness –and failing– until she found it in the unlikeliest of places. This is the life of the supermodel who got away.

1. She Had A Surprising Childhood

Modeling industry titan Eileen Ford once declared Suzy was born to model, but her childhood was the furthest thing from glamorous. For one, Suzy’s real name seemed sweet and sentimental—but it was actually humiliating. Her real name was Cecilia Renee Ann Parker. Parker’s older sister Dorian suggested their mother name the new family member after her best friends. How cute!

Except…the initials spelled out a naughty word. The name was mortifying for both the strict Baptist parents and future supermodel. No wonder Suzy changed it as soon as possible!

Suzy Parker factsGetty Images

2. Her Parents Didn’t Want Her

On October 28, 1932, Suzy came into the world at the worst possible time—during the Great Depression. Her horrendous birth didn’t help. Suzy came out pulseless and blue. She lacked vital signs for so long no one believed she would make it. Despair and mourning overwhelmed everyone. Running out of time and options, a medical intern took desperate measures to save her.

He violently smacked the newborn. To everyone’s disbelief, Suzy came back to life! Thanks to that whack, Suzy lived to become a superstar, but not before enduring an awful childhood.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

3. Her Childhood Was Painful

As if being the unwanted disappointment of strict parents wasn’t depressing enough, Suzy spent her childhood sick and in pain from a myriad of illnesses. She suffered from severe asthma, allergies, earaches, and pneumonia. Even worse, Suzy grew up during the Great Depression. But Suzy refused to let it bring her down—and became every parent’s worst nightmare.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

4. She Felt Ugly

The same unconventional looks—tall, big-boned, red-haired, and freckled—which made Suzy a standout model were also the cause of her torment. Suzy always stood out because of her appearance, but initially not in a good way. Kids can be mean—but the students in Suzy’s class took it to a horrific level. They made her feel like a literal monster. When Dorian found Suzy distraught and sobbing at the kitchen table, she vowed to change the way her sister saw herself.

The modeling world was never the same thanks to a big sister’s love.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

5. She Owes Everything To Her Sister

Suzy owed it all to Dorian. Yes, that Dorian, the sister responsible for naming her after human waste. She totally made up for that prank. Dorian was a top model that every agency and photographer desperately wanted. However, she demanded Ford sign her 15-year-old sister: they were a package deal. The agency wanted the older Parker so badly that they reluctantly agreed without even seeing Suzy.

Suzy Parker Facts

6. Her Looks Shocked Everyone

When the Ford executives first saw Suzy, they were shocked. They expected and hoped the girl they unwillingly signed looked like Dorian: petite, delicate, pale, dark-haired, and blue-eyed. However, in walks Suzy: tall, big-boned, freckled, ginger hair, and green-eyed. Their jaws dropped—and they were convinced they’d made a grave mistake.

Suzy, however, had some surprises up her sleeve.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

7. She Was The Underdog

Despite her unconventional and unexpected appearance, Suzy would go on to make Ford a boatload of money. They’d initially set out to nab Dorian, but got someone so much better. However, Dorian still wasn’t done meddling with her little sister’s—and now competition’s—career, leading her towards supermodel status.

Dorian Leigh in Formal Evening Wear by Simonetta ViscontiGetty Images

8. Her Sister Saved Her

Suzy had the dream modeling contract, but not the dream career. Teenage Suzy saw her career as a total flop: everyone compared her to Dorian, the already successful and conventionally attractive model. Dorian’s reaction was surprising. Instead of seeing her as competition, she vowed to help her. Dorian didn’t just get Suzy signed, she introduced her to the photographers who transformed her career.

She even pressured these professionals into working with Suzy. Her career was finally thriving, but she paid the price in her love life.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

9. She Had A Secret

One day, Suzy’s mother walked into her room, only to make a disturbing discovery. Suzy was there in bed with her childhood sweetheart, Ronald Staton. The Parkers already loathed Ronald—and as if that wasn’t nightmarish enough, Suzy confessed that she’d eloped with him. All of Suzy’s childhood illnesses, injuries, and hijinks paled in comparison to this nightmare.

And you wouldn’t believe what she wore to her secret wedding!

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

10. Her Wedding Outfit Was Crazy

She was a famous model gracing magazines and photoshoots wearing designer clothes. So what did Suzy wear to the wedding? An elaborate couture gown? A dramatic veil? A tiara? Diamond jewelry? Not even close! She didn’t even wear a dress or anything remotely resembling one. Suzy wore a bikini and a raincoat.

Perhaps that should’ve been a red flag about the relationship.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

11. Her Marriage Was A Disaster

“Sheer disaster” is how Suzy described her first marriage. That might even be an understatement. Money wasn’t the issue: she was already earning more than enough to support them. They were simply too young and incompatible—but the worst was yet to come. It completely unraveled while Suzy was away in Paris.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

12. She Wanted Out

While working in the city of love, Suzy fell for journalist Pierre de la Salle. With her mind made up, Suzy returned home to Ronald and demanded a divorce. No one wants to be with someone who doesn’t want them—but keep in mind that Suzy was making tons of money as a model. Well, as a result, Ronald wasn’t about to let her go that easy.

Suzy Parker FactsWikimedia Commons

13. Her Divorce Was Ridiculous

Suzy and Ronald’s marriage was a mess; they both knew it. Still, Ronald insisted he would only consent to an easy divorce if Suzy met his long, ridiculous list of demands. These included a huge cash settlement, a nose job, and acting lessons. Suzy was so done with their marriage she gave in.

Suzy’s first love was a total mess, and as we’ll see, her next relationship was even worse.

Suzy Parker FactsWikimedia Commons

14. She Was Everywhere

There were models, then there was Suzy Parker. Most models dream of appearing on one magazine cover. Suzy graced the cover of 70. She was so beautiful and popular that Hollywood soon came calling—and she handled it with aplomb, crossing over and becoming a double threat.  Still, behind the scenes, Suzy faced plenty of scandal.

While it mostly pertained to her personal life and not her modeling, there was one major exception.

Suzy Parker FactsWikimedia Commons

15. She Caused A Scandal

Usually, Suzy’s personal life was wild and scandalous. This time, a career decision—a single photo—caused a commotion. Why? She wore a bikini. It’s normal today, but it was a massive deal at the time. It was actually the first mainstream photos of a model wearing a bikini. Consequently, they were a sensation among the general public. Now imagine how Suzy’s notoriously traditional parents reacted…

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

16. She Disappointed Her Parents

It was a scene straight out of a comedy—two world-famous models frantically removing their makeup on a plane ride, as if they were doing something nefarious. Except that was Suzy and Dorian’s reality. The pair’s fame, wealth, and success would overjoy most parents. But Elizabeth and George were not most parents. Their strict parents hated everything about modeling.

And with the bikini photo, Suzy had once again disappointed her parents. This time, she found comfort with some legendary names.

Suzy Parker factsGetty Images

17. She Had Legendary Friends

Coco Chanel. Christian Dior. These aren’t just imaginary names on perfumes and handbags. They were real people. These legendary designers didn’t just hire or befriend Suzy, they were obsessed with her! For instance, Dior declared that Suzy was “the most beautiful in the world”. And Coco took it even further.

The renowned designer saw Suzy as not only a muse, but a daughter. Suzy enamored everyone—even the most famous band of all time.


18. The Beatles Wrote Her A Secret Song

Many beautiful women inspire art, but not many can brag that The Beatles—yes, those Beatles—wrote her a secret, unreleased song that only appeared in their documentary. What a flex. Since everyone adored Suzy, you’re probably imagining an alluring siren. In reality, Suzy rebelled against the ideals for models and ladies of the era.

Somehow, she became the first supermodel by not behaving like a model at all! One of her most prominent traits was also her most irritating.

Paul McCartney factsGetty Images

19. She Annoyed Everyone

Models –and women in general– should be seen, not heard. Well, Suzy didn’t get that memo. She was infamously loud and talkative. How bad was it? It got to the point where many people complained about her chattiness. She wouldn’t shut up and drove everyone crazy. Suzy took it even further. It wasn’t long before her mouth got her into trouble.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

20. She Lied A Lot

Mystery and intrigue surrounded Suzy—all for one disturbing reason. Because she lied so much! Thanks to her penchant for dishonesty, no one she knew even knew where she was born. Suzy confessed: “I've said a lot of stupid things”. Why? She wanted to be mysterious –she also just thought tricking people was hilarious. One of her more extravagant lies was being descended from French royalty.

After people discovered the truth, Suzy was shameless. She simply roared with laughter because she tricked them. She would pull many more pranks, and each one was more extreme than the next.

William and Mary factsWikimedia.Commons

21. She Just Wanted To Have Fun

Suzy was still the mischievous troublemaker underneath the fame, money, and success. No example proves this more than “the Miami incidents”. Suzy and a model friend landed an amazing job: shooting for Vogue in a luxurious Miami hotel. Most people would just savor the dream job on a dream set. Not Suzy!

Instead, she poured bubble soap into the grand fountain and wreaked havoc—and she didn’t stop there.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

22. She Was A Prankster

During the same job, the naughty pair begged famous photographer Roger Prigent to buy them a shark from a restaurant’s tank. Somehow, they successfully convinced him. More chaos ensued after they threw the shark into the luxury hotel’s swimming pool. These pranks were ridiculous and chaotic, but relatively harmless. Until one day, when Suzy took it too far and crossed a line.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

23. She Had A Mean Streak

On the outside, young Suzy was beautiful beyond compare. But inside? Suzy could be ugly. She was extremely competitive and catty towards other models. In one savage incident, Suzy’s pranking and competitiveness clashed. The results were disastrous. She chopped off fellow model Ann Gunning’s luscious hair. Suzy got away with it by pretending she only wanted to help her look better in hats.

In reality, it ruined Ann’s career because her new haircut was hideous, with or without a hat. Suzy continued this bad behavior—but as we’ll see, karma eventually came to humble her.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

24. She Was A Diva

Suzy declared she was “the best model”—and behaved like it. Models were supposed to be docile and obedient: she didn’t care. Suzy terrified fashion industry professionals with her diva behavior: “She will wear it or she won’t wear it. She will do her own makeup and her own hair. She gets the gist of what the shoot is and takes over”.

And just when people thought that she couldn’t get any worse, Hollywood transformed Suzy into an even bigger diva.

Suzy ParkerGetty Images

25. Hollywood Didn’t Like Her Behavior

The legendary Fox Studios offered Suzy three lead roles. It was a dream for any actress. Yet, Suzy rejected them all. Why? She wanted more fun roles. Well, this wasn’t the modeling world—and she’d have to deal with the consequences. The studio suspended the supermodel-turned-actress. Most would’ve been heartbroken…but her reaction was classic Suzy.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

26. She Rejected Hollywood

Fox Studios had sent her packing—but Suzy remained unbothered. After all, she was the highest paid—and “best”—supermodel in the world. She could easily turn down work that was beneath her, or for any other reason she came up with. While Suzy had an attitude, she had the wallet to back it up.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

27. She Was Super Rich

What did the president of the United States and Suzy have in common? They both made $100,000 a year. That salary is unsurprising for the leader of the free world. But it was a huge deal for a model to make this much. It was double what any other model earned. It’s was the equivalent of nearly a million dollars today. However, this huge wealth would come with a huge consequence.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

28. She Owed A Huge Debt

Suzy had been making big money—but there was something she hadn’t counted on. With big money comes big taxes, and boy did Suzy owe a lot. By 1955, she owed $60,000 in unpaid taxes and her debt was swelling, It was money Suzy didn’t have. Financial ruin loomed—until one of her nearest and dearest came to the rescue.

Modeling exec Jerry Ford not only paid her entire tax bill, but found her many opportunities so she could make even more money. While Suzy avoided financial ruin, this ordeal transformed the former diva.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

29. She Was Aimless

After her brush with financial doom, Suzy was a changed woman. She became an absolute delight to work with. However, she was still unhappy thanks to an inescapable reason. You see, Suzy didn’t take her job seriously at all. She didn’t even like it. To Suzy, “Modeling was always only a way to make money. never any more than that”.

Her honesty and self-deprecation took a massive mental toll: she was unsatisfied with her life. Consequently, she tried to find purpose in the worst places—and people.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

30. She Hated Hollywood

Suzy Parker didn’t just hate modeling; she also despised Hollywood. Aside from acting, she barely participated in Hollywood life. She loathed the parties and substances. This indifference even extended to the most famous and beautiful men in the country. Every Hollywood bachelor wanted Suzy—but she didn’t spare them a single glance. Suzy was still searching for her purpose and sacrificed a lot in hopes of finding it.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

31. She Gave Up A Lot Of Money

Suzy had beauty, fame, success, wealth, and a booming career. Modeling and acting didn’t satisfy her, so she turned to photography and signed with the agency Magnum. It was a serious downgrade. They paid the beginner photographer $115 a month. For context, she earned her $115 an hour modeling. Her career pivot was a huge gamble—and it didn’t pay off.

When her agency failed to sell a single photograph. Suzy made the heartbreaking decision to return to modeling and acting.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

32 She Hated Marriage

One of Suzy’s most famous quotes was about how she loved a man more when she wasn’t married to him. Her disastrous first marriage definitely didn’t improve her outlook. Suzy wasn’t shy about sharing her hatred of marriage. This turned out to be yet another one of her lies when a tragedy exposed her hypocrisy. This is the unromantic love story of Suzy and Pierre.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

33. Her Husband Tried To Sell Her

Suzy’s lover, future husband, and father of her firstborn was a bad man—and one story illustrates just how horrible he was. A rich rake once became enamored with the alluring model. “How much for a weekend”? he propositioned. Instead of responding with outrage, anger, and denial, Pierre actually gave him a price.

He really knew how to make a woman feel special! This audacity was not an isolated incident: it defined their entire relationship.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

34. Her Husband Used Her

Suzy was a poor rich woman. She was rich in money, fame, beauty, and success. However, greedy men bankrupted her in the love department. It began but didn’t end with Ronald. Pierre was even worse…and pricier to boot. He enjoyed a lavish lifestyle—from clothes to illicit substances—all funded by the Bank of Suzy!

How Pierre thanked her for everything was beyond belief.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

35. Her Husband Betrayed Her

They quietly dated for years and secretly married between 1957 and 1958. Suzy was sadly oblivious to the disturbing truth about her husband. Pierre cheated on her. Constantly. His audacious betrayals didn't end with infidelity. If you can imagine, they got even worse after the worst day in Suzy’s life.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

36. She Experienced A Tragedy

Shortly after, a tragedy tested Suzy and Pierre’s marriage. Suzy and her father George were in a car together when a train suddenly collided with their vehicle. It sent the pair soaring in the air before crumpling onto the ground. Her father did not survive. Tragically, Suzy’s mother Elizabeth was already in the hospital recovering from a major surgery.

The Parker family—Suzy in particular—would never be the same again.

Suzy Parker FactsWikimedia Commons

37. She Had Many Scars

The accident took Suzy’s father’s life—but that wasn’t the only damage it did. It also disfigured Suzy: physically and emotionally. She spent three months in the hospital recovering from serious injuries. Suzy survived, but with lifelong scars she desperately concealed. And that wasn’t all.

Suzy Parker FactsWikimedia Commons

38. It Left Her Broken

Suzy may have survived her physical injuries, but her emotional pain endured—and it reached a terrifying low point. Suzy felt like it was her fault and she even tried to end her life. Fortunately, she received treatment and survived. Unfortunately, the press pounced while she was vulnerable and uncovered her deepest secret.

Suzy Parker FactsWikimedia Commons

39. A Tragedy Exposed Her

This tragedy became even more tragic. Hospital paperwork revealed Suzy and Pierre were married. Their secret was out—yet for whatever reason, Pierre still denied it. For years, Pierre shamelessly cheated on Suzy and leeched off her wealth. Unbelievably, he believed it was humiliating to be married.

Sadly, this was not the end of Pierre’s hideous treatment of his wife.

Suzy Parker FactsWikimedia Commons

40. Her Husband Abandoned Her

Suzy was in a horrible marriage and had barely survived a terrible accident—but the worst was yet to come. The cherry on top was Pierre abandoning her. The timing couldn’t have been more brutal. He took off when Suzy found herself pregnant with their child, only a year after the accident. Pierre didn’t meet his daughter Georgia Belle Florian Coco Chanel de la Salle until she was already 17.

How much more drama and tragedy can a person take?

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

41. Her Daughter’s Name Was Problematic

Georgia Belle Florian Coco Chanel de la Salle—the name is not only a mouthful, it’s also an homage to important women in Suzy’s life. This included Coco Chanel (who was also the godmother) and her sisters. Unsurprisingly, Suzy didn’t honor the mom who never wanted her. Shockingly, there was one obvious name missing. Where was Dorian? After all, she was the sister whose footsteps Suzy followed and owed her career to.

Well, there was a good reason for her absence—there was bad blood between them.

Famous Last Words FactsGetty Images

42. She Hated Her Sister

Dorian may have done everything for Suzy in order to get her career started—but years later, their once-friendly rivalry turned into a bitter feud. On one hand, Suzy hated Dorian’s promiscuity and neglectful parenting. She even poked fun at Dorian’s loneliness after all her relationships collapsed. Their relationship deteriorated to the point where Suzy hated even talking to Dorian on the phone.

On the other hand, Dorian was seething with envy over Suzy’s success. At least Dorian could relish in Suzy’s hypocrisy as she got into another scandalous relationship.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

43. She Had A Scandalous Affair

Suzy’s third and final marriage began with scandal but ended unexpectedly. In 1960, sparks flew when Suzy met Bradford Dillman while filming a movie together. It was scandalous on both sides. Suzy was separated from but still married to Pierre. Similarly, Bradford was also separated from, but still married to his wife. However, he was actually dating another woman too.

Well, that didn’t stop the movie stars. Three years later, they married and experienced an awful wedding night.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

44. Her Wedding Night Was Awful

The two divorcees married on a boat in the middle of the ocean. How romantic, right? Not exactly. Suzy developed seasickness. She spent their whole wedding night throwing up. It seemed as though this relationship, like Suzy’s previous ones, was cursed. Their first night didn’t bode well for the rest of their marriage.

Well, despite the sketchy start and wedding drama, Suzy and Bradford defied the odds—and even another tragedy.

Wedding DramaPexels

45. An Accident Ended Her Career

The universe really had it out for Suzy. Only a year after her wedding, the newlywed got into another car accident. Seriously, what are the odds? Again, Suzy survived but sustained injuries. This time, she called it quits and retired. It was a sad and anticlimactic end to the trailblazing career of the first supermodel. Most stars struggle in retirement. However, Suzy finally found peace and happiness—and it was far away from the glitz and glamor.

Suzy Parker FactsWikimedia Commons

46. She Found Peace

Many celebrities cling to their glory days. Not Suzy: she left it all behind and never looked back. After a life of pain, heartbreak, and drama, Suzy found her true meaning in life: motherhood. Her family was a massive blended family comprising of George, two step-children, and three children with Brad. She thrived as a stay-at-home mom—until one day, when a calamity invaded the family’s tranquility.

Suzy Parker FactsGetty Images

47. She Nearly Lost Her Baby

All was well in the Dillman’s luxurious Bel Air estate… until a dangerous snake bit Dinah, their one-year-old daughter. An idyllic day turned into a month-long nightmare of medical teams, precarious surgeries, and an unprecedented amount of antivenom. Miraculously, the baby survived. This incident was another psychological scar for the supermodel turned supermom. The family ditched glamorous Bel Air for a snakeless suburb.

Don Simpson factsWikipedia

48. Her Health Failed

Suzy’s lifetime of illness and injury came back with a vengeance. During the 1990s, she suffered from diabetes and ulcers. The latter nearly killed her. During an ulcer surgery, things went horribly wrong: Suzy’s heart stopped. The medical team scrambled to resuscitate her. Does anyone else feel deja vu? This surgery was reminiscent of her odds-defying birth.

However, Suzy never made a full recovery; she became even sicker. Her health woes culminated in kidney failure. Suzy spent her final years in and out of hospitals. She’d had enough.

Suzy Parker Facts

49. She Decided How She Went Out

When she felt like it was time, Suzy Parker took matters into her own hands and ended her medical treatments. She left the hospital and never returned. Two weeks later, the 70-year-old passed at home with her loving family by her side. At last, the troubled supermodel was at peace after a tumultuous life.

No one, not even Suzy, could have imagined the trajectory of her life. It turned out to transcend modeling. Behind the glitz and glamor, Suzy’s story is of resilience and finding happiness in unexpected places.

Suzy Parker Facts

50. She Rejected Her Funeral

Even when Suzy’s health was failing, she was a control freak. There was no funeral service for Suzy Parker, the first supermodel and the Dillman family’s beloved matriarch—but only because Suzy demanded it. Her passing was a quiet and intimate affair…the furthest possible thing from the theatrics of her heyday.

Inappropriate funeralShutterstock

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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