Friday, December 16, 2011

Nena Von Schlebrügge (Uma Thurman's mom)

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In spite of the YEARS Uma Thurman has spent trying to sabotage my love for her with disappointing rom com after disappointing rom com, I can't tell you I don't currently, right this moment, as I'm typing this, care about the woman. What she does, what she wears. Which scion of business she's engaged or not engaged to this year. Ever since first laying eyes on Mrs. Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction, I've been on as much on her team as QT, claiming her as one of my own tribe. In that early nineties' wave of alterna-starlets that all seemed to take cues from (my beloved, though woefully disparate in looks from myself) Winona Ryder, I found comfort in the fact that though Uma Thurman was a sometimes-model, sometimes-actress, SHE wasn't a petite gamine of brown eyed gal, but instead a rootin', tootin' Amazonian like myself! Big feet, big eyes, bird-like nose, and ability to reach things on the very top shelf of the cabinets...an uberfrau after my own heart. So would you believe my disbelief when I found these photos of her mother in the 60's?! Just as one begins to get discouraged that one will never find any Kennedy era clothes to in which to drape one's ultra-tall frame, here comes Miss Six Feet Tall 1963!

Is the resembling not just mind-boggling to you?

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It's the mother's exact face with slightly looser lines and not as much (great) 60's makeup. Mind boggling, I say!

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According to Wikipedia, NvS was born in Mexico City in 1941, to a German/Swedish household (her father was possibly a baron? One of her cousins possibly plays football for a Swedish team? The information I've found on her is scant). Discovered in Sweden, at age 14, by Vogue photographer Norman Parkinson, by 17 she was working for Eileen Ford's famous modeling agency in New York. These photos are from her single-girl-in-the-sixties days, just before marrying Timothy Leary (?!) in 1964 and subsequently marrying Tibetan scholar Robert Thurman in 1967... the sheer exoticism of it all! And can you imagine what she must have looked like in real life? It's like looking at the prettiest, tallest blade of grass.


Obsessed with hair as I have been in the last few posts, I'm liking her simple, elegant shoulder length-with-ends-curling coif. Also, I will accept your gifts of metallic, bateau necked evening gowns and ruched 50's bathing suits with matching caps. It is, after all, Christmas.

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It's funny, in the case of NvS and another sixties' model I love, Veruschka, to see seriously tall women in fashion. As often as the idea of a supermodel being sky high to the ground and eighty-five pounds is passed, in most of the digging I've done over the years, most "seriously tall" models don't top 5'10'' (Veruschka and Uma Thurman both are six feet tall). While that is CRAZY TALL to 95% of the populace, coming from a line of bizarrely colossal people (both grandmothers were six feet tall! Both!), 5'10'' seems "ah, you could be taller" to me. I'm weird.

Examine: Veruschka at left, NvS at right. Look. At. The Length. Of their Calves. Seriously?!

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Most vintage-era models, while certainly in the 5'6''-5'9'' range, LOOK taller on account of hair, heels, and perfect body proportioning. One brilliant case in point of an actually petite person looking super tall is Ava Gardner, who was all of 5'5''... Besides having the face of an angel, her legs, torso, and neck are long for her tailleur, making her seem at least 5'10'' to me. Thus, when I see a photograph of a person who actually IS 5'10'', I think "Good lord... look at her baby giraffe legs! She must be a million feet tall!" When she's probably my size, vertically. What is the deal with this, standard conceptions of beauty?!


((heaves a sigh)) Back to the NvS photos, and the accepting arms of the flagrantly vertical:

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NvS was in a number of catalog-style fashion photographs that I could lay hands on, including this Vogue Sewing pattern book. I love the (metallic! Metallic!) dress, but the hair and makeup seems way too proto-Stepford Wives for me. Below, a more natural, if exhausted, look. Matching long plaid coat and skirt? Sensibly heeled, though shapely, heels? The look that says, "Sometimes I get tuckered out looking this great."

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Here the gal is louging by the fire and the phonograph in slim cigarette pants and Capezios. The life! Did you notice the shag rug?

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I think this is one of the ones that bear the most resemblance to her famous daughter:

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This cap, those nails, and the beads at her neck: one of my favorite pictures of this lot, at top left. Did I mention there's a sphinx? There's a sphinx. If you notice, a lot of her fashion photography involved tilting her head back and either sleekly pulling back her hair or wearing a full-head cap to make best use of that gorgeous bone structure. It's the first thing you notice in most of the high fashion shots of her. Also, I want a coat exactly like that leopard print one. Agh! The coveting is killing me.

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Harper's Bazaar covers from the sixties'...even MORE framable, at times, than their fashion rag counterparts. This one is great. Can you see the copper detail at the edges of her sunglasses? Aviatrix like, almost.

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A few more snips and snaps from the same time period:

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And below, Nena Thurman today, as managing director of Menla Mountain Retreat. Same hair, same bones!

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Last, but not least, see a short film by DA Pennebaker (of the Bob Dylan doc "Don't Look Back", and the Stones "Gimme Shelter", plus lots of other rock docs, fame) of Leary and NvS's 1964 wedding. In the scenes with Nena, it might as well be Uma. They're so alike!



More about the wedding and the film from the director himself HERE.

Do you know of any other celebrity + celebrity's parent doppelgangers?

9 comments:

  1. Wow, she looks so much like Uma, or should I say Uma looks like her! The apple didn't fall far from the striking beauty now did it?

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  2. Wow I do love Uma too never knew her mum was a model she is gorgeous, I am too a big bird with a big nose aha x

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  3. These photos are just stunning! The clothes, the hair, her AMAZING looks...wow.

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  4. Oooo thanks for this post, I totally did not know any of this about her gorgeous mummy!

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  5. My father Gleb Derujinsky shot the cover of Bazaar in Turkey. The other model on the shoot was my mother Ruth Neumann~Derujinsky. Should you ever have interest in information pertaining to them, please let me know. I have had some lovley conversations with Mrs. Thurman, she is an extraordinary woman. A real adventurer. As were many of that era.

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    1. Wow! I'd love to pick your brain sometime, that's so neat! Shoot me an email at shewasabird at yahoo dot com when you get a chance.

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  6. Thurman came to Millbrook genuine enlightened. Without trying (or wanting) he drew followers from Leary's entourage. Leary decreed Thurman must leave and take the traitors with him. The house split and began to die. NvS went with Thurman. I left too. Thurman quietly idled letting the followers drift away, but he kept NvS.

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    1. Wow! I love hearing stories from people who were there about things I write about on this blog-- I wasn't able to find very much about the Leary-NvS-Thurman connection other than bare bones when I originally wrote this blog, so I thank you for reading and for the inside-info!

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