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Karen Elson

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Born on 14 January 1979 in Oldham, Greater Manchester, Karen Elson is more than just another model.  She’s also a talented singer and an actress.  She grew up with her twin sister, Kate Elson, who is also a model.  The two were educated at North Chadderton School during their youth.  Elson was first discovered in 1995 by a modelling scout for Boss.  Currently, she is signed with Independent, Viva, and Women.  Elson has admitted to dealing with eating disorders since she was seven, and these issues only worsened as she modelled.
Karen Elson
Today, she often speaks out about eating disorders and criticizes the fashion industry for its part in giving young women negative views of larger body sizes.

Statistics and Features

Elson is 178 cm tall, has blue eyes, and red hair.  Her measurements are 84-62-87.5, she wears a size 34 dress, and she wears a size 41 shoe.  She is best known for her shaved eyebrows and her red hair.  She’s also known for the one time photographer Steven Meisel convinced her to shave off her hair.

On the Runway

Although she was discovered in 1995, Dunn didn’t immediately take to the runway.  Instead, it wasn’t until February of 1997 that she began appearing in shows.  That year, she walked for Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Alexander McQueen, Chloe, Jil Sanders, and Hermes.  In 1999, she did the spring show for Versace, Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kora, and Anna Sui.  Later on, in 2002, she stepped onto the runway for Victoria’s Secret in their annual show.  She continued walking in shows every few years.  In 2005, she walked for Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Lanvin, Moschino, and Bottega Veneta.  Her fiery red hair then wouldn’t be seen on the runway for three years.  In 2008, she retook the runway for Rodart and Anna Sui, closing the latter show.  She then closed the fall Zac Posen show, but unfortunately, she slipped and fell during her walk.  She recovered and returned to the runway in March of 2009 to open the fall Chanel show.

In Print

Elson has been quotes as saying that she loves being photographed and appearing in front of the camera, and because of this, much of her modelling work has focused on print ads and photo shoots.  Her first cover came shortly after being discovered, and it was for French Vogue.  Following that, she appeared on the cover of French Elle, Italian Vogue (multiple times), Dazed & Confused, Nylon, Marie Claire, British Vogue (multiple times), W, and Numero (multiple times).  In one of her more interesting appearances, Elson impersonated Grace Coddington in a 2008 editorial in a Vogue editorial.  That same year, she appeared with popular director Tim Burton and actress Helena Bonham Carter in a British Vogue editorial.

In addition to her cover appearances, she has been photographed for Perry Ellis, Clinique, Versace, Judith Leiber, Burberry Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Giorgio Armani, Prada, Celine, BCBG Max Azria, Donna Karan, and Roberto Cavalli.  She has also appeared in the 2001 Pirelli calendar and fir PHI’s first ad campaign. 

Major Contracts

Over the years, Elson has worked for several major companies.  She promoted Clinique’s Happy fragrance in 1996, became the face of Chanel in 1998, and promoted Yves Saint Laurent fragrances starting in 2004.  The next year, she became the face of Yves Saint Laurent, a position she would return to in 2007.  In 2008, she was named the face of BCBG Max Azria and Celine.  She renewed her Celine contract in 2009.

In Film

In addition to her modelling, Elson has also appeared in many different films and short films.  Her first appearance was in a music video for the band The White Stripes.  Her acting career then took off, and she has appeared in several dozen short films since.  Some of these were fashion related, such as Tom Ford is Missing, War Opera, and the Andy Warhol-inspired More Beautiful Women.  One of her major roles was in the film Lay Down Lean, an experimental film created by the team known as the Belles of the Black Diamond Field.

Singing Career

Elson has also done some work as a singer.  She first became interested in singing in 2001 while she was dating James Iha, the guitarist for the band Smashing Pumpkings.  In 2003, she supplied some backup vocals for Robert Plant when he did a remix of “Last Time I Saw Her.”  The two recorded a few songs together, but none of them were ever released.  In 2005, her song “Coming Down” was added to a CD that came with the August 2005 issue of the magazine Uncut.  She finally received some serious attention as a singer when she sang “I Love You (Me Either)” with Cat Power on his Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited album in 2006.  The next year she did a cover of the Danzig song “Devil’s Plaything.” 

As of 2009, Elson is serving as a performer and creative director for The Citizens Band, a New York City-based cabaret troupe.  As part of this troupe, Elson has consistently received positive reviews and praise from critics and fans.  She has performed covers of a number of different songs, including covers of songs by Elvis Presley, Pete Seeger, Neil Young, and Marlene Dietrich. 


Elson has won a number of awards for her various works.  She was named the VH1/Vogue Model of the Year in 1998, and in 2005, she received the British Fashion Award for Best Novel. 

Personal Life

While appearing in The White Stripes music video, Elson met her future husband, White Stripes lead vocalist Jack White.  The two were married a month later on 1 June 2005 in Brazil.  The couple has two children: Scarlett Teresa White (born 2 May 2006) and Henry Lee White (born 7 August 2007).  They currently live in the United States in Nashville, Tennessee

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