from french ELLE 15. July 2002:
SIMONSEN: THE SMILE OF
Their names are Twiggy, Bettina,
Renée… It was 10, 20 or 30 years ago, they smiled
on covers. What do they do now ? This week, follow the path of
Renée Simonsen, from the Ultra Brite smile to Psychology
Framed photos cover all the dining room walls. You can see children's
laughing faces, official grand parents' portrays, happy family instant
photos, 3 little girls surrounded by very hippy parents, a wonderful
bride. No fashion-shooting photo. No glamorous portray. Only family
photos, sometimes not technically good. Renée Simonsen, 80's
top model, the first model who imposed her last name, does not throw
away those years where her face and awesome eyes did regularly ELLE
covers. But her family counts above all, so strong links to her kids,
the love for her parents, her sisters and her husband. This Danish
girl, 37 years, is still incredibly gorgeous. A beauty, which is
lightened by happiness and cleverness.
Barefoot, no make up on, her face lightened by the Nordic summer
lightening, she cuts geranium, watches out the still green cherishes,
hugs her daughter Ulrikke close to her whose says a little sadness,
puts a pillow on the youngest, Hugo, who burst into laugh.
Below the house, on the pearl grey sea, long boats are passing by
slowly. Renee chose to live close to her hometown birth city, Arhus,
north of Denmark.
A calm city, between harbour and lands, far away from fashion world.
There is where she came back to when she stopped modelling in 1989.
Her carreer starts by chance 8 years ago. She is with her friend who
passes a model contest in Copenhagen. To her big surprise she becomes
the "Face of the 80's". Then, Eileen Ford proposes an amazing deal. Her
parents worry and wonder. "They are intellectual and they were
communists. Go into fashion world meant to them, to become the
capitalisms major-domo, enter a world which means money. My mother,
very feminist, learnt to my sisters and I that a girl should need a
diploma before anything else. I only was 17, and I did not get the
senior High School Diploma (Bac). Go to New York alone & stop
my school year was unbelievable to her."
Renee resists anyhow to her parents negative answer. But she wonders.
Eileen Ford goes up in the deal and assures her a yearly amount of 200
000 dollars. "I will not have earned this amount in a nurse lifetime of
work, the job I thought about. I said to myself : that is a luck sign,
am doing the model for a couple of years, make savings and go back to
University." Under 18 she lives at Eileen Fords in Manhattan : her
parents are happy to know that she is safe. Little by little, she
discovers fashion world. "Names as Gucci, Chanel, Vuitton meant nothing
for me. I was raised up in a non-fashion world, where those names were
unknown. On my first work, I went to Sardinia for a major American
magazine. I totally ignored what it meant." Renee learns very fast.
Everyone wants her. In 1982 she enters to Karin Models in Paris, and
is remarked by Odile Sarron who runs the ELLE casting department. Her
appears regularly on our cover. Her gorgeous blue look fascinates. "The
initial 2 years I thought about became 3, then 4, then 5
years…. I still had this goal : saving the more money I can.
When I earned 10.000 dollars I rushed to Danish bank and asked that
this amount to go to my bank account at home." During 7 years
Renée Simonsen works non-stop. Mostly from 9 am to midnight.
She does also the headline of the tabloids. Because she is engaged with
John Taylor, Duran Durans drummer. They buy a house in Paris, Rue
Jasmin. Forever, so they think.
"One day, I was 24, I had enough. I could not stand anymore to be
touched by strangers. I wanted more that superficial relationships
while fashion shooting, I needed others values; I did not want to be
obsessed by my figure. Then, surprisingly, self confident as I am, I
became through the years, less & less self assured, more and
more fragile. I felt like an alien."
While she spends holidays with her oldest sister Heidi she asks her
about her future. Heidi answers back "I am going to spend a few months
in a Kibbutz in Israel."- "I go with you", Renée says
instantly. In front of her sisters incredulous look, Renee says "I
dare you." That's how she is doing during a few months to get up at 5
am to go and take the fruits. "We wore all the same working uniform, we
did the same things. I liked this conception of community, socialist of
the life. I stay friend with Lily, a woman born in Austria, who went
away from Nazism and who was cutting trees. Lately I went to Israel to
celebrate her 70. birthday." Renée stops shaving her
underarms, put henna to make her hair more orange. She is happy. In the
same time she has stronger hands, her vision of the world changes. She
does not want to be model anymore, that is what she wants. But in her
life John Taylor is still here.
When she leaves the kibbutz, she goes and joins him on tour. She goes
with him from Vancouver to San Francisco, from Hawaii to Korea. "I had
changed, he did not. All he wanted was to be a rock star, buy expensive
clothes. I knew that I did not want to be musicians
fiancée." Renée broke her engagement. Sadly. "We
loved each other dearly." She goes back to Arhus close to her parents.
To go back to her roots. She sells her Rue Jasmin House. And by a phone
call asks her accountant to sell her house in New York. "I did not want
to go back there anymore. I nearly did not go back there tho'."
In Arhus she knows what she wants to do: get diplomas. At 25, she
decides to take her bac (high school diploma). "I registered to a
private course. It was difficult to get back in the schooling world. I
had to work 3 days for the first paper". She gets her Bac with high
grades; you have to get high grades in Denmark to go to Psychology
University. And Renée now knows that she wants: learn the
complexity of the human soul. In this 2002 year she just finished her
thesis from 3. cycle. The subject : the children who suffer from the
lack of love, attention and hyper activity syndrome.
While she does studies, she works several times in the anti-violence
centre for women freely. She does the advert campaigns of Biotherm
& Vichy. And she gives birth to 3 kids. "I met up their father
of my 2 first children in Copenhagen after my come back. My dream was
to build a perfect family. Alas 3 months after Jens Christians birth
we broke up. Once again I came back to Arhus. I felt miserable, my
beautiful dreams broken." For her kids she buys a big yellow house on
the seaside. Then, a few after, she meets at one of his concerts the
most famous danish singer Thomas Helmig. "We knew each other before.
We met when I came back from New York. To tell the truth, I had a love
at first sigh feeling for him at that time, but he never called me
back. I forgot him. This evening in Arhus he asked me my phone number
and called me up. Since then we have been living together."
Their son Hugo is born 3 years ago. And 2 years ago we got married. "I
was against marriage. John Taylor proposed me but I refused. But face
to Thomas' proposal I could not refuse. Well, I cross my fingers but I
think that we are together forever."
In the big yellow house there is no extra person to take care about
the kids. Thomas puts clothes on Hugo, Renée put in order
the clothing. The 4 children are laughing in the garden between
tomatoes plants and courgettes. Still barefoot Renée looks
at them all and the proud in her eyes makes them more wonderfully blue.