Living in New York, you walk past a thousand faces everyday. Most of them you never see again as they get lost forever in the endless swarm of tourists, bankers, musicians, actors, cowboys, doggie hairdressers, performance artists and all the other fauna roaming around. There is, however, one face you definitely see everyday. It’s the face of a young, drop dead gorgeous woman, and she is everywhere you go. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but in every corner, on top of every building, she poses and looks down at the city. Her name is Audrey Munson and she was “America’s First Supermodel.” She was more widely known as “Miss Manhattan,” and was the model for the biggest and best statues in NYC, as well as being the first American movie star to appear fully nude on film.
Born in Rochester NY in 1891, Audrey came to NYC looking for fame and success in show biz. Her big break came when a photographer spotted her through a store window. After some photos, she was introduced to the famed sculptor Isidore Konti. He asked her to pose nude, and from the moment when her nudity was forged in bronze, her fame grew.
Audrey was well known for being able to cast a mood even when posing still, and also for being able to hold poses for as long as needed. Her most prized feature were the dimples on her lower back, known as “Venusian dimples.” Despite having her likeness plastered all over NYC’s most expensive buildings, she was paid $35 a week, about $800 today. She dated millionaires, and was a member of the “jet-set”, but of course, way before jets were invented.
According to Roman Mars:
“It helped that the architecture that was in vogue at the time was the Beaux-Arts style, which required a lot of sculptures and detailed ornamentation.”
At the 1915 World’s Fair in San Francisco, 75% of the statues on the grounds were modeled after her. But her reputation and fame quickly took a nosedive when she got into to the movie business.
Her movies “Purity” and “Inspiration” were failures, but noteworthy in one regard. “Inspiration” was the first non pornographic film to feature full nudity. Her career could have survived the bad press if not for the scandal of a murder investigation in which she was involved.
The Models landlord killed his wife so he would be single and available for her. Although Audrey was acquitted, and it was proven that she had nothing to do with the murder, she wrote:
“The Wilkins case ruined my career. I’ll never account for anything again. From loving and admiring me, the public seems to have grown to hate me.”
Audrey would never find work again.
Audrey left the city and moved upstate with her mother, where she would sell kitchen utensils to pay the rent. She could never quite get used to small-town life, and her mental health suffered. She would roller-skate on cul-de-sac sidewalks wearing luxurious gowns, the fine silk coming apart as it brushed against the hard concrete like a tragic metaphor of the turns and twists of her own life . On May 27, 1922, Audrey Munson attempted suicide. Years later, she was admitted into a mental hospital,where she would stay for the rest of her life until her death aged 104.
Although Audrey Munson is one of the most visible people in NYC, her story remains unknown. It’s this duality that makes her the hidden (in-plain-sight) jewel of NYC. So next time you are walking through the city and you see Audrey, take a selfie with her. I’m sure she’d love being in the spotlight again.
Featured image source: [reganarts]