Calling Veruschka a versatile model would be an understatement akin to saying that Karl Lagerfeld likes sunglasses. Throughout her career, the model has been photographed pushing the boundaries of her gender, race, and occasionally her species.
Veruschka, originally Vera Gräfen Von Lehndorff-Steinort, was born May 14, 1939 in East Prussia, Germany (now part of Russia). She was born into nobility; her father was a count who, after being involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler, was arrested and killed. The rest of the Von Lehndorff family lived in camps until the end of the Second World War.
Vera initially wanted to be an artist, and studied in Hamburg and Florence. She then tried to break into modeling, but was considered too tall (standing at over six feet) by European standards.
She decided that she needed to create a memorable persona for herself and changed her name to Veruschka before heading off to New York City.
Veruschka’s big break came in 1964 when she met the Diana Vreeland, who was the U.S. Vogue editor at the time. The two hit it off immediately, and Veruschka went on to become one of Vreeland’s favourite models, covering the magazine eleven times within the decade.
Vreeland gave Veruschka the freedom to do artistically challenging photo shoots, including modeling furs with a sumo wrestler in Japan, covering herself completely in body paint, and collaborating with artists and photographers like Salvador Dali, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. She also had a small but memorable role playing herself in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film, Blowup.
After getting bored with typical fashion shoots, she transform herself into different animals, such as painting her entire body to resemble a zebra.
By the time the 70’s rolled around, Vreeland was no longer working at Vogue and Veruschka began to lose interest in modeling.
She decided to turn her focus back on the art world, putting on a body paint exhibit in New York in the 80’s and creating a series of self portraits in the 90’s. Most recently, she has released a self-titled limited edition book, currently retailing for about three hundred dollars.