Her farout features and amazing hair dominated fashion magazines globally. But Veruschka was no ordinary model. A German countess, she would instantly transform into everything, from Greta Garbo to a leopard on a tree. Photographer Christos Karantzolas pays tribute to Veruschka, her beautiful hair and the never ending inspiration she remains up to this day.
Slinking like a cat toying with a mouse -half-naked on the floor in a beaded dress- while the photographer (played by David Hemmings) shouted encouragement (“Give it to me! Give it to me! . . . Work, work, work!”), Veruschka was sixties sexuality incarnate. No wonder Richard Avedon called this long-limbed exotic pantheresque beauty “the most beautiful woman in the world”.
Veruschka was born on 14 May 1939 in Königsberg, East Prussia as Vera Gottliebe Anna Gräfin von Lehndorff-Steinort. She grew up at Steinort, an estate in East Prussia, which had been in her family for centuries. Her mother was Countess Gottliebe von Kalnein (b. 1913). Her father was a German count and army reserve officer who became a key member of the German Resistance, reportedly after witnessing Jewish children being beaten and killed. When Veruschka was five years old, her father was executed for allegedly attempting to assassinate Adolf Hitler in the July 20 Plot. After his death, the remaining family members spent their times in labor camps until the end of World War II. By the end of the war, her family was left homeless.
She studied art in Hamburg and then moved to Florence, where she was discovered at age 20 by the photographer Ugo Mulas and became a full-time model. In Paris, she met Eileen Ford, head of the prestigious Ford Modeling Agency. In 1961, she moved to New York City, but soon returned to Munich. She had also garnered attention when she made a brief five minute appearance in the 1966 cult film “Blow Up” by Michelangelo Antonioni. She once worked with Salvador Dalí and photographer Peter Beard, who took her to Kenya. In 1975, however, she departed from the fashion industry due to disagreements with Grace Mirabella, the newly appointed editor-in-chief ofVogue. In a 1999 interview, Veruschka said about their disagreements, “She wanted me to be bourgeois, and I didn’t want to be that. I didn’t model for a long time after that”. Sensing that her moment had passed, Veruschka retired from modeling in 1975. She reverted to her given name and rediscovered her first passion: art.