For those of you who missed the first few episodes of my life, my First Cousin Ingrid became my Sister after her parents died and my folks adopted her. I was a kid; she was a young teen. There was a two to three years difference in our ages depending on what month it was. She was older.
We were already close because she often stayed at my house on Long Island. Ingrid had a poor relationship with her parents and was nothing like them. They were annoying, rude and often mean to her and to me.
They say that 'misery loves company' and we were already close. Ingrid and I were like brother and sister by the time she came to live with us. We were fiercely loyal to one another and always had each other's backs.
Ingrid is smart and beautiful; always was. When we walked a block and a half to the Pizzaria there were often auto accidents. People could not keep their eyes off of her. She became a Fashion Model at 12 despite my Aunt's objection. Since she stayed with us more often than at home, my parents stepped in and convinced Aunt Hell, oops, I mean Helen to give her permission.
I never gave fashion a second thought until my cousin began modelling at 12. After she moved in with us and became my sister, she displayed a new talent. Ingrid moved from cutting out store bought patterns and making clothes based on those to creating her own. When she began wearing her creations women would stop her to ask where she bought them? I told my Sis it was time to have some business cards printed up.
Ingrid began to receive requests for custom dresses, outfits and ensembles. By the time we moved to Florida in 1970, she was going full court press. I was just twelve when we created Ingrid's Closet. The name came from a comment by my mother who said my Sis had a 'closet business' going. Once in Florida we found some very talented Cuban Seamstresses that had escaped Castro's Cuba.
We began having fashion shows in and around the St Petersburg and Tampa areas. We discovered many models that were just starting out and made them into fashion phenomenons. Reggie was particularly talented. She was seventeen when she joined our newly created Fashion House. I was 14, but we started dating. Later, others like my high school sweetheart Louise, took positions as Cosmotologists, Dressers and Assistants. At 14 I was the company C.O.O. The business skills learned in my dad's office were paying off very well. Books provided me with any additional knowledge I needed and we were off.
Before she was cast for the TV Series THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY, Susan Dey was a successful model. We met via mutual friends and we nursed her through an eating disorder coming to many models. Some starved, while others purged, in search of the perfect weight. Anorexia, Bulimia and other disorders tended to give their victims a skewed view of themselves. They saw fat where their was none. Susan recovered and moved on to success as an actress.
I always saw talent that others missed, including in themselves. Louise was taking a Cosmotology Class in high school while we were dating. She was very talented. I pushed her to enter a nationwide contest sponsored by Vidal Sassoon, which she won. After a week in NYC at the Sassoon salon, Louise returned with a custom hair design and a passion for everything that was a part of Cosmotology.
Ingrid brought back the NO SMILE look by suggesting to Reggie that she hold a straight face during a shoot. Although that look had expired for years, it was back after Reggie's NO SMILE shot. Suddenly, all the hottest and most successful models adopted the same pose.
I received a quick education about the Fashion Industry regarding what goes on in front of and behind the camera by hanging with Ingrid during shots even before we started our own Fashion House. The most important thing I learned was to have respect for Professional Models and what it takes to be one.