(Looking back at) Fashion/Photography: James King (is a Girl)

These days, Jaime King is best known for her work as an actress, appearing in – mostly subpar – films and television series such as Fanboys (2007) and the CW‘s comedy-drama Hart of Dixie (2011–present), as well as for her appearances in music videos such as Robbie Williams’s “Sexed Up” (2003) and Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” (2012). However, back in the 90s and the early 2000s, she was fairly successful in the fashion industry. Discovered at age 14 while attending Nancy Bounds’ Studios, she signed with Company Management and to avoid confusion with the then-more famous Jaime Rishar, began working under the name James King.

Regarding her first show ever, she stated: “I have fond memories of [it]: Tom Ford for Gucci. Naomi [Campbell] in front of me and Kate Moss behind; I was dying!”. Her first story was with Steven Klein for the first issue of Visionaire. She walked the runway for Chanel, Alexander McQueen – she was in every show of his since his very first – and Christian Dior; worked with top photographers like Ellen von Unwerth; appeared in fashion magazines such as Vogue, Allure, Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar; and was a major – and tragic, due to her personal and health problems – exponent of the controversial heroin chic trend. In retrospect, she stated she believes fashion industry would be better off if “[there was] a union for the young models as [there is] for the young actors”.

King was also the main subject of the February 4, 1996 cover story “James is a Girl” of the New York Times Magazine, written by Jennifer Egan and photographed by Nan Goldin. I had already read the piece some time ago, but reading it again now struck me as it portrays a time not very unlike the one we’re living now. Taking place partly in Paris, France in October 1995, the article says that “Paris has been a mess […due to] the proliferation of terrorist bombs in subways and garbage cans [which] has led to a heavy police presence on the streets” and points out how “the fashion world feels eerily removed from all this”. The article has its lively and interesting moments, though it also sells the glitter and gold with a hint of “darkness lurking around” like we’ve seen before, and sells King as the consumed wise-beyond-her-years small town youngster on the rise like we’ve seen before.

The pictures, on the other hand, are insanely cool. They’re well-shot. They look very good. King looks very good, and there’s a certain luminosity to them. They’re fierce. The story also covers the rise of models as celebrities and the prominent use of teenage models in fashion.

I do have quite a fascination for King’s modeling work. The way she looked, with the blonde hair and make-up and her interesting, chiseled facial features, and the way she was shot hold quite a charm to this day as illustrations of fashion photography and models in the 90s.

So, since “James is a Girl” turns 18 in two days, let’s look back at some of King’s best modeling work:

  • From “James is a Girl”

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One Comment

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  1. Interesting article. Photos are wonderful. I wonder how these girls get through life without being bored to death. A young woman I met told me that she is getting into a modeling career. She is a wonderful, outgoing, very beautiful young woman. I advised her to take up photography herself so that she’d have something to do while on shoots. Its a dangerous life career.

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