Karen Elson


Born: Oldham, England, 1979

Karen Elson was born in 1979 in Lancashire and is a model and musician.

Karen began working as a model in her early teens and was eventually discovered, aged 16 by the owner of Boss Models. The catalyst for Karens success  was when she was shot by Steven Meisel for the cover of Italian Vogue on her 18th birthday.

Due to her height and flam red hair Karen had always stood out in the modelling industry though she has spoken out about the downsides of her remarkable looks:  “At school I got harassed so badly for being too tall, too thin, too pale – too everything that has gotten me where I am now, which is quite ironic.”

Ever since the Italian Vogue shoot Karens career has gone from strength to strength, being shot by some of the most prestigious fashion photographers in the world, including Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, Peter Lindbergh and Patrick Demarchelier. Alongside being coveted by the top names in fashion photography Karen has walked the catwalk for some of the most desirable names in fashion design from Jean-Paul GaultierChanelDolce & GabbanaVersaceAlexander McQueenDior and Gucci. She even memorably for Marc Jacobs while pregnant.

As expected of a top model Karen has also appeared on the cover of many high profile fashion magazines including Vogue, W, Dazed & Confused, Numero, Harpers Bazaar, Elle and Nylon.

Karen’s seemingly effortless success as a model was recognised in 1998 when she won the title of Model Of The Year at the VH1 Fashion Awards, then in 2004 she featured on the cover of American Vogue as one of the ‘Models of the Moment’ shot again by Steven Meisel. In 2005 Karen also won the British Fashion Award for Best Model. In 2008 British Vogue dubbed Karen ‘Fashion’s Red Queen” on its September issue.

Later in 2008 Karen was announced as the face of department store John Lewis for Autumn/Winter 2008/2009 and in the same season she was the international face for H&M.

Karen continues to go from strength to strength, featuring in high profile campaigns season after season and being chosen by prestigious brands to model for them. In 2012 Karen replaced Angelina Jolie as the face of St. John, she has also been the face of Tom Ford eyewear, YSL Opium perfume and Louis Vuitton alongside fellow supermodels, Natalia Vodianva and Christy Turlington. Karen worked once again with Steven Meisel shooting a video in 2011 for Fall Lanvin campaign, the video shows her dancing with Rachel Zimmerman to Pit Bulls “I know you want me”.

Alongside her modelling career Karen has also invested in several other successful ventures. Since 2002 she has contributed to Nick Knight’s fashion site showstudio.com and in 2008 she opened a vintage boutique in Tenessee called Venus & Mars (the boutique closed in 2010). Like many other models before her time Karen has also extended her work to fashion design, producing an accessories line for Nine West.

As well as succeeding as an internationally renowned model Karen also works in the music industry and is a founding member and performed with the New York City based political cabaret troupe The Citizens Band.

Karen was famously married to musician Jack White of The White Stripes, the marries in 2005 and had two children together. The couple divorced in 2011.

Karen Elson Biography 

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Written by Roanna Price

Roanna Price, fascinated by the escapism, imagination and conversation that can be conjured in the glossy page of fashion writing. Journalism graduate in Liverpool Roanna is responsible for our Top Model Biographies section.

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