By Mary Milliken
(Reuters) - Eileen Ford, the founder of the Ford Models who promoted the fresh-faced look of American women and set the stage for the phenomenon of celebrity super models, has died at the age of 92, the agency said on Thursday.
Ford died on Wednesday from complications from meningioma and osteoporosis, the agency said.
Since starting the Manhattan agency with husband Jerry in 1946, Ford showed she had an eye for talent, discovering Candice Bergen in the 1960s and Lauren Hutton in the 1970s, and signing precocious beauty Brooke Shields as child.
"Eileen’s contributions to the modeling and fashion industries are unmatched," Ford Models said in a statement announcing her death.
"She founded Ford Models 68 years ago and due to her unwavering passion, curiosity and drive, grew Ford into one of the world's most prestigious agencies."
Born and raised in New York City, Ford herself was a model while studying at Barnard College, and also worked in photography, fashion and as a fashion reporter. She and Jerry would often invite aspiring models to stay at their house when they got started.
The Fords were credited for helping to make modeling a lucrative profession by pushing for payment not for a day or hour, but rather for the usage of the model's work, and for signing models to exclusive contracts for specific brands.
That economic foundation spawned the high-paid celebrity super model of the 1980s, when Ford Models was arguably the most important modeling agency. Ford represented a few of them herself, including Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Elle Macpherson.
Ford was also fond of models who radiated a wholesome look, such as Cheryl Tiegs and Christie Brinkley, who embodied American beauty for years.
"American women mean a great deal to me," Ford told People magazine in 1983. "They're such lost souls, particularly the women of my generation."
Jerry Ford died in 2008. The couple had four children, including daughter Katie Ford, who became chief executive of Ford Models in 1995. The agency was sold in 2007 to Stone Tower Equity Partners, which has since been renamed Altpoint Capital.
Katie Ford said in a statement that her mother loved New York touchstones such as restaurant Le Cirque, The New York Times and the TV sitcom "Seinfeld," in addition to "beautiful models, photographers, fashion, Fred Astaire, and life in general."
(Reporting by Mary Millien. Editing by Andre Grenon)