She’s The Last Model Standing…

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It all began with a phone call. It always does. A gal pal called to shoot it to me straight. Her critique included everything from Astrology (how my Mars is in Capricorn) to taking off my rose-colored glasses and calling a spade a spade. This week I brain stormed with ladies from a local radio station, met a women who lost her job at age 63 and spoke to others who have written blogs, articles or books and run their own companies. There was one unified message. While their interests are unique, they share an abundance of passion, drive and vision…all after the fabulous age of 50!

Who doesn’t love a sassy, bright, sarcastic, strong-willed lady who faces reality head on as it comes, and loves saving wildlife? Meet Model, Author Wendy Kaplan. Dubbed by her friends “the Kathy Griffin of fashion”, Wendy’s hilarious, occasionally poignant story of how she became one of the most successful “fit” models in the country, is told with a Griffin-esque sense of humor untarnished by malice. From bogus beauty pageants, voodoo in Nigeria, stalking Andy Warhol at Studio 54, mind-numbing jobs to pay the rent, to her success today where she can say of the women’s underwear sold at Wal-Mart (modeled on her size eight body), “I cover the asses of the masses”, SHE’S THE LAST MODEL STANDING is an “only-in-New-York” tale and addictive page-turner. Wendy’s intelligence and raw insight of the fashion/entertainment industry make this memoir a true stand-out in the field. She’s kick ass, feisty, wise-cracking and a model on a mission.

Join me as we get up close and personal. Are you ready? This woman is whiskey in a teacup I tell you…

Early childhood memories?

WSK: From the age of 5 or 6, I recall being on a float from the old Miss America Reunion with my Mother, who I was enamored with. A glamorous glitzy, fairy tale world took me away from the real world. I was sold. Growing up in the Bronx my Mother worked as a model, hanging with friends like Shirley Winters and Lucille Ball. Mom always looked fashionable, wearing her mink coat and couture dresses to shop at the Associated supermarket in style. In the end, it’s that I was really comfortable in the Bronx. There were two things I dreamed about, to be a model on the cover of Vogue and go to Africa. I never let go of this image, manifesting it from an early age. At age 14 I began to apply for modeling agencies and was turned down by every single one.

How did you handle rejection and move forward?  

WSK: I have this good thing in my head…it’s called denial! I thought, If they aren’t taking me, they must be wrong. I was destined to do this. Every summer agencies turned me down. I finally made a move to Florida and an Agency took me on. The light bulb should have gone off it was not kosher. They discovered me on the beach, took money for a portfolio (a few hundred bucks back then) and had me pose in front of retirement community with water falls in my bikini. I looked ridiculous! One of the first jobs I went on the client looked at me and said I was chubby (I liked eating MacDonald’s every day, sorry.) A friend finally got real and said, “You’re going to eat yourself right out of the business.” This was when I realized it wasn’t going to be all sweetness and magic like I thought.

It’s a man’s world. Were you ever propositioned for sex? 

I would study fashion magazines religiously. My sister had a blonde “fall” that I put on my head and imagined how I would look with long blonde hair. That was a defining moment. I began to diet, had a good body type and landed a job making $150.00 per week at Johnathan Logan, a well-known brand at the time. The head of the company wanted me to sleep with him and when I refused, I quit and landed work with the Original Izod Locoste company which ended up being a great experience.

Could you give us your thoughts on why you studied anthropology in school?

WST: Being a major animal lover I wanted to help animals. Although I wanted to be a vet, my grades in college weren’t good enough for pre med, so I switched to a major in Anthropology. I had the brilliant idea to sign up for the Black Studies Department, African Program, State University Binghamton as things at the modeling agency fell apart. That summer was spent working, digging in pits along highways in perfectly coiffed makeup finding things. Hey, if you look fabulous and feel fabulous, surely good things will come. I got accepted to the program in Nigeria.

How did that lead to curiosity about Voodoo? 

WTK: I grew with a lot of superstition. My Grandmother read tea leaves. My mother would hear the phone ring once, or hear a knock at the door and proclaim someone had died. I thought this was normal. I began to read about tribal cultures and traditions, traditional medicines and beliefs. Traveling to Nigeria allowed me to see rituals most people don’t see in a lifetime.

Share a personal story from the year you spent backpacking in Nigeria.

By age 21 I had achieved my beautiful blonde hair with the help of Sun-In, lemon and peroxide. I spent time in a dangerous area called Kano. The recent kidnapping of 200 girls happened near there. Being blonde and from America I was treated like royalty. They had terrorists with heads wrapped in black scarves and sabers on the sides of their horses. We were staying in a country club like setting in a Godforsaken place. People were murdered in the pool in the country club weeks before we got there, not just women. It all came full circle. I was 21 and clueless.

Highlights of your life as a model/actress:

Back home safely I was once again on a mission to model. One person from the Stuart Agency (the same one that represented Cybill Sheppard) shared, “There’s nothing right about you. The angles on your face don’t match the angles in your body.” WTF? Who says that? I’ve always been one to turn lemons into lemonade. Believe in yourself and go for it. You many not get exactly what you want, but you’ll get all the other the suff that goes with it. No matter what is happening, never lose sight of the prize. If you don’t ask, the answer’s alway no. And who is telling you no? Just a person with an opinion, another human being.

I was unanimously rejected except for one Agency called The Charles Ryan Agency. They had a “Go See List” of photographers back then you could call directly, which lead me to Alan Kaplan. Upon seeing my forgettable bikini images, he offered to take new ones in his studio where he shared words of wisdom – Get a full-time job. I took a job at Payne Webber for $150.00 a week. After saving enough money, I took a trip to Paris. Every agency turned me down except one – for call girls! It was time to come home. Trade shows paid $75 a day. I landed full-time work for a PR company and worked for a real pig! He would holler for me, “Hey Wendy”, then attach a whistle to it….Eeww! Can you imagine!

Tell us about Studio 54 and the 70’s

WSK: It was during this time I met “Jaythedentist” and we started going to Studio 54 together.  Sometimes I went with a friend, sometimes alone. Mark Beneke (door guy) Ian Schrager, Owner Steven Rubell, Saul Fleischman, they were all there. Once they got to know you, you were in. I deserved to be there.  It was a melting pot for everyone. You could dance with Liza Minnelli, Calvin Klein and Grace Jones. “Wendy from the Bronx” could walk right up to Andy Warhol and have a conversation (which is what I did.) You have to remember, there wasn’t Pappparazi back then. They closed the door to the outside world and could be who they wanted to be. One night “Aldo”(my gay live answering service person) went as my guest. His nickname was Secretariat as he always reminded me of how well endowed he was. Madonna showed up one night with her dark roots and blonde hair and I remember rolling my eyes as she sang this “Borderline” tune thinking to myself, I can’t even find a beat to dance to this song. This girl looks so slutty, she’ll never go anywhere. Aren’t I delusional??

And the delusion continues?

Yes. After Studio 54 was raided, Mark Fleishman bought it. My dads name was Saul Fleishman (Stuart was my mother’s name). In my mind I thought, this is meant to be! We’ll marry, have the same last name, I’ll have his children who will attend Upper East Side private schools and continue to dance in the club my Husband owned! When I was writing the book, I read this and thought to myself – I was nuts! Not only is my glass always half I see it through rose-colored glasses too. But hey, I’m still standing!

Tell us about “tales of panties” and being a fit model.

WSK:  I became legit and started to do fit modeling and commercial print to sell product…still with dreams of being the next Cindy Crawford mind you. Around this time I started making real money and took acting lessons which enabled me to land commercials. Turns out, I had a body for bathing suits and intimate apparel and met Toni Redman in 1989 modeling for Warners (now dear friend.) I was booked every day. We had to stand before buyers with pantyhose under our underwear. You recall LEGGS Suntan color, sheer to the waist in the egg? I was so rushed showing lines all day, in and out of heels, for the last client that I ran out in just my hose and forgot to put the panties on! I think we may have gotten big orders that day (laughing). The boss of Warner’s was Linda Wachner would scream at the receptionist, “Who is that dog – get rid of her!” We went through one receptionist a week. Truly “The Devil Wears Prada”.

This was a difficult profession. How did you turn things around? 

I began to work with a design team with the best Fitting Intimate Woman In America, Wal-Mart Panty line.. American women should have beautiful panties and good coverage. Woman over the age of 35 want to look gorgeous but not in something riding up their bum. They want something hip and beautiful. My job is to “cover the asses of the masses”, it’s what I do. Some amazing brands I fit for include Nina Mclemore and Eileen Fisher. Everybody needs to have great fitting panties.

If this stalker girl could sprinkle magic fairy dust to make something happen for you, what would it be?

WSK: I’ve been working the last seven years covering animal rescue stories. I’ve been a TV Host, standing in the desert in India sharing how someone rescued 6,000 Siberian cranes or sharing how elephants were saved in Thailand. Now I’m telling stories. I’m the “Model with a Mission”- that’s where I want to be, raising awareness. I see 27 year olds in bathing suits on television shows. That’s what the little backward baseball caps keep feeding us. Why is it ok for men to still work on camera as they age and not women? Anthony Bourdain has Louis Vuitton bags under his eyes. Yea, he’s great on camera, but he’s a mature man. There are plenty of talented woman in their 40, 50‘s and 60‘s. The Emporer’s New Damn Clothes I tell you! The demographic for the mature women is being ignored and they have the cash to spend. I don’t get it. If there is a glass ceiling I don’t care if I get a concussion, I’m breaking through it. Look at someone like yourself Sandie, rocking leather pants with a beautiful blouse and leather jacket. You don’t look like you are trying to be 25. We should all have choices. That’s why I am “The Last Model Standing”.

In closing, here’s to a woman who hasn’t lost her raucous sense of humor, and her wit – not to mention her honesty. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Go ahead, do something on a daily basis that is both more rebellious and more subversive to the “rules” of pretty “they” try to sell us. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up. Women in their 50s and 60s have beauty that defies time, rockin’ on – still flaunting our famously bodacious spirit and style (even when we’re soaked from a hot flash and can’t remember our names.)

Here’s to the woman who loves the word reinvention and no longer cares what others think–even if she can’t find her car keys!

Kick ass wise. Ya Think?

* Please take the time to connect with women who inspire you on Facebook or Twitter. Visit their blogs and websites and comment. Learn from them. Follow their shining example as they help us to make life after 50 everything that it can be.

* Special thanks to Toni Redman (Victoria Secret Model) for her giving heart, vision and kind introduction.

2 Comments

  1. debraoakland

    February 10, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Excellent article on Model, Author Wendy Kaplan. Sandie, I felt like I was along for the ride and who doesn’t love a sassy, sexy, self assured woman of any age, but especially over 50! Wendy showed positivity and courage all through her life. A living example of what can be accomplished with tenacity and confidence. Gotta luv us gals over 50!

    • thefoodstalker

      February 10, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      Deb, glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for your continued inspiration on your website “Living In Courage”, where you share your knowledge, warm heart and wisdom with the world. #girlpower #love


With an Italian background, she cites her Mother and grandmother ( Mamie ) as the major influence of her love for food.  Yes, homemade pasta hung from the clothesline in the kitchen and rolling 100 meat balls for a holiday dinner was the norm.  Raised in Pennsylvania. she spent time in Atlanta, Georgia and ultimately settled along the stunning coast of Laguna Beach, Ca. Self taught in everything, she learned to appreciate the amazing flavors, scents and uses for exotic herbs and spices and applies her knowledge to cooking today. Despite enjoying other creative endeavors like painting, photography and clothing design, she realized she would never love another career the way she loves all the stories surrounding food.  And it's capturing those stories that has not only become her greatest passion but a culinary drug worth passing around!  After all, food is a shared experience and no one better to share it with than the entire world. And thus the Food Stalker was born, utilizing all that passion and her fearlessness to capture even the most impossible stories. It's one thing to write about food, but far more exciting to actually capture it and all those stories that make every scent come to life.  And once she sets out, there's no stopping her, because no one follows that scent better than her---and no telling where she'll end up next.  

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