A beautiful life. China Machado, an iconic Asian model, passed away at the age of 87 on Sunday, December 18, after suffering from cardiac arrest on Thursday, December 15. Machado (who was born Noel De Souza Machado in Shanghai, China) made her mark in the industry as photographer Richard Avedon’s muse. Her working relationship with him led to her becoming the first nonwhite model to appear on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine in 1959. She went on to become senior fashion editor and eventually fashion director for the same publication.
“I knew I was considered kind of ‘exotic,’ if you want to use that word, in Europe, but it wasn’t any kind of a slur. So when I came here I didn’t know that,” she told New York Magazine of her barrier-breaking cover in an October 2016 interview. “I was new to New York and going to parties. I met everybody. I met Kennedy at that point. So I didn’t know that! I had no idea! When I went back to Paris, it was then that Dick said that he would not sign his contract for another seven years unless those pictures were published. And he never told that to me until 20 years later.”
And even in her most senior years, the IMG Models signee still managed to slay with the best of them. In 2013, she starred in Cole Haan’s Born in 1928 campaign to celebrate the brand (and her own) 85th birthday along with Maya Angelou, Elliott Erwitt and Captain Jim Lovell.
“I didn’t expect to become a commercial model at the age of 80!” she continued in the same New York Magazine interview. “But Ivan Bart [IMG’s president] is kind of a humanitarian. He always goes after something different. So he wanted to conquer the age thing and show that women over a certain age could still model.”
Machado is survived by her husband, Ricardo Rosa, daughters Blanche LaSalle and Emmanuelle LaSalle-Hill, and two grandchildren.
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