Janice (Doreen) Dickinson was born on February 17, 1953 in Brooklyn, New York. She became one of the first “dark featured” beauties to make it big as a model. She helped to push the industry standards to vary it criteria on beauty. Today, Janice boldly claims to be the world’s first supermodel. Though she was not in reality the first of the supermodels, she is one of the most memorable.
Janice is a former supermodel of the 1980s. She is of Polish and Belarusian descent. This gave her a certain exotic look and blessed her with a bankable beauty. By the age of 14, she already measured at 5’10.
Janice launched her career in the 1970s when the scene was dominated the All-American, blond hair and blue eyes look championed by Cheryl Tiegs and Christie Brinkley. When Janice went to Ford Models, which incidentally represented Brinkley, Eileen Ford told her that she would never work because she was too “ethnic”. But this was a time of constant breakthroughs.
Janice finally signed with Elite Models. However, her dark features didn’t fit the bill of the courant trends as Eileen Ford had indicated. The models agent, Jacques Silverstein, stepped into the picture thanks to a word from his then girlfriend Lorraine Bracco (future star of The Sopranos) who was also a friend of Janice.
With Silverstein at her side, Janice’s career took off overnight. She became a hot attraction in Europe and scored magazine cover after cover. Then success came her way too in the USA. Her exotic look was now in demand. However, back home in the US, success for Janice’s look was in part made possible by another famed model, Gia Carangi. Wild, untamable and energetic, Gia and Janice were considered to opposite side of the same two-headed coin.
Overall, Janice scored 37 covers on Vogue. Her face frequently graced the covers of Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Photo, etc. She posed for Playboy and for the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
She also appeared every across America thanks to her ads for Max Factor, Clairol and Revlon.
Janice has said introspect of her reign at the top of the industry, “Back in the day I was doing runway, editorial, advertising, spokesmodeling, and public appearances. Those are five different categories. Your Twiggys and your Lauren Huttons weren’t doing that. I was Versace’s muse, I was Valentino’s muse, I was Alaia’s muse, Lancetti’s muse, Calvin Klein’s, Halston’s. I could go on and on.”
Janice was also a party girl. She was a regular fixture at the Studio 54 and Mudd’s, the two hottest clubs in New York. “We loved it. It was a place for us. A place where we could be with the beautiful, do drugs, be out of our minds and it all seemed normal”, said Janice in reference to her partying day at Studio 54.
She admitted to doing drugs and drinking heavily. During an interview with E!, she said that everything was excessive in the eighties, and “There was too much money, too much sex!” Admitting that she could never say no to drugs, she concluded that thought with “It was the greatest thing that I’ve ever seen!” During this same interview, she also admitted that on a photo shoot, Gia Carangi had offered her heroin in the toilettes. She also owned up to having choked down 4 glasses of champagnes before going down the runway. During that show, Janice was so drunk that she walked right off of the runway, falling into the lap of Sophia Loren. “
When I was 19 years old, I had one salad a month. I was on a cocaine diet.”
She dated her share of rock stars and actors. Silver Stallone was just but one of her many lovers. Upon falling pregnant, the actor stood by Janice. However, he dropped her like a bad habit when post natal paternity tests confirmed that he was not her “baby’s daddy”! Janice was literally shattered over this because she wanted with all her heart to form a family with the Rocky star and to bring some stability and sanity into her life.
Janice had the reputation of being loud, boisterous and obnoxious. Former supermodel of the 1970s and good friend to Janice, Beverly Johnson, commented on E! that she was sometimes surprised to see how Janice would behave during photo shoots. Impatient, Janice would scream at the photographers telling them that they “had the picture” that the wanted and would walk off the set to change for her next shots.
Among her most daring claims is that she coined the term supermodel. Evidence shows that the term has existed since the 1960s and was originally applied to Jean Shrimpton, otherwise known as “The Shrimp”. Also, each decade since the 1940s produced their own supermodels when compared by today’s standards. Though she may not be the world’s first supermodel, she is arguably one of its worlds greatest.
After having retired from the runway and from public life as a model over a number of years, Janice focused on her family. She has been divorced 3 times and is a mother of two, Nathan and Savannah. (Her former husbands are Ron Levy, Alan B. Gersten, and Simon Fields.)
Janice also became a successful photographer and writer. To her credit, she authored books including No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World’s First Supermodel; Everything About Me Is Fake… And I’m Perfect; and Check, Please! : Dating, Mating, and Extricating. Besides writing and modeling, she is a photographer and a mother of two, Nathan and Savannah. She has been divorced 3 times.
The greatness of Janice’s legacy as a supermodel was resurrected thanks to a new interests in the supermodel species. She became a celebrity judge on the America’s Next Top Model. During the four seasons that she starred on that show, Janice showed herself to be as loud, boisterous, obnoxious and as abrasive as ever. She even added a new layer of meanness to her act for the reality television show. She found herself in constant conflict with the other judges and sometimes even butted heads with the shows creator, supermodel Tyra Banks. After Janice left the show (or was fired) in the top rated show in the spring of 2005, she was replaced Twiggy, who is considered by many to be the first supermodel.
Janice has many detractors and supermodel Tyra Banks says of her, “People love to hate Janice”.
After leaving America’s Next Top Model, Janice headed straight to the set of another reality television show, The Surreal Life. She starred with José Canseco, Bronson Pinchot, Omarosa, Carey Hart, the supermodel Caprice Bourret, and the rapper, Pepa . She often locked horns in a recurring feud with Omarosa. The latter, another hated reality TV show diva, referred to Janice as a drunk and alcoholic.
True to reputation, Janice’s volatile comportment and erratic behavior on the show placed her in a negative light in some people’s eyes. A perfect example of this is the episode in which she placed a knife to the throat of her rival Omarosa. However, Dickinson’s alcoholism was never proved on the show.
Janice has been working to resolve her behavioral problems. She feels that they stem from the sexual and physical abuse that she and her sister, Alexis, suffered at the hands of her late father, Ray Dickinson, when she was young.
She is currently busy with plans of her own reality television show, her Couture Cafeteria restaurant and the creation of a modeling agency. Her television show, which is similar to America’s Next Top Model, is slated to air on Oxygen Network and is titled, The Janice Dickerson Project.