Dovima: From Poverty to Iconic Supermodel – The Inspirational Story of a Fashion Legend

Dovima: From Poverty to Iconic Supermodel – The Inspirational Story of a Fashion Legend

In the world of fashion, few names are as iconic and enduring as Dovima. Born into poverty in Queens, New York, Dovima faced numerous challenges and obstacles on her path to success. However, through hard work, perseverance, and an unyielding passion for fashion, she went on to become one of the most famous models of her time and a lasting symbol of elegance and glamour. Dovima’s story is a testament to the power of determination and the enduring appeal of beauty and grace. Let’s dive in together and discover the fascinating story of Dovima.

The early life of Dovima

I never saw myself as a great beauty, but I knew that I had a certain elegance and poise that I could bring to the camera.


Dovima’s early life was not without its struggles. born Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba in 1927 in Queens, New York, to Polish immigrants. Her father was a carpenter who struggled to find a steady, reliable income, while her mother worked as a cleaner. Dovima was the eldest of three children, with the family living in poverty throughout her childhood.

As a child, Dovima had a strained relationship with her parents. Her father was often absent, and her mother was very strict—she even disapproved of her aspirations to be a model. Dovima would later recall feeling like an outsider in her own family; this resulted in her seeking solace in fashion magazines and dreaming of a better life.

Despite her difficulties at home growing up, Dovima excelled in school and had a particular talent for art. She was especially skilled at drawing and painting – so much so, that her art teacher encouraged her to pursue an artistic career. However, her dreams of becoming an artist were squashed when she dropped out of high-school at 16 in order to support herself

Over the next few years, Dovima worked a series of jobs including a sales person at a department store, a waitress and a telephone operator. She never lost her passion for fashion and style, and still dreamed of becoming a model

Dovima’s big break into the fashion industry

A model must be able to move well and have an innate sense of elegance and grace.


Dovima received her major break into the fashion industry in 1949 when she was 22 years old. She was working at a retail store when Irving Penn, a photographer for Vogue, noticed her. Dovima’s distinct beauty and grace captured his attention, and he persuaded her to participate in a photo shoot. The final images were so striking that they were included in the magazine.

Following her first photo shoot with Penn, Dovima attracted a lot of interest from the fashion world. She was quickly booked for projects all throughout New York City after those original Vogue photographs drew the attention of several renowned designers. She distinguished herself from other models with her distinctive looks and eye-catching features, and she immediately earned a reputation for poise and grace.

Dovima discovered herself surrounded by some of the most well-known photographers and designers of the moment as her career started to take off. She collaborated with legends like Christian Dior, Richard Avedon, and Irving Penn and was praised for realising their artistic ambitions.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Dovima’s modelling career flourished and she rose to become one of the most well-known models in the world. She appeared in innumerable magazine covers and advertorials, and because of her grace and composure, she served as the unofficial “face” of the fashion business at the time.

Dovima’s most iconic photographs

The key to being a good model is to always be yourself. You can’t try to be someone ‘ else or put on an act – you have to let your personality shine through,


Dovima was undoubtedly in a number of memorable photoshoots during the 1950s and 1960s as the face of the fashion business, many of which have since become legendary. Here are some of my favourites:

Dovima with elephants (1955)

This image of Dovima, taken by Richard Avendon for Harper’s Bazaar, is arguably the most well-known. She is seen posing nicely on an elephant while wearing a Dior outfit.
Over the years, the photo has served as an inspiration for innumerable shoots and has emerged as an emblem of high fashion.

Dovima with Sasha (1956)

In yet another photograph by Avendon, Dovima is seen posing with a pedigree dog named Sasha.
She is posing and expressing herself beautifully in this photograph while wearing a Balenciaga gown.

Dovima in Lanvin (1955)

Dovima is pictured in this image by Henry Clarke wearing a gorgeous Lanvin evening gown. A stunning man turns to face her as she gorgeously looks into the camera, entranced by her allure. The bodice of the garment itself is ruffled and pleated with flowery silk.

Dovima in Egypt (1951)

Dovima looks gorgeous in a dress by Claire McCardell in a photograph by Richard Avendon. This photo demonstrates how talented she was and how effortlessly chic it is. Even the camel appears to bow in her presence as she casts her gaze off towards the horizon.

Dovima and the leopard (1950)

This is one of her earlier photos from her career, taken by Richard Avendon for Harper’s Bazaar, but it’s clear why she captured the attention of photographers and the fashion world.

Dovima is pictured holding a taxidermy leopard at the breast as they pose together. She is simply donning a fur stole that is adorned with diamond jewellery, and it is this beautiful simplicity that has made the 1950s so iconic.

The later life and legacy of Dovima

I always tried to approach my work with professionalism and dedication. Modelling was more than just a job to me – it was a passion.


Despite her enormous success, Dovima was regarded as personable and real. She was considered by many in the industry as a mentor and friend and was frequently seen mingling with photographers and fellow models.

Dovima sadly lost her battle with liver cancer at the young age of 62, ending her life and career. But her legacy endures, as seen by the innumerable fashion campaigns and photo shoots where her distinct beauty and refined sense of style continue to inspire models and photographers.

Dovima paved the way for others in the modelling industry. She was renowned for her startling beauty, distinctive features, and polished elegance and composure. Many people still look up to her as an inspiration and a cherished figure.

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