Thursday, July 5, 2018

Rachel Williams, The Amazon

Rachel Williams
Rachel Williams.

Rachel Williams (29 April 1967) is an American model who has gone on to other pursuits such as such as architecture and landscaping. Due to her height (6' 1" (1.85 m)) and healthy build, Williams acquired the nickname "The Amazon" in the press.

Rachel Williams
Rachel Williams, US ELLE, October 1991.

Rachel is from Greenwich Village (West Village), New York City. Her parents divorced when she was five, which her father, Tod Williams, says made her "real." Rachel lived with her mother, moving to Woodstock, New York in the late 1970s. After attending P.S. 41 and later I.S. 70, she attended Bard College and studied art history.

Rachel Williams
Rachel Williams, Elle, July 1991.

While Rachel was standing by an elevator while visiting her father's offices (he was an architect) in November 1985, a Click Model Management employee noticed her (Click was located in the same building). The employee arranged a meeting with Frances Grill, who had founded and ran the agency. Frances Grill had an eye for talent, having discovered Elle Macpherson, Isabella Rossellini, and Whitney Houston (who only later gained fame as a singer). Frances signed Rachel to a try-out contract for one year, under the condition that she lose weight. When she returned to the agency in October 1986, Rachel was 20 pounds lighter. Grill renewed her contract.

Rachel Williams
Rachel Williams, Elle France, 1989.

Rachel's career had a rocky start in that both Vogue and Mademoiselle passed on her test photos. Her big break came in January 1987 when another model, Uma Thurman (yes, the actress) fell ill and was unable to model swimsuits for Mademoiselle on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. Grill just so happened to be vacationing on the island at that time. Grill called Williams and had her fill in at the shoot, which the Mademoiselle photographer (who has refused to be identified) somewhat reluctantly agreed to. Rachel's success was due, aside from her natural talent, to Grill and the photographer taking a big chance on her.

Rachel Williams

The Mademoiselle shoot was a big success. It led Rachel to further jobs for Vogue (shot by Arthur Elgort) in Barbados and then Bill King of French Elle. These assignments also were successful. Rachel was set.

Rachel Williams
Rachel Williams - Elle January 1991.

Williams did catalog work for Victoria's Secret, sat for Bruce Weber to promote Calvin Klein, and snagged other top jobs for brands including Revlon, J. Crew, Ciara perfume, BonJour jeans, and others. Rachel became associated with doing cosmetics and bathing-suit ads but seldom walked the runways (she has walked for Thierry Mugler and Vivienne Westwood).

Rachel Williams
Rachel Williams in her iconic ad for Absolut vodka.

Rachel's most iconic advertisement was for Absolut, which led to a lot of positive feedback (and sales of the vodka). She went on over 200 shoots over the next year, earning about $150k that year (according to court documents).

Rachel Williams

Having established her career, Rachel quickly grew dissatisfied with Click, a small agency. In late 1987 switched to the Ford Agency, which was several times larger. Frances Grill, naturally enough, was not pleased, saying:
When Rachel left, it was like an explosion. It's like 100 models left.
Click sued Williams, Ford, and supermodel Christy Turlington, who Click alleged had induced Williams to breach her contract with Click. Turlington somewhat casually had told Williams "You ought to come over to Ford" during a shoot, which Click alleged inspired Williams to make the switch. Once the tabloids heard this, they implied a romantic relationship between Turlington and Williams which they denied.

Rachel Williams
Rachel Williams in US Vogue, February 1988, "Signs of Spring" (Steven Meisel).

Williams also denied being "lured away" by Ford or Turlington, and Ford denied ever speaking with her before Rachel decided to make the switch. There were lots of denials. Turlington eventually managed to dismiss the suit against herself. Ford angrily defended the suit, with agency head Jerry Ford claiming:
They've taken as many models from us as we have from them.
That's not exactly a defense, but it does show how the industry works. How the rest of the lawsuit resolved is unclear, but it is common for such suits to settle quietly.

Rachel Williams
Rachel Williams on the cover of Playboy, February 1992.

Rachel stayed at Ford. However, she grew tired of her assignments at Ford as well, complaining that it was mostly catalog work. With her career waning a bit, Rachel decided to spice things up in 1992 with a spread in Playboy. Some other high profile modeling assignments came along, such as with Richard Avedon. However, Rachel increasingly pivoted away from modeling and pursued other interests as the '90s progressed.

Rachel Williams
Rachel Williams on Vogue UK, March 1988.

Among other things, Rachel:
  • enrolled at Columbia to study architecture
  • became a television show presenter ("The Girlie Show")
  • appeared in music videos (including George Michael's "Fastlove")
  • was in the Powergen Calendar in 1997
  • made some guest appearances on television shows.
Rachel Williams
Rachel Williams wearing Cynthia Rybakoff pave rhinestone earrings in British Vogue 1988.

There remains a lot of confusion about Rachel Williams and what she is currently doing. Many sources claim that she was the same person as an obscure actress named Rachela Williams who apparently died in a motorcycle accident in 2001. This confusion continues in many quarters to this day (sources list their birthdates as the same day in 1967). However, the model Rachel Williams is not the same person as the late actress Rachela Williams - apparently. Some sources claim that Rachel now lives in the Hamptons and has two children, others say she has one daughter... it's difficult to separate the truth from the fiction. Perhaps Rachel likes it that way.

Rachel Williams
Rachel Williams - Vogue Germany August 1988.

Rachel again made tabloid headlines when she had her publicist announce in 1995 that she was living with British model/singer Alice Temple (why Rachel felt it was necessary to announce this is a mystery). Rachel Williams has taken a lower profile in recent years but apparently continues to model on occasion (she is listed as being in a March 2017 editorial for Vogue Italy, for instance).


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