Karen Elson

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Karen Elson
Karen Elson June 2010 d.jpg
Elson in June 2010
Born (1979-01-14) 14 January 1979 (age 36)
Oldham, England, UK
Occupation Model, musician
Years active 1995–present
Spouse(s) Jack White (2005–2013) (divorced)[1]
Modelling information
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Hair colour Red
Eye colour Blue
Measurements (US) 33-24.5–34.5; (EU) 84-62-87.5
Dress size (US) 2; (EU) 34
Shoe size (US) 9; (EU) 41

Karen Elson (born 14 January 1979) is a British model, singer-songwriter and guitarist.

Early life and education[edit]

Elson was born in Oldham, and attended North Chadderton School as a child, with her twin sister, filmmaker Kate Elson.


She began working as a model as a teenager and was discovered at age 16 by the owner of Boss models in Manchester. Elson's success came when Steven Meisel shot her for the cover of Italian Vogue on her 18th birthday. She has worked with most of the world's major fashion photographers and fashion designers, including Arthur Elgort, Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, Peter Lindbergh, Mert and Marcus, Steven Klein, Patrick Demarchelier, Steven Meisel, Ellen Von Unwerth. She has walked the runways of many top designers including Marc Jacobs (which she did while pregnant), Jean-Paul Gaultier, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, YSL, Alexander McQueen, Dior and Gucci. She has appeared in international campaigns for dozens of designers including Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Christian Dior, Burberry and Chanel.

Her list of magazine covers include multiple international editions of Vogue as well as W, Dazed & Confused, Numéro, British Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Elle, Lula, Foam Magazine and Nylon. In 1998 she won the title of Model of the Year at the VH1 Fashion Awards. Photographed by Steven Meisel, she was presented on the September 2004 cover of American Vogue as one of the "Models of the Moment".[2] In 2005, Elson won the British Fashion Award for Best Model.

In September 2008 Elson was on the cover of British Vogue – shot by Nick Knight – as "Fashion's Red Queen". It was then announced that Elson was the new face of British department store John Lewis for autumn/winter 2008/09. In the autumn of 2009 she appeared on billboards internationally for H&M.

In 2010, American fashion brand St. John announced that Elson would be replacing Angelina Jolie as the new face of their company.[3] In 2011 she was replaced by Kate Winslet. For the Tom Ford 2009 spring eyewear advertising campaigns Elson and male model Jon Kortajarena were photographed, for the first time, by Tom Ford himself.[4]

Elson is currently the face of YSL Opium perfume. She appears in the autumn/winter 2010/11 ad campaign of Louis Vuitton along with Natalia Vodianova and Christy Turlington, as well as the Trussardi 1911 spring 2011 campaign. She was shot by Mert and Marcus for Roberto Cavalli's autumn 2011 campaign. Karen appears in the Steven Meisel autumn 2011 Lanvin campaign. The accompanying promotional video shows her dancing with Raquel Zimmerman to Pit Bull's "I Know You Want Me". Karen appears with her non-identical twin sister Kate Elson in the 2011 H&M Holiday campaign. She is also the face of Banana Republic's 2011 Holiday Collection.

Elson models at an Anna Sui show in 2011.

Elson has appeared in many short films and videos, including the music video for the White Stripes's "Blue Orchid", directed by Floria Sigismondi.[5] She has also appeared in fashion films such as Steven Meisel and Darren Lew's War Opera,[6] Nick Knight's Andy Warhol-inspired series More Beautiful Women,[7] Craig McDean's 48 Girls,[8] and Bruce Weber's Petit Fleur, Harlequin, Voodoo Daddy, Closer Walk With Thee and Karen's Boogie (all films were made in conjunction with W as a tribute to New Orleans).[9] Elson has been featured in commercials for Kose cosmetics. She has also appeared in the short film Lay Down Lean, a project by the experimental filmmaking team the Belles of the Black Diamond Field.Lay Down Lean, by the Belles of the Black Diamond Field.

Elson has contributed to Nick Knight's fashion site SHOWstudio.com since 2002. She also contributed to Knight's project "Moving Fashion" with a black and white video of herself in a sequined gown, perched upon a swing. The images were accompanied by Elson playing the autoharp and singing a verse of Marlene Dietrich's "Falling in Love Again."[10]

In 2008, Elson opened a vintage boutique in Nashville with Amy Patterson.[11] The boutique was called Venus & Mars- The Showroom and featured "high end rare vintage garments and adornments to cheap and cheerful vintage dress and jewels."[12] The boutique closed in November 2010.

In 2010, she modelled a Patricia Field dress for the Sex and the City Archive in the Naomi Campbell's Fashion for Relief runway show for the White Ribbon Alliance to raise funds for mothers in Haiti.

On 9 May 2011, it was announced that Elson has designed her own line of shoes, bags and jewellery for fashion brand Nine West. The items became available in the autumn of 2011.

London 2012 Models (2)

In August 2012, Elson was one of eight British models chosen to walk during a segment at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony. She wore a gold gown by Burberry and walked the stadium with her fellow models to David Bowie's song "Fashion."[13]


Elson is a founding member and performer with the New York based political cabaret troupe the Citizens Band, appearing with them at various theatres as well as the downtown art gallery Deitch Projects since 2004. Critical response to Elson's performances have been unequivocally positive, with the press frequently commenting on her striking vocal skills.[14] As one of the leaders of the Citizens Band she has performed a variety of songs including covers of the Velvet Underground, Kurt Weill, Elvis Presley, Mimi and Richard Fariña, Pete Seeger, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Marlene Dietrich. She has also written and co-written songs for the troupe's performances. Her cover of the Velvet Underground's "Candy Says" is available on the Citizen Band's MySpace page.[15] Short samples of her performances are available on the troupe's website as well.[16][17]

Elson's musical career has been building slowly over the past several years. In 2003 she contributed backing vocals to a remix of Robert Plant's "Last Time I Saw Her" from Plant's album Dreamland.[18] In 2005 a personal recording of Elson singing was made available on a CD accompanying the August 2005 issue of Uncut magazine (the song was titled "Coming Down"). The song was chosen by REM singer Michael Stipe.[19] In 2006 she dueted with Cat Power on a provocative cover version of "I Love You (Me Either)" for Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited, a tribute album to French singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg.[20]

Her first full-length album was written, for the most part, in secret without letting her (then) husband Jack White hear what she was doing. "At home I would hide—I would play my songs really in isolation. I would lock the bathroom door and hide. Eventually he was like, 'Why are you hiding this from me?'".[21] In February 2010, it was announced that Elson would be releasing her debut solo album The Ghost Who Walks, produced by Jack White. News of the album's release was made by a live acoustic performance video "The Ghost Who Walks (Acoustic)" posted on the internet. The album was released on Third Man Records via XL Recordings in May 2010. It received generally favourable reviews. Spin magazine gave it 7/10 and compared her voice to both Jenny Lewis and Loretta Lynn.

On 2 September 2010, Elson and her band performed on the Late Show with David Letterman. The fourth season of HBO TV series, True Blood, featured Elson's cover of "Season of the Witch" over the credits of the episode "If You Love Me, Why am I Dyin'?". The thirteenth episode of Fringe Season 4, "A Better Human Being" featured Karen's song "The Ghost Who Walks".

Elson often contributes to Record Store Day. For Record Store Day 2011, she released a cover of Lou Reed's "Vicious" and released a cover of Jackson C. Frank's "Milk and Honey" for Record Store Day 2012.[22][23] Elson contributed a version of "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" to the Buddy Holly tribute album Rave on Buddy Holly, released in June 2011. In 2012, she contributed a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" to Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac.[24]

In September 2012, she was featured in a campaign called "30 Songs / 30 Days" to support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a multi-platform media project inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book.[25] In October 2013, Elson opened for Neko Case for eight concerts on Case's North American tour.


Personal life[edit]

Elson had a two-year relationship with Raphael de Rothschild, who died of a heroin overdose in Chelsea, Manhattan, in 2000.[26]

Elson met Jack White when she appeared in the White Stripes music video for "Blue Orchid". The video's director, Floria Sigismondi noted "you sensed an energy between them".[27][28] They were married on 1 June 2005 in Manaus, Brazil. The White Stripes's manager Ian Montone served as best man while drummer Meg White, who is also Jack White's ex-wife, was the maid of honour. On 2 May 2006, the couple had a daughter, Scarlett Teresa White.[29] Their second child, Henry Lee White, was born on 7 August 2007.[30] The White family resided in Brentwood, Tennessee, a suburb south of Nashville,[31] where Elson managed a vintage clothing store called Venus & Mars.[32][33] Elson provided vocals on White's first solo record.[33] However, the couple announced their intention to divorce in June 2011,[34] throwing "a positive swing bang humdinger" party to commemorate the split.[35][36] They remained close enough for Elson to provide vocals on White's first solo record, Blunderbuss.[37] On 22 July 2013, a Nashville judge barred White from having "any contact with Karen Elson whatsoever except as it relates to parenting time with the parties' minor children."[38] A counter-motion by White's attorney Cathy Speers Johnson was filed on 2 August 2013, stating that "The reason for filing this response is that Mr. White does not want to be portrayed as something he is not, violent toward his wife and children."[39] Their divorce was made final on 26 November 2013.[40] Elson later recanted the charges, attributing the "aggressive" proceedings to her divorce attorneys, and saying "those who gain of a marriage ending helped to create a downward spiral at my most vulnerable."[35] White agreed, saying, "When shitty lawyers are in a situation like divorce, their goal is to villainize."[35] The former couple have since remained on good terms.[36]


  1. ^ "Judge finalizes divorce of Jack White, Karen Elson – Yahoo News". news.yahoo.com. 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Lee, Helen (11 April 2007). "Vogue's 'World's Next Top Models' cover". SassyBella.com. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ Scheidnes, Jean (3 February 2009). "Tom Ford, Lensman ...". Women's Wear Daily. Fairchild Fashion Group. Retrieved 10 February 2011. 
  5. ^ ""Blue Orchid," directed by Floria Sigismondi". Whitestripes.com. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  6. ^ War Opera, directed by Steven Meisel and Darren Lew
  7. ^ "''More Beautiful Women'', directed by Nick Knight". SHOWstudio. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  8. ^ "''48 Girls'', directed by Craig McDean". SHOWstudio. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "''W'' Presents: Bruce Weber's New Orleans". Wmagazine.com. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  10. ^ "Moving Fashion- "Falling in Love Again"". SHOWstudio. 17 October 2005. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  11. ^ Carlson, Jen (12 June 2007). ""Karen Elson's Otherworldly Boutique Opens in Nashville," ''Black Book'' magazine (2008)". Gothamist.com. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  12. ^ "Venus & Mars – The Showroom". Myspace.com. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  13. ^ "Kate Moss, Georgia Jagger, & Karen Elson Have An Olympic Model Moment". Popsugar.com. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  14. ^ ""Welcome to the Citizens Band" in ''Paper'' magazine (2006)". Papermag.com. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "The Citizens Band on MySpace Music". Profile.myspace.com. 26 July 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2013. [dead link]
  16. ^ "Elson performing "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" in the Citizens Band's "The Trepanning Opera"". Thecitizensband.net. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  17. ^ "Elson performing "A Hundred Years From Now" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" in the Citizens Band's "Chewing Up the Scenery"". Thecitizensband.net. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  18. ^ ""Karen Elson" by Sara Templeton". Webwombat.com.au. 14 January 1979. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  19. ^ "Elson's "Coming Down" on ''The REM Collection Disc 2: Michael Stipe Presents ...''". Eil.com. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  20. ^ Elson's duet with Cat Power, "I Love You (Me Either)" on Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited[dead link]
  21. ^ ""Karen Elson" ''Interview Magazine''". Interviewmagazine.com. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  22. ^ KAREN ELSON – Vicious (7" BLACK VINYL)[dead link]
  23. ^ KAREN ELSON – MIlk and Honey (7" VINYL)[dead link]
  24. ^ "New Fleetwood Mac Tribute Includes St. Vincent, Best Coast, and More; Hear New Pornographers Do "Think About Me"". Pitchfork.com. 18 June 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  25. ^ "Half the Sky". Halftheskymovement.org. 30 August 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  26. ^ "Karen Elson: The Chicest Freak". Fashion.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  27. ^ "Surreal Thing: A Peek Inside The Ethereal World of Floria Sigismondi". Psychopedia. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  28. ^ Smytek, John (4 May 2006). "Do they make striped Pampers?" The Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 4 May 2006.
  29. ^ Spin staff (4 May 2006), "Jack's Baby Oxymoron: Scarlett White". Spin. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  30. ^ AP (8 August 2007). "White Stripes' couple welcome baby boy" CNN.com. Archived from the original on 10 November 2007. Retrieved 11 September 2007.
  31. ^ Flippo, Chet (6 April 2006), "NASHVILLE SKYLINE: When Country Goes Pop". Retrieved 7 November 2008.
  32. ^ Lo, Danica (24 June 2010), "Venus and Mars: Supermodel Karen Elson's Vintage Boutique". Racked. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  33. ^ a b O'Neal, Sean (2011). "Jack White and Karen Elson throw themselves a divorce party". AVClub.com. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  34. ^ ORLOFF, BRIAN (10 June 2011). "Jack White & Karen Elson Are Divorcing – and Throwing a Party", People. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  35. ^ a b c WEINER, JONAH (5 June 2014), "Jack White." Rolling Stone. 1210:52–78
  36. ^ a b Lewis, Tim (31 May 2014). "Jack White: 'I'm like Larry David, Alan Partridge and Chris Rock in one person'". The Observer. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  37. ^ O'Neal, Sean (10 June 2011). ""Jack White and Karen Elson throw themselves a divorce party " AV Club (2011)". Avclub.com. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  38. ^ Gold, Adam (1 August 2013). "Karen Elson Granted Restraining Order Against Jack White". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 19 October 2013. 
  39. ^ Gold, Adam (2 August 2013), "Jack White Fires Back at Karen Elson in Court". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  40. ^ AP staff (2013). "Judge finalizes divorce of Jack White, Karen Elson – Yahoo News". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 

External links[edit]