Nena von Schlebrügge

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Nena von Schlebrügge
Von Schlebrügge in 2014
Birgitte Caroline von Schlebrügge

(1941-01-08) January 8, 1941 (age 83)
OccupationFashion model
(m. 1964; div. 1965)
(m. 1967)
Children4, including Uma

Birgitte Caroline "Nena" von Schlebrügge (born January 8, 1941) is a Swedish-German fashion model of the 1950s and 1960s. She started her high-fashion modelling career in London in 1957 and continued in New York City in 1958 at the Ford Modeling Agency. In New York, she worked at Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.

She was briefly married to Timothy Leary from 1964 to 1965. After marrying the Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman in 1967 she adopted the name Nena Thurman. The actress Uma Thurman is their daughter.

She studied to become a psychotherapist and served as Managing Director of Tibet House US. She is now the Executive Chairwoman of the Menla retreat and health spa in upstate New York.[1]


Schlebrügge's father was German officer Baron Friedrich Karl Johannes von Schlebrügge [d].[2] Her Swedish mother Birgit Holmquist [d] served as Axel Ebbe's [sv] model for Famntaget [d] ("The Embrace"), a 1930s statue of a nude woman that overlooks the harbor of Smygehuk in Sweden.[3] Her paternal half-sister was the grandmother of German-Swedish football player Max von Schlebrügge. She grew up in Sweden, and is also of Danish descent.[citation needed]



In 1955, at the age of 14, Nena was discovered by Vogue photographer Norman Parkinson when he was on a tour in Stockholm, Sweden. In 1957, Nena moved to London, United Kingdom, to pursue a career in high-fashion modeling. She found immediate success and was invited to come to New York City by Eileen Ford of the Ford Modeling Agency to continue her modelling career.[4]

In the snow storm of March 1958, at the age of 17, she arrived in New York City on the Queen Mary. In New York City, she continued her career as a top model, working at Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. She was photographed by many fashion photographers, including Gleb Derujinsky.[5]


In 1967, she had a part in the Edie Sedgwick film Ciao! Manhattan. The film took four years to make; and drastic changes from the original story were made, causing the filmmakers to remove many scenes, including Nena's, shot in 1967. These deleted scenes can be found on the DVD version.[6]

Open Center and Tibet House[edit]

From 1987 to 1989, Nena was the Program Director at the New York Open Center.[7] From 1991 to 2002 she served as the Managing Director of Tibet House US in New York City.[1] Tibet House US was founded in 1986 by the Thurmans, Philip Glass, and Richard Gere, at the behest of the Dalai Lama.[8] Nena oversaw the construction of Tibet House US and the educational programming. With Philip Glass, she initiated the annual benefit concert at Carnegie Hall and the annual benefit auction at Christie's.[8] She was executive producer of The First 30 Years of Tibet House U.S. film, directed by John Halpern.[9]

Since 2001, Nena has been the Managing Director of the Tibet House US-owned Menla Mountain Retreat and is now the Executive Chairwoman, where she has overseen the construction of a state-of-the-art Tibetan medicinal spa facility and business in the Catskill Mountains in Phoenicia, New York.[10] She is also a psychotherapist.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Nena married Timothy Leary in 1964 at the Hitchcock Estate (commonly known as "Millbrook"). D. A. Pennebaker documented the event in his 12-minute film You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You.[11] Charles Mingus played piano at the wedding ceremony.[11] The marriage lasted a year before von Schlebrügge divorced Leary in 1965.

In 1967, she married Indo-Tibetan Buddhist scholar and ex-monk Robert Thurman, whom she had met at Millbrook.[4] In the same year, Nena and Robert's first child, Ganden Thurman, was born. In 1970, Robert and Nena's second child, Uma Thurman, was born. They have two more sons: Dechen (b. 1973) and Mipam (b. 1978).[4] The children grew up in Woodstock, New York in a house built by the Thurmans on nine acres of land purchased with Nena's inheritance.[4] In addition to their four children, the pair have seven grandchildren, including actress Maya Hawke.


  1. ^ a b c "Menla General Management Staff: Managing Director Nena v.S. Thurman". Tibet House US. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  2. ^ "Well Known Swedish Americans". Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  3. ^ Kuprijanko, Alexander (July 20, 2006). "Uma Thurmans mormor staty i Trelleborg" [Uma Thurman's grandmother's statue in Trelleborg]. Sydsvenskan (in Swedish).
  4. ^ a b c d Green, Penelope (May 20, 2017). "50 Years of Marriage and Mindfulness With Nena and Robert Thurman". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 21, 2021. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  5. ^ Derujinsky, Andrea (2016). Capturing Fashion: Derujinsky. Paris: Flammarion. p. 213. ISBN 978-2-08020-273-4.
  6. ^ "Ciao Manhattan (1972)". IMDb. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b Hoban, Phoebe (March 15, 1998). "The Night; Thurmans All Come Out to Play". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 21, 2021. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  9. ^ "The First 30 Years of Tibet House U.S." vimeo. December 4, 2017. Retrieved November 13, 2019.
  10. ^ "About Us". Retrieved December 22, 2020.
  11. ^ a b Pennebaker, D. A. "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You". Pennebaker Hegedus Films. Retrieved February 3, 2018.

External links[edit]