Flame-haired beauties seem to be featuring a lot recently, and none more so than British-born Karen Elson. She has been modelling since 16, and has recently also moved into the music industry, as a singer/songwriter and guitarist.
Elson’s modelling success came when Steven Meisel shot her for Italian Vogue on her 18th birthday. Since then, she has worked with most of the worlds major fashion photographers and designers. 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 fashion designers including Marc Jacobs (which she did while pregnant), Shiatzy Chen, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace YSL, Alexander McQueen, Dior, Gucci etc. She has appeared in international campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Christian Dior, Burberry and Chanel, to name a small number. She has also been on the covers of many international magazines such as Vogue, W, Dazed & Confused, Numéro, Marie Claire, Elle, Nylon and others. In 1998 she won the title of Model Of The Year at the VH1 Fashion Awards. In 2005, Elson won the British Fashion Award for Best Model.
She has appeared in many short films and videos, including the music video for The White Stripes’s “Blue Orchid”, directed by Floria Sigismondi. She has also appeared in fashion films such as Steven Meisel and Darren Lew’s War Opera, Nick Knight’s Andy Warhol-inspired series More Beautiful Women, Craig McDean’s 48 Girls, 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). 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. 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.”
Elson is a founding member and performer with the New York City based political cabaret troupe The Citizens Band, appearing with them at various theatres as well as the downtown art gallery Deitch Projects. Critical response to Elson’s performances have been unequivocally positive, with the press frequently commenting on her striking vocal skills. As one of the leaders of The Citizens Band she has performed a variety of songs including well received 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.
After Jack White (also her husband) heard a few songs that Karen Elson sang in secret, he urged her to try and write some more. Eventually she had written enough for an entire album – The Ghost Who Walks, produced by her husband, Jack White.