May 22, 2017
May 19, 2017
Model, actress, and activist Wendy Stuart Kaplan’s new memoir She’s the Last Model Standing sheds light on her life in the glitter of the New York disco scene and the lifelong passions that have taken her around the world.
Wendy Stuart Kaplan.
As a young girl, Wendy Stuart Kaplan dreamed of both the stimulus of Manhattan and the enchantment of Africa. Her mother, a model and Miss America runner-up, was the inspiration for her glamorous yin while a love of the exotic was her introspective yang. In She’s the Last Model Standing, Stuart Kaplan takes us from the Bronx to Nigeria to Studio 54 as she recounts a life where more is more.
Tell us how a Bronx childhood led you on the path to Africa.
WENDY STUART KAPLAN: I’ve always been interested in things that were magical. Maybe it was a prophecy. There has always been something about the exotic and the different that turns me on. Growing up in the Bronx was fun, and I had great friends, but it was short on magic. My dream of going to Africa always dangled before me and when I got into college there was an opportunity to go there and study voodoo, so I took it.
How did you end up modeling and acting in 70’s and 80’s Manhattan?
WSK: My mother wore her mink coat to shop at the Associated. She would line her lips with red lipstick, perfectly, and I heard stories all of my life about her modeling days. She modeled with Lucille Ball and Shirley Schrift, who went on to become Shelley Winters. I was fed stories of those early glamour days of modeling in New York. She sang in nightclubs during the Depression and was fifth runner-up at the 1935 Miss America pageant. We were invited to the Miss America pageant when I was about six years old and we got to ride on a float with the contestants, so I was totally sold at that point and bought the dream hook, line, and sinker.
[After I went to Africa,] I came back and started doing some print modeling and a bit of runway and even some fit modeling, which pays a little bit of money.
Share some of the highlights of your life as a young model/actress in New York.
WSK: I remember standing outside Studio 54 in January, it was freezing cold and I was in some terrible dress and open-toed plastic shoes that were too high. Suddenly, Mark Benecke opened up the rope and said I could come inside. Once I got in, there was this older guy who looked very quirky and artistic and my friend said, “That’s Andy Warhol.” I put it together at that moment because I had seen a lot of pictures of him, and then lo and behold he started talking to me.
[Another] night that stands out in my mind was when Madonna came. [...] I remember her blonde hair and dark roots. She looked really slutty and sang a song called “Borderline” that was so completely tired and we thought this girl would never have a shot in hell of making it. It was less than a year later that she was everywhere.
Where have your life experiences brought you?
WSK: Right now I’m working with the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York and am an on-camera host. I’m getting to meet major players who are doing amazing things like Dr. Birute Galdikas who has lived with orangutans for 40 years. [...] Additionally, I’m working on a new project called Model with a Mission and it encompasses my love of wildlife, anthropology, modeling, and acting.
She’s the Last Model Standing is available on Amazon.com
May 3, 2017