China Machado (1928 - 2016)

China Machado, the Shanghai-born supermodel who broke barriers in the fashion industry, died Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, at a hospital in Brookhaven, New York, according to multiple news sources. She was 87.

Machado – her nickname, China, was pronounced CHEE-na – was the first nonwhite person to appear on the cover of a major U.S. fashion magazine. She broke that barrier in the February 1959 issue of Harper's Bazaar.


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Noelie Dasouza Machado was born Dec. 25, 1928, in Shanghai, China, of Portuguese and Chinese ancestry. After World War II, she moved with her family to Argentina, Peru, and Spain. During her 20s, Machado acted in small film parts after meeting the Spanish bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin. She later moved to Paris and began her career as a fashion model, starting with a show by the designer Hubert de Givenchy, where a modeling agency had sent her.

The staff at Givenchy "thought I was filling in for a sick girl," Machado once said of her modeling start, "so they grabbed me, put me in clothes, and threw me into the room where they were showing the collection. I barely knew anything about walking like a model, so I just copied the girl in front of me. At the end of the show, gorgeous Givenchy comes up to me and says, ‘Would you like to be in the cabine?’— that's what they called the group of models who worked for the house. That’s how it all started."

It was at the Givenchy show that she met and became friends with the famous photographer Richard Avedon. He later described Machado as "probably the most beautiful woman in the world." Avedon shot the photos that appeared in Harper's Bazaar.

Machado also worked for Christian Dior and Balenciaga. At the height of her modeling career, she was earning $1,000 a day, making her the highest-paid runway model in Europe at the time. She paved the way for other models of color, including Naomi Campbell and Iman, the widow of David Bowie.

Machado was married to Riccardo Rosa, who survives her. Also surviving are two daughters, Blanche and Emmanuelle, from Machado's marriage to the French actor Martin LaSalle.

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