While most of my regulars readers may know, I am a Visual Stylist for a living at a well known iconic department store. You know, the one you makes the store, windows, and the like look all pretty, creative, and compelling, for you, to spend your money!!!!! I also do a lot of other things in addition. One of the things I do is dress all the Ready To Wear mannequins, in the latest fashions, and trends, you didn't know you had to have. We on the visual team of course have names for all the mannequins. All swank looking of course, all size 4's, flawless skin, silky hair, and have a cat like stance to their runway poses. Dominique. Ming. Artemis. Louisa. Margatha. But none of them in our store are as famous as one mannequin that ever was. Cynthia.
In 1932 the artist Lester Gaba, not unlike Andrew McCarthy's character in the 1987 classic Mannequin, created Cynthia, a mannequin for Saks Fifth Avenue. Cynthia was "a 100-pound model who had realistic imperfections like freckles, pigeon toes, and even different sized feet." Five years later, Gaba posed with Cynthia around New York City for a LIFE magazine spread which supposedly launched the career of an up-and-coming starlet and made Cynthia a household name overnight.No, I kid you not.... really. She was a legit A-lister, complete with her own television talk show, roles in movies, and a box seat subscription to the Metropolitan Opera House.
Only years before Gaba came on the scene, mannequins were often still ponderously heavy, relatively unrealistic creations of wax. They melted in the summer heat, and even sometimes bore frightening rictus grins of real human teeth. Upper-class women preferred to see how their clothes looked by having them modeled on young, human women. Gaba was one of a wave of pioneers making modern mannequins that combined style with realism — his so-called “Gaba Girls.”
Gaba boasted that his mannequins were nearly indistinguishable from well-dressed human women, and pointed out that his creations had charming imperfections just as real women did. But the undisputed magnum opus of Gaba’s career came in the form of a 5′ 6″, 100-pound doll he dubbed Cynthia. He brought her with him to nightclubs and social events. She became something of a New York nightlife fixture. Meanwhile, the country’s finest stores lavished Cynthia with attention — and free gifts of dresses, shoes, furs and jewelry. Saks Fifth Avenue even issued her a credit card. Once she achieved a certain level of fame, gossip columnists began writing about Cynthia as if she were a living, breathing socialite. When partygoers tried to engage the mannequin in conversation, Gaba begged off by claiming she was suffering from a touch of laryngitis.
She even was known to light up.......
Here she is head of the table for Sunday brunch at the Park Avenue apartment of novelist Thyra Samter Winslow.
As one can see, she even had her own closet......
But, as with the fame that sometimes descends on flesh-and-blood humans, Cynthia’s was not to last. Her time in the spotlight proved fleeting, and the next decade saw her begin to fade from public view. In 1942, Gaba was inducted into the army. He sent Cynthia to stay with his mother in Missouri. Though the rest of the nation had moved on to other fads, Gaba insisted that Cynthia be treated like a celebrity, and instructed his mother to take the mannequin to the beauty parlor regularly. Years later, once Gaba returned, sadly, Cynthia died when she slipped from a chair in a beauty salon and shattered, the press even reported on her death. She was reconstructed and tried to have a comeback much later, in the 1950s, but the appeal was gone and she was stored up in a box.
She was known to even flash the camera whilst awaiting adjustments.
Touring NYC in a sky bus, seeing the sights.......
Ultimately, she remained an enigma to the man who had lavished so much of his talent and his time on her. Years later Gaba admitted to the New York Times‘ Gay Talese that, in the end, “Cynthia never made any sense.” Cynthia's current whereabouts are a mystery. Creepy!