Nina Dyer: Even Black Panthers Fade Away

Since the dawn of human history, there have been beautiful, rich women who seem to ‘have it all’. Some have created enduring ripples (Daisy Fellowes), some have chosen to look beyond their comfortable existence (Millicent Rogers). Even with the current batch of socialites, it can feel like they will linger forever (hardly a thought that fills me with joy….). Having said that, you can seem blessed but you can still be written out of history. Just look at the life, death and blackout of Nina Dyer.

Born Nina Sheila Dyer on 15 February 1930 in Sri Lanka. Her family were wealthy thanks to their tea plantation. Seeking more stimulation, Dyer moved first to London and then Paris for her modelling career.

I have offered wondered what is it about young socialite girls that they have it imprinted into their DNA that if you want to make your own money/career/identity. You become a model, well I cannot pretend to care what the current batch of wannabe supermodels. In the case of Nina Dyer, she appears to have been met with relative success, where she was hired by Pierre Balmain (she would return the favour in later years as client of his couture). Certainly she was a striking, stunning girl, who could have been a photogenic model regardless of her background.

At only 17, Dyer began an affair with Baron Von Thyssen, then the wealthiest man in Europe. To say he was bewitched by his teenage lover would be a grand understatement, even purchasing a Caribbean island for Valentines day (In which she would swim nude, shocking the press in the process). Of the many spectacular gifts, the Baron gifted his beloved with a pair of Panthers.  These creatures may have started off as an exotic token of affection, but they ended up forming part of her visual legacy.  So very lovesick was Thyssen, that he left his wife (an Austrian princess, no less) and they wed in 1954. This was not to be the fairy tale ending where the prince and the princess live in their luxurious castle forever. After a mere three months of marriage, it was all over. Dyer decided that she preferred the company of a wildly attractive actor, closer to her own age than her more sensible husband. I guess now that they were a respectable married couple, the spark of the taboo was lost and sadly her interest in her Baron. She received a divorce settlement of $2.8 million, that would be approximately £200 million today!

In 1957, Dyer tried matrimony again when she wed Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. She  converted to Islam and took the name Shirin. On the surface they lived a charmed life, Aga Khan was appointed as the Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. They relocated to Paris, where Dyer tried to regenerate her modelling career. Plus when you are so fabulously wealthy, you can picture Dyer wandering around the Place Vendome, visiting the best luxury boutiques, and generally the peaks of privilege.   It would appear to be not all was well, the couple rarely saw each other. After 5 years, they too divorced. Dyer received another astonishing settlement $1.4 million.

So far,it would appear that Dyer was on top of the world. More money that she knew what to do with, beautiful, and blessed with exceptional taste. How many woman can claim to be a top client of Cartier jewellery? Her most famous pieces included a three stranded black pearl necklace and a Panther set (a nod to her prized Panthers who brought destruction to all the hotel rooms they visited, as wild animals will do) a gift from the Aga Khan. Still appearances can be deceptive, Dyer seems to have had few friends and without children and her modelling career was dead in the water. Since there is very little known about Dyer’s inner most feelings, one can only speculate as to what was at the heart of her actions. Maybe she craved a family, maybe she was insecure and felt that with two failed marriages that she would ‘be left on the shelf’. Where feelings of depression are concerned, there is no rhyme, reason, logic or obvious  source of strife. We can never know what Dyer felt or what she wanted from her life.

Tragically She killed herself on 3rd July 1965 aged only 35, overdosing on sleeping pills. When someone dies young it is always a sad event, what is most sad about Dyer is how she seems to have been forgotten. Sources for this entry are very few and far between. Maybe she will be rediscovered and more light can be shed on this sad lady who had everything given to her, yet could not find peace and happiness.

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  1. Money can make your life easier, but it cannot buy happiness~

  2. Catherine Fulop · · Reply

    My Grandfather was Ninas Uncle.
    He was sent to Canada as a orphan teen and never saw his sister Ninas Mom again.
    My mother who is now 81 looks remarkably like Nina.
    Or as a young women anyway.
    After Ninas death my Grandfather received an inheritance. Somehow he was found as the law had to persue finding any living relatives.
    We only learned about Nina after her death.
    I was born in 1961 she died in 1965
    My mother did travel to England in the 1970’s to meet her newly discovered Aunt.
    Who never mentioned Nina…sad story.

  3. Catherine Fulop · · Reply

    I would love to know more about her.
    Interesting that her Jaguar is being restored at great expense. I remember seeing the book of her jewels as a child and thinking a cousin who was glamorous that Id never get to meet.

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