When Richard Avedon declares that you are ‘probably the most beautiful woman in the world’. You must be extraordinary, as is China Machado.
Born Noelie Dasouza Machaco 25th December 1929 in Shanghai, China. Her early life was spent travelling with her family to Peru, Argentina and Spain. Choosing to enjoy tradition persuits such as knitting, cooking and crochet; A cosy start to contrast against high glamour. Though she was wrapped in comfort an a tender age, she was not without struggle. Machado nearly died when she contracted Typhoid, Paratyphoid andMeningitus. Aged 19 she married a bullfighter named Luis Miguel Dominguin, though the marriage failed after 2 years. Dominguin left Machado for her idol Ava Gardner, strangely enough. A glamourous love triangle, no doubt. Here is when her life in front of the camera takes off. To escape her failed marriage, Machado left Rome for Paris. After being encourage by a friend, Machado began modelling. First for Givenchy, then for Balenciaga and Dior. Machado stood out form the usual European/American models thanks to her exotic and striking features. Evidently the Haute Couture world was intoxicated with Machado that she became the highest paid model, reputedly for £1000 a day.
In 1957, Machado married her second husband, Martin Lasalle and the couple set up home in New York. Championed by the iconic editor and taste maker Diana Vreeland and photographer Richard Avedon. Lead to Machado landing on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1959. On the surface one would wonder, so a beautiful woman made the cover of a glossy fashion magazines. Big deal. However Machado’s appearance was a big deal. She was the first non-Caucasian model to ever be featured in a mainstream magazine. Now women and girls of different ethnic backgrounds could see someone who looked more like them rather than the same old, safe faces and figures. Such a move was ground breaking, some magazine insiders feared that to have an non white model would alienate southern subscribers. All parties deserve credit for breaking down racial barriers, for helping to open the doors to all different kinds of ethnicities. So that the likes of Iman, Alek Wek and Naomi Campbell could be judged on their abilities rather than skin colour.
Electing to leave the catwalk, Machado moved behind the scenes of Harper’s Bazaar. First as the senior fashion editor, then to fashion editor. After divorcing Lasalle, Machado now lives with her third husband Riccardo Rosa in Long Island. Though she appeared in a 3 page spread in W magazine 2012. Machado will not be returning to the modelling world.
She may not be as famous as she deserves to be. But make no mistake Machado has done wonders for changing the ‘norm’ of the popular perception of beauty.