Janice Doreen Dickinson is an American model, photographer, author and talent agent. Initially notable as a model, she has been described by herself and others as the first supermodel. One of the most successful models throughout the 1970s and 1980s, she expanded her profession to reality television in 2003 by judging for four cycles on America's Next Top Model. She subsequently opened her own modeling agency in 2005, which was documented in the reality-television series The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency (2006–08).
Janice Dickinson was born in the Brooklyn, New York, the middle daughter of Jennie Marie (née Pietrzykowski) and Ray Dickinson. Her mother was of Polish descent and her father was of Scots-Irish ancestry. She was raised in Hollywood, Florida with her elder sister, Alexis, who became a real estate agent, and her younger sister, Debbie, who also became a model.
Dickinson has been open about the emotional and physical abuse she suffered as a child and teenager, and how her father used to sexually abuse one of her sisters. Of her childhood with her "rageoholic pedophile" of a father, Dickinson stated, "Because I wouldn't give in and let him have sex with me, I was verbally and physically abused on a daily basis. I was told that I looked like a boy and wouldn't amount to anything. I think if you abuse a child, your balls should be cut off. You should be castrated immediately."
In the early 1970s, Dickinson moved to New York City to pursue work as a model after winning a national competition called "Miss High Fashion Model." At a time when blue-eyed blondes dominated the fashion scene, Dickinson was turned down several times by modeling agents, including Eileen Ford, who informed Dickinson she was "much too ethnic. You'll never work."
She was discovered by the fashion photographer Jacques Silberstein when his girlfriend, actress Lorraine Bracco, mentioned she liked Dickinson's look. Wilhelmina became Dickinson's first agent. Her modeling pursuits led her to Paris, France, where her "exotic looks" secured her reputation within the European fashion industry.
She returned to New York City in 1978, and spent the next several years working steadily, earning $2,000 per day, nearly four times the standard rate. Dickinson eventually signed with Ford Models to land a major ad campaign for a new JVC camera. Dickinson, who had not forgotten Ford's initial rejection, was intent on revenge. She soon became one of twenty Ford models to defect to John Casablancas's upstart Elite Model Management.
By the 1980s, Dickinson was considered a supermodel, as she "possessed the kind of name and face recognition" that the majority of women in the modeling industry strive to achieve. She appeared within and on covers of magazines including Harper's Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Photo, Vogue, Marie Claire, and Playboy, and worked with some of fashion's best-known names, including Bill Blass, Gianni Versace, Valentino, Azzedine Alaïa, Pino Lancetti, Halston, Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein. Dickinson has appeared on the cover of Vogue (both American and international editions) 37 times. She appeared on the cover of Elle seven times in a row and has been the face of ad campaigns for products including Revlon, Alberto VO5, Balmain, Obao, Christian Dior, Clairol, Hush Puppies, Orbit gum, Max Factor, Virginia Slims, and Cutex.
Dickinson looked for ways to sustain her relevance within the fashion industry as she aged, becoming a fashion photographer. In 2008, Dickinson launched her own jewelry line on HSN.
Dickinson is the self-proclaimed "world's first supermodel". In E! True Hollywood Story, she claimed to have coined the term "supermodel" in 1979. Her manager, concerned that at the peak of her modeling career she was doing too much work, told her, "You are not Superman." Dickinson replied, "I am not Superman, I am a supermodel."
Dickinson's claims for coining the term supermodel and being the first one to represent the title are disputed. The term supermodel was already known in the 1940s. The writer Judith Cass used the term in 1942 for her article in the Chicago Tribune, which headlined "Super Models are Signed for Fashion Show". Later in 1943, Clyde Matthew Dessner used the term in his modeling book. The term was popular throughout the 1960s to 1970s. The New York Times, on March 21, 1967, and The Daily Times, on May 19, 1967, referred to Twiggy as a supermodel. In 1968, an article in Glamour described Twiggy, Cheryl Tiegs, Wilhelmina, Veruschka, Jean Shrimpton, and fifteen other top models as "supermodels". The Gazette (dated July 8, 1970) described Penelope Tree as a supermodel. The April 23, 1971 issue of The Hour headlined one of its articles "Supermodels Reveal Their Beauty Secrets", including an advertisement with the caption "Supermodel Cheryl Tiegs". The article also says, "The fashion/beauty world is dotted with Supermodels" and "Cybill Shepherd a Supermodel who may turn into a Superstar." Jean Shrimpton was described as a supermodel by Time in 1971, as were Margaux Hemingway by Vogue on September 1, 1975, Beverly Johnson by Jet in 1977, and Naomi Sims in the 1978 book Total Beauty Catalog by K.T. Maclay.
Lisa Fonssagrives and Dorian Leigh, whose careers began before Dickinson was born, have been retroactively recognized as the 20th century's first supermodels. Gia Carangi has been called the first supermodel as well as Jean Shrimpton.
In 2003, Dickinson returned to media attention with her stint as a judge on the reality television series America's Next Top Model. She was hired after producer Tyra Banks read No Lifeguard On Duty and realized that Dickinson could offer the contestants advice on the perils of the fashion industry. As a panelist, Dickinson became known for her wit and incisive, brutally honest critiques.
Dickinson frequently quarreled with her fellow judges, particularly Kimora Lee Simmons and Nolé Marin. A recurring source of tension between Dickinson and Banks was the former's dubiety concerning plus-size models. After four cycles, Banks fired Dickinson, replacing her with Twiggy. Dickinson was hurt by the decision. "I was just telling the truth and I was saving these girls from going out there and being told that they're too short, too fat, their skin's not good enough," she said. "I was to America's Next Top Model what Simon Cowell is to American Idol." Despite this, Dickinson made guest appearances on the following three cycles: As the photographer for a photo challenge in cycle 5, in a mentor role in cycle 6, and as the interviewee for an interview challenge in cycle 7.
In 2005, Dickinson was a cast member on The Surreal Life during its fifth season. She was confronted by castmate Omarosa Manigault during a publicity photo shoot while Dickinson was posing with a prop knife. After being physically separated by Bronson Pinchot the two continued to feud throughout the series.
In 2006, Dickinson starred in her own reality show, The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, for the Oxygen cable-television channel. The program, which ran for four seasons, documented Dickinson launching a new career as a modeling agent. She appeared with British model Abigail Clancy in Abbey & Janice: Beauty & The Best, a reality series detailing Clancey's attempt to break into the American modeling market. The show debuted in the United Kingdom on Living on May 14, 2007, and premiered in the U.S on Oxygen on February 19, 2008.
In November 2007, Dickinson became one of the celebrities taking part in the British reality television show I'm a Celebrity…Get Me out of Here!. She set the record for most Bushtucker trials, competing ten times in a row. In the finale of the series, it was announced that Dickinson had gained second place in the competition, with Christopher Biggins coming first.
Dickinson was also a contestant for series two of the American version of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! which began airing in June 2009. She was eliminated from the show on June 18, 2009.
In 2009, Dickinson was a guest judge on the Finnish version of the Top Model franchise. She created controversy after the claimed effects of accidentally mixing a sleeping aid with champagne caused her to fall down a flight of stairs and burst out at the models. Dickinson was taken to a hospital where she was told she had no visible injuries. She later apologized to the models during the show's airing.
Other guest appearances include "Still Charmed and Kicking", an episode of Charmed in which Paige disguises herself as Dickinson in order to fool both her sisters and old family friends that people important to her did actually care that she had "died." Her sisters soon find out that "Dickinson" is actually Paige, and they order her to reverse the spell. She made a cameo appearance in Darren Hayes's music video "On the Verge of Something Wonderful". In 2010, Dickinson appeared on the celebrity edition of British dinner-party contest Come Dine With Me, on which she frequently butted heads with former Page 3 Girl Samantha Fox over her glamour modeling career, and flirted with Calum Best.
Dickinson appeared in the fourth season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, which premiered in December 2010. In 2011, she guest-starred in an episode of 90210 (titled "Project Runway").
In 2009, Dickinson recorded a song entitled "Crazy", which was written and produced by Craig Taylor.
Dickinson has been married three times. Her former husbands are Ron Levy, Simon Fields (1987–93) and Albert B. Gerston (1995–96; also recorded as Alan B. Gersten). With Fields she had a son, Nathan Ray Michael Fields. (born May 5, 1987). She has a daughter, Savannah, by former boyfriend, Michael Birnbaum. In her books and in interviews, she has discussed her numerous sexual relationships with male and female celebrities. In 2012, she was engaged to marry Dr. Robert Gerner, a psychiatrist.
During an episode of the reality show The Surreal Life, Dickinson revealed in-depth information about the emotional abuse she endured as a child and teenager. She stated to her cast mates, "My father was a pedophile. He was a dark, angry guy. Being forced to have a pedophile for a father is probably the most horrible thing that can happen to a child, bar none." She said, "I survived a monster... 16 years I was forced to keep the secret... If I ever exposed my pedophile father, I would've been murdered. So you know what he did instead? He beat me on a daily basis." In an interview, Dickinson told British magazine Now, "When he was on the way to the hospital, I tossed his medication out of the car window and didn't tell the doctors. Maybe I wanted to kill the abuser?".
In November 2014, Dickinson told Entertainment Today that comedian Bill Cosby raped her in 1982. She said that she tried to write about the assault in her 2002 autobiography, but Cosby and his lawyers pressured her and her lawyers to remove the details. Dickinson became the most visible of a number of women who accused Cosby of committing sexual harassment and rape years before in multiple separate incidents. Criminal charges have not been filed against Cosby, although he is known to have settled out of court in confidential agreements with one woman making similar accusations in 2006.
In March 2016 it was revealed that Dickinson has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
In Dickinson's autobiography No Lifeguard on Duty, she wrote, "When I was just eighteen months old, in 1957, the family moved from Brooklyn to Florida." She graduated in 1973 from South Broward High School, Hollywood, Florida, making 1955 her more likely year of birth.
In the first episode of I'm a Celebrity…Get Me out of Here! on November 12, 2007, Dickinson stated her age as 53. In the eighth episode of the same series, she said, "I waited until I was 32 to get married."
Dickinson released a memoir detailing her "wild days" as a supermodel. Titled No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World’s First Supermodel (2002), the book was effective in introducing her to a new generation. Dickinson's follow-up memoir was Everything About Me is Fake… And I’m Perfect. (2004), in which she describes her life in modeling; her experience with plastic surgery; and her battles with anorexia, bulimia, and alcoholism. Her next memoir, Check Please! Dating, Mating, and Extricating (2006), is purported to show a lighter and more tender side of Dickinson. In the book, Dickinson discusses the men in her life, and prescribes her rules for dating.
- Dickinson, Janice (2002). No Lifeguard on Duty – The Accidental Life of the World's First Supermodel.
- Dickinson, Janice (2004). Everything About Me Is Fake – And I'm Perfect.
- Dickinson, Janice (2006). Check, Please! – Dating, Mating, and Extricating.