Karen Elson Biography
As a child, Elson attended North Chadderton School in Chadderton with her twin sister, filmmaker Kate Elson. She began working as a model as a teenager.
Karen Elson was discovered at age owner of Boss models in Manchester. Elson's success came when Steven Meisel shot her for Italian Vogue on her 18th birthday. She has worked with most of the worlds major fashion photographers and designers. Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, Peter Lindbergh, Mert and Marcus, Steven Klein, Ellen Von Unwerth. She has walked the runways of many top fashion designers including Marc Jacobs (which she did while pregnant), Shiatzy Chen, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace YSL, Alexander McQueen, Dior, Gucci etc. She has appeared in international campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Christian Dior, Burberry and Chanel, to name a small number. She has also been on the covers of many international magazines such as Vogue, W, Dazed & Confused, Numéro, Marie Claire, Elle, Nylon and others. In 2010, American fashion brand St. John announced that Elson would be replacing Angelina Jolie as the new face of their company. She is currently the face of YSL Opium perfume. She appears in the Fall/Winter 2010/11 ad campaign of Louis Vuitton, along with Natalia Vodianova and Christy Turlington.
In 1998 she won the title of Model Of The Year at the VH1 Fashion Awards. In 2005, Elson won the British Fashion Award for Best Model.
She has appeared in many short films and videos, including the music video for The White Stripes's "Blue Orchid", directed by Floria Sigismondi. She has also appeared in fashion films such as Steven Meisel and Darren Lew's War Opera, Nick Knight's Andy Warhol-inspired series More Beautiful Women, Craig McDean's 48 Girls, and Bruce Weber's Petit Fleur, Harlequin, Voodoo Daddy, Closer Walk With Thee and Karen's Boogie (all films were made in conjunction with W as a tribute to New Orleans). Elson has been featured in commercials for Kose cosmetics. She has also appeared in the short film Lay Down Lean, a project by the experimental filmmaking team The Belles Of The Black Diamond Field.
Elson has contributed to Nick Knight's fashion site SHOWstudio.com since 2002. She also contributed to Knight's project "Moving Fashion" with a black and white video of herself in a sequined gown, perched upon a swing. The images were accompanied by Elson playing the autoharp and singing a verse of Marlene Dietrich's "Falling In Love Again."
As of October 23, 2008 Elson owns a vintage boutique in Nashville, Tennessee with Venus & Mars' Amy Patterson. The boutique is called Venus & Mars- The Showroom and features "high end rare vintage garments and adornments to cheap and cheerful vintage dress and jewels.". In 2010, she modeled a Patricia Field dress for the Sex and the City Archive in the Naomi Campbell's Fashion For Relief runway show for The White Ribbon Alliance to raise funds for mothers in Haiti.
Elson is a founding member and performer with the New York City based political cabaret troupe The Citizens Band, appearing with them at various theatres as well as the downtown art gallery Deitch Projects. Critical response to Elson's performances have been unequivocally positive, with the press frequently commenting on her striking vocal skills. As one of the leaders of The Citizens Band she has performed a variety of songs including well received covers of The Velvet Underground, Kurt Weill, Elvis Presley, Mimi and Richard Fariña, Pete Seeger, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Marlene Dietrich. She has also written and co-written songs for the troupe's performances. Her cover of The Velvet Underground's "Candy Says" is available on The Citizen Band's MySpace page. Short samples of her performances are available on the troupe's website as well.
Elson's musical career has been building slowly over the past several years. In 2003 she contributed backing vocals to a remix of Robert Plant's "Last Time I Saw Her" from Plant's album Dreamland. In 2005 a personal recording of Elson singing was made available on a CD accompanying the August 2005 issue of Uncut magazine (the song was titled "Coming Down"). The song was chosen by REM singer Michael Stipe In 2006 she dueted with Cat Power on a provocative cover version of "I Love You (Me Either)" for Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited, a tribute album to French singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg.
After Jack White heard a few songs that Karen Elson sang in secret, he urged her to try and write some more. “At home I would hide—I would play my songs really in isolation. I would lock the bathroom door and hide. Eventually he was like, ‘Why are you hiding this from me?’”. Eventually she had written enough for an entire album. In February 2010, it was announced that Elson would be releasing her debut solo album The Ghost Who Walks, produced by her husband, Jack White. Her first music video for "The Ghost Who Walks (Acoustic)" was made available on her website and the Third Man Records' Modlife website. The album received good reviews, Karen Elson was credited for both her singing and song writing abilities in the genre of gothic-folk and country. Some of Elsons songs, like 'Lunasa', are even associated with pagan and celtic music.
Karen Elson met Jack White when she appeared in The White Stripes music video for "Blue Orchid". The video's director, Floria Sigismondi noted "you sensed an energy between them." They were married on June 1, 2005 in Manaus, Brazil. The White Stripes's manager Ian Montone served as best man while drummer Meg White, who is also Jack White's ex-wife, was the maid of honor.
On May 2, 2006, the couple had a daughter, named Scarlett Teresa White. Their second child, Henry Lee White, was born on August 7, 2007. The family now resides in Nashville, Tennessee.