Dayle Haddon

Before Dayle Haddon could start an interview about her nonprofit WomenOne, or even take a seat, she had numerous iPhone photos and personal exchanges to show how children’s lives in Nanyuki, Kenya, and other underserved places are being helped.

In her 12 years as a UNICEF ambassador, she has trekked all over Africa and South America, where cholera and other diseases, hunger and poverty are destroying lives. The idea for her education-focused WomenOne sprang from a visit to an Angola health clinic where women had walked all night, in some cases carrying children, to get care. After learning two microscopes were needed and learning that UNICEF deemed such a donation too small, Haddon realized that smaller organizations have their own places to serve.

Motivated by the fact that 65 million girls are out of school globally, she pointed to U.N. research that indicates that educating one girl is comparable to educating seven people. An educated girl is less likely to contract HIV/AIDS and more likely to become a woman who has a child that lives past the age of five, Haddon added. In the nine years since she started her own charity, Haddon and her team have touched down in seven countries to enroll hundreds of girls in school, subsequently improving the lives of thousands of women globally. Some of the children her group has helped can be seen in colorful, oversize photographs in her uptown apartment. A box that she is filling with toys to send to them is another clue to her non-New York life. Haddon will be honored for her efforts at Friday’s United Nations Women for Peace Awards.

The model-author-activist said of the recognition, “I can’t do it without the people I work with, the people I have worked with, the incredible donors and companies that step up and the people we help so we all win. It is really a privilege to do this work. This award also has positive repercussions for the people we help. They will celebrate it as well, as they should.”

“This is an industry that creates things for women and girls. We have to do something for their benefit not just something they buy,” said Haddon, noting that Apple is partnering with WomenOne to through its Benevity program and Haddon will visit its Cupertino offices to discuss WomenOne with staffers.

Casually dressed in slim pants and a crisp white J. Crew shirt, Haddon’s stance reflects her years of studying dance. The only model to have had four major cosmetic contracts, Haddon has a 15-year association with L’Oréal, including two years of philanthropic efforts.

Haddon said her definition of beauty has evolved over the years since she began modeling in the Seventies. “The way I looked was not the look at the time — very tall Nordic or Texan blonde girl. I was a very small, dark-haired Canadian with little freckles. It just wasn’t an ‘in’ look. There wasn’t a lot of diversity in looks, which there is now and is great,” she said. “It took me a long time to be successful, which makes you more grateful.”

“Owing everything” to fashion photographer Guy Bourdin, whom she worked with more than anyone, Haddon said, “We didn’t care about the paycheck we only cared about creating great photos.”

Sarah Moon, Helmut Newton, Cecil Beaton, Jacques Henri Lartigue and Horst were other collaborators. “For me, modeling has a lot of richness, history and depth for relating, being exposed to creativity and a complicity when people work together on something artistic and really great,” she said.

A 1976 shoot with Lord Snowdon of Haddon dining alone with some high-powered European designers in their homes or wherever they preferred was one to remember. “Some refused. Some were welcoming. Some destroyed the outfit and had to stay up all night. Some decided they wanted to eat caviar on the Champs Elysees.” she said. “[Emanuel] Ungaro said he was too shy and would never bring anyone to his home. He wanted to go to his favorite restaurant. With [Yves] Saint Laurent, I was at his house. [Pierre] Cardin was more emphatic about what he wanted and smart about what he wanted. [Pierre] Balmain did not want to do it but he agreed as long as I did not look at him. I was not allowed to have a glass of wine or eat with him.

“A great model has to bring something of herself, but be in the style of the photographer,” said Haddon, naming Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid (“adorable and a look of our time”) and Christy Turlington as current favorites. Along with philanthropic ties, Kloss and Turlington understand that modeling is a business. They know, “How do you extend the longevity? How do you turn it into more than your five minutes of fame?’” she said.

Beauty in your Twenties is a wrinkle-free beauty, with no marks, no experience. It takes time for experience and that’s a different kind of beauty. For me, a lot of beauty is wrapped up in how you treat people, how you feel about yourself and how generous you are. Generous means many things — listening, including or being kind to people. It can also be about giving, doing what you can, or making a positive difference wherever you are with whoever you meet as best you can. That’s real beauty,” Haddon said. “You can’t desperately hang onto what you looked like or what you were like in your Twenties, Thirties or Forties. Even though you let go of some gifts, you embrace some new gifts.”

Through WomenOne, Haddon is seeking all sorts of giving. Last fall Charlotte Moss hosted and financed a fund-raiser at her home with chief executive officers that reaped $200,000. “This is what’s possible when people step up and say, ‘Alright, I’m not going to be able to go to Africa, but this is what I can do,’” Haddon said. “There are different parts that people can contribute. Everybody holds a puzzle piece. I just do what I do best. My invitation is, ‘Please reach out to us. At the minimum, support us on social media. Come see what we can do together.’”

Dayle Haddon with students. 


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