In 1957, CBC looks at how models work within the Canadian fashion industry.
She was a small town “blonde bombshell” from Peterborough who started winning modest titles like Miss Old Dutch Cleanser before landing the one at age 20 that would become a springboard to success — Miss Toronto, 1956.
That was just the start of a remarkable career path for Judy Welch who went on to be photographed with Elvis Presley and Paul Anka. Her fame was propelled after she became a finalist — and the first Canadian — in the Miss World competition. A Star article of the day called her a “mighty curvesome honey blonde measuring 35-23-35 (inches).”
She went on to found her namesake modelling agency which won international recognition for a roster of models that included Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Monika Schnarre.
“Judy Welch put Canada on the map when it came to modelling with stars like Kirsten Owen and Linda Evangelista. The whole industry should be grateful for her hard work and dedication. She was definitely ahead of her time, having international scouts come to Toronto to scout for talent.”
–Elmer Olsen, agent
“Toronto’s fashion world has lost an icon. Judy was a powerhouse of an agent — the likes of which we may never see again. To her models, she was much more than an agent, she was a second mother. Her home on Roxborough Ave. was a refuge to all of her ‘children.’ In her last few years, Judy never lost that glint in her eye or her ability to charm. From her I will take so many lessons . . . most of all, her perseverance. I owe my entire career to Judy and she will remain in my heart forever.”
–Monika Schnarre, supermodel discovered by Judy Welch, went on to be winner of the Ford Supermodel contest in 1986
“I was a stylist with her agency briefly back in the 80s. She was the first super-agent in Canada. Her name was a powerful brand. If you were a Judy Welch model at the time, it meant you were the crème de la crème.”
–Suzanne Boyd, editor-in-chief of Zoomer magazine
“I started with her in 1987 and when I first met her I was scared, she was sitting at this very gothic desk on a throne-like chair. She would say to her models, ‘clean up your face and make me some money!’ I started making jewellery on the side while modelling and I gave a piece to her which she wore every day and promoted any way she could. She was proud of her models — she was like a mother.”
–Paul Mason, top Canadian male model, walked the international runways and featured in ad campaigns for Donna Karan and Gap
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