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Audrey Lavinia Smaltz

Fashion show manager Audrey Lavinia Smaltz was born on June 2, 1937 in New York City. Growing up in the Harlem River Houses with neighbors such as Dr. Alvin Poussaint, Bob Moses and David Scott, Smaltz attended P.S. 46 and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Girls Junior High School. Accepted into New York City’s High School of Music and the Performing Arts, she took her first professional modeling job from baseball’s New York Giants. After graduating high school in 1955, Smaltz worked as a model and fashion commentator. An art major at the City College of New York, Smaltz also worked for Metropolitan Life Insurance and the Rueben H. Donnelly Corporation.

In 1962, Smaltz worked as a model and salesperson at Bloomingdale’s and she became an assistant fashion coordinator for the store in 1964. Hired by Lane Bryant Clothing in 1965, she worked as a model and buyer and also as a fashion coordinator. Moving to Chicago in 1969, Smaltz joined the Ebony Fashion Fair in 1970 as a commentator and fashion editor. In 1977, Smaltz organized her Ground Crew team, a backstage management group which has staffed many fashion shows including those by Vera Wang, Giorgio Armani, Betsey Johnson, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Alice Roi, Michael Kors, Luca Luca, Nanette Lepore, Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole and Ralph Rucci. Smaltz has also worked with corporations like Nike, Vogue, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, and J. Crew.

A contributing editor to Vogue, Mirabella and Mode magazines, Smaltz appears frequently on QVC and the Oprah Winfrey Show. She is a board member of the Black Fashion Museum, Dress for Success, the Gracie Mansion Conservancy and Fashion Group International.

Accession Number

A2005.060

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/8/2005

Last Name

Smaltz

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Lavinia

Schools

City College of New York

New York University

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

First Name

Audrey

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

SMA02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Divine Love Always Has Met And Always Will Meet Every Human Need.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

6/2/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Fashion show stage manager Audrey Lavinia Smaltz (1937 - ) is the founder and organizer of Ground Crew, a backstage management group which has staffed many fashion shows including those by Vera Wang, Giorgio Armani, Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors, Kenneth Cole and Ralph Rucci. Smaltz has also worked with corporations like Nike, Vogue, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Employment

The Ground Crew

Johnson Publishing Co.

Lane Bryant

Bloomingdales

Favorite Color

Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Audrey Lavinia Smaltz's interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz describes the history of her family name

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Slating of Audrey Lavinia Smaltz's interview, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz describes the beginnings of her business, The Ground Crew

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Slating of Audrey Lavinia Smaltz's interview, pt. 3

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz describes meeting relatives during a visit to Hilton Head, South Carolina as an adult

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz describes her father's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz describes her father's places of employment

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about her father and being born in Harlem, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about her parents' wedding and honeymoon

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz recalls her earliest childhood memories of living in the Harlem River Houses

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz recalls childhood gifts

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz recalls the sounds, sights, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz recalls her childhood in Harlem, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about growing up with SNCC leader Robert Parris Moses and others in Harlem, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about attending P.S. 46 Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about attending the High School of Music and Art in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz recalls her school teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz describes the High School of Music & Arts, Devore's School of Charm and modeling

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about being a "Say Hey" kid for baseball player Willie Mays, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about becoming a fashion show commentator

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about staying in New York City after graduating from high school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about her family's move to Harlem's Washington Heights

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about attending City College of New York and working

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz recalls working as an advertising art director

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about her brief career as a stock broker at Bache & Company

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz recalls being hired at Bloomingdale's

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz recalls being beauty pageant contestant

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about being the second African American on Bloomingdale's training team

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about becoming an assistant buyer at Bloomingdale's working with Doris Salinger

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz recalls employers underwriting her costs to attend the March on Washington and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz recalls being discriminated against and arrested in Florida

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about Ebony Fashion Fair

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about working at Lane Bryant as a model, then buyer

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz describes being introduced to Dr. Stanley Hughes by model Dorothea Towles and marrying him

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about being hired by Johnson Publishing Company

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about working for Ebony Fashion Fair

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz recalls how she commented for Ebony Fashion Fair shows

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about leaving Ebony Fashion Fair and Johnson Publishing Company

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz describes her role at Johnson Publishing Company

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about starting her own business after leaving Johnson Publishing Company

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about working as a Fashion Fair consultant and starting The Ground Crew

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about the services The Ground Crew provides

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about lack of diversity in the modeling industry

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz declines to name her favorite models

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz describes her future plans for The Ground Crew

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about her mother's sense of style

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz recalls being hired by the grandson of Steve Kaplan, the man who hired her at Lane Bryant forty years before

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz reflects upon how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Audrey Lavinia Smaltz narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

3$7

DATitle
Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about becoming a fashion show commentator
Audrey Lavinia Smaltz talks about working for Ebony Fashion Fair
Transcript
So that was that, led to my-- that was my first modeling assignment, and after that I didn't really do that much [as a model], you know. It was, there was not much of an outlet. You do fashion shows, that's what you would do, fashion shows at churches. And one particular fashion show they needed a commentator and the commentator I believe was going to get twenty-five dollars and the models were getting ten, so I became the commentator. I just said, I'll be the commentator, just like that. I'll be the commentator. And then they heard me do the commentary. My mother [Rebecca Dora Capers-Smaltz] came with me to make certain that I did the right thing and she was my critic. Oh god was she the critic. And she told me, well you said pretty too many times and you said this too many times and you licked your lips, you know, don't you lick your lips, you know. You black folk always licking your lips. Stop licking your lips and make certain you smile and take--oh, did she give me cree--feedback and criticism all the time. That was funny. So she was my first critic and I became a well-known commentator after that. People would hire me. I just started getting hired all the time. Then I went up to thirty-five dollars an hour--I mean for the show, not an hour, for the show.$$That was pretty good.$$Oh, it was big money, big, big cause you could have a whole dress made to order for twenty-five. So that was great. You know whatever I made I had a new dress made. I didn't save any money. I was living at home and I spent my money, fun, all in Harlem [New York]. Everything was Harlem.$$So this is all during high school [High School of Music & Art, New York, New York], right?$$High school, um-hmm, all during high school. Wow, yeah. And then when I went on to CCNY [City College of New York, New York City] I just kept on modeling and--well it wasn't full time you know. Not like today you know, it was the weekends. You didn't have to take off.$Now the Ebony Fashion Fair was the idea of Eunice Johnson, right? I mean what started the--$$Actually it was the idea of Freda DeNight. It was Freda DeNight's--well you know it's a lot of stories mixed up now after forty eight years. But Mrs. Dent from New Orleans, Dillard University [New Orleans, Louisiana], she needed a fundraiser and she called--she, she said she called Freda [DeNight], Freda spoke to [HM] John [H.] Johnson, John Johnson said fine and Freda got a fashion show together cause Freda was the Fashion Editor or the Home Director Editor or something. And Daviera Edwards [ph.] knew about fashion shows who was Freda's assistant, and so they got a fashion show together. They picked up the girls out of New York. Those are all basically New York girls I think, cause two of my friends are--I'm sure there were some other girls in there and they hit the road with six shows in 1958. And they went by plane and then they realized it's--then it was thirty shows and then they needed a bus and then from then on it's now 160 shows. So when I went there we were doing about seventy-eight shows and then into the third year with me, we doubled those shows. So we went from January to December, we had a break and then we went, we were--excuse me, we went from September through December, then we had a break and we went from January through April. And I think basically they still do that same schedule, I'm not sure, but it was an incredible time. I met Yves St. Laurent, I met Givenchy, Hubert de Givenchy, Emanuel Ungaro, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Pauline Trigere. I met all the top designers of the world. I went to their ateliers. We purchased clothes. Eunice had an unlimited budget to buy anything she wanted. We purchased all the clothes for the Ebony Fashion Fair. We'd come back, I would organize the show. I was the fashion coordinator. We hired the models, we'd have model exhibits where the--auditions where the models would come from all over cause there are thousands of girls and guys who wanted to be an Ebony Fashion Fair model. And I--all those young ladies, not all, but so many of them are still my friends. And the most beautiful people you can imagine I met on the road with the Ebony Fashion Fair, doctors, lawyers, Indian Chiefs, bus drivers, sanitation workers, you name it. And people even till this day, "Audrey, I remember you from the Ebony Fashion Fair." I say, "oh, you must be very old. That was thirty years ago." But so many people always remember me from the Ebony Fashion Fair. I had fun. I was a fun commentator. I would just sit up there in a high chair and just talk.$$Can you give--$$Make people laugh.