The self-professed "first supermodel" - a claim widely refuted within the industry - Janice Dickinson went on to gain notoriety as an author and reality television diva. A glamour magazine mainstay in the late-1970s and early-1980s, she was a top model with the established Ford Agency before defecting to its upstart young competitor, Elite. Also a party girl supreme, Dickenson was frequently seen on the arm of Hollywood hunks like Warren Beatty and Sylvester Stallone. After years away from the professional modeling world, she returned with a scathing tell-all memoir, followed by a regular stint as a judge on the fashion reality competition, "America's Top Model" (UPN/The CW, 2003- ). Eventually, her sharp tongue and confrontational nature led to her being replaced on the series, although by then Dickinson had been thoroughly embraced as the prima donna everyone loved to hate on the new frontier of reality television. In quick succession, she was featured on a season of "The Surreal Life" (VHI, 2003-06) - notable for her near-violent clashing with fellow reality veteran, Omarosa Manigault - followed by a show of her own, "The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency" (Oxygen, 2006-08). And while that venture failed to go the distance, she would return with frequency on such programs as "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" (VH1, 2008- ). Love her or hate her, Dickenson was a survivor in a brutal business not sympathetic to aging beauties.
Born in Brooklyn, NY at some point between 1952 and 1957 (the date was much contested among sources, including Dickinson herself), the statuesque teenager began modeling shortly after graduating high school. Her Eastern European looks were in direct contrast to the well-scrubbed, all-American models who were populating print and media advertising at the time, but the Wilhelmina Agency took a risk on her that paid off. Dickinson rose quickly among the international modeling ranks, and by the mid-1970s, had graced the cover of numerous major magazines, including Elle, Cosmopolitan and Playboy, as well as became the face of Versace's perfume line. Dickinson would later lay claim to inventing the term "supermodel" to describe her status in the fashion world, though it was noted that the word was first applied to British icons Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy in the previous decade. During her modeling heyday, Dickinson also developed a fierce reputation as a party girl without peer; frequently running with the Warhol crowd at Studio 54 and reportedly dating the top bachelors in Hollywood and New York at that time, including the playboy trifecta of Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Mick Jagger. By the early 1980s, she had signed with John Casablanca's Elite Modeling Agency, and continued to enjoy the upper echelon of the fashion game. The glamorous world in which she lived was not without its horror stories, however. Dickinson's close friend, fellow supermodel Gia Caragi, would later die of AIDS brought on by a tragic heroin habit, and Dickinson herself struggled with substance abuse problems throughout her reign.
As the Eighties drew to a close, Dickinson relocated to Europe for work and a romantic relationship, but she soon soured on the continent and returned to America to seek some stability in her life. However, the American fashion scene had changed in her absence; the idea of a "supermodel" had permeated popular culture, and younger, more physically "perfect" models such as Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Elle McPherson were pulling down six-figure salaries for their print and runway work. Dickinson attempted to counter the shift in tone and taste by pursuing an acting career, but she found few takers. She did, however, find love with producer Simon Fields - best known for the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" feature series - with whom she had a son, Nathan. The marriage lasted until 1993. Dickinson married again after having her second child, daughter Savannah. At the time, Dickinson's then-boyfriend Sylvester Stallone was rumored to be the father until a paternity test revealed it to be producer Michael Birnbaum. Dickinson went on to marry Albert Gerston, but this union also proved ill-fated, as he came with his own set of drug problems, which resulted in a car crash that left Dickinson hospitalized for four months. The pair separated, and Dickinson decided to get sober soon after the divorce.
The self-proclaimed "original supermodel" returned to the public eye armed with equal parts determination and vengeance with the publication of her 2004 memoir No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World's First Supermodel, which detailed in frank terms the high and low points of her extravagant life, including the revelation that she and her sister had been sexually abused by their father. The book was soon followed by a second, Everything About Me Is Fake - And I'm Perfect, which served as a tell-all for her numerous plastic surgeries and the modeling industry's overwhelming drive for physical perfection at all costs. Both books earmarked Dickinson as a woman unafraid to speak her mind. Naturally, television came knocking to tap her outlandish energy. She was cast as a celebrity judge for Tyra Bank's popular reality series "America's Top Model" (UPN/ The CW, 2003- ) and lasted four seasons, during which she locked horns with fellow judge and former model Kimora Lee Simmons. Dickinson was replaced by another top ex-model, Twiggy, at the beginning of the show's fifth "cycle," but returned that same season as a guest photographer and again in the sixth cycle as an advisor. In typical fashion, Dickinson did not hold her tongue in regard to her opinions about the show, its producers, and contestants, which undoubtedly extended her stay with the program and did wonders for its publicity.
In 2005, Dickinson again blazed across the small screen as a contestant on the dire C-list celebrity reality show "The Surreal Life" (VH1, 2003-06), in which she fought bitterly with Omarosa Manigault of "The Apprentice" fame and reserved no small amount of bile for fellow contestant and model, Caprice. Dickinson and Manigault's feuds were the highlights of the season, with Manigault labeling Dickinson a "crackhead" and Dickinson brandishing a knife uncomfortably close to Manigault's head. To her credit, Dickinson admitted that she participated in the show strictly to pay for her daughter's private school tuition. The following year found Dickinson still telling it like it was on reality television. "The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency" (Oxygen, 2006-08) followed the creation of and day-to-day drama in Dickinson's new Hollywood-based modeling agency. The premiere episode received the highest ratings then to date on the network. She also released her third book, Check, Please! Dating, Mating, and Extricating, which offered tips on how to carry on romantically "the Janice way," along with the now-standard amount of celebrity-studded dish on her own affairs. She followed a second season of "Modeling Agency" by appearing in the second season of NBC's nightly endurance test, "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!," during which she locked horns with numerous people, including Daniel Baldwin and basketball star John Salley. Accused of being lazy by several in the camp, Dickinson simply did exactly what SHE wanted to do, and with great humor.
Despite relatively strong ratings, "The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency" was not picked up for a fifth season, ending its run in 2008. Crossing the pond in her never-ending quest for relevance, Dickenson was a contestant in a 2010 episode of the British celebrity cooking challenge, "Come Dine with Me" (Channel 4, 2005- ), where she apparently butted heads with former U.K. pop star Samantha Fox. Back in the States, Dickenson checked herself for treatment on the fourth season of "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" (VH1, 2008- ), where she sought help with her ongoing struggles with alcohol. In contrast to her turbulent tenure on the show, Dr. Drew Pinsky later assessed her progress as "so good" in an interview with TV Guide magazine. The following year she dropped in on the gang from Beverly Hills in a 2011 episode of "90210" (The CW, 2008- ), appearing as her indomitable self.