Curious Photos of Cynthia, a Superstar Mannequin in the ‘30s

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In 1932, a life-like mannequin named Cynthia was created by Lester Gaba. After several shoots around New York City for Life Magazine in 1937, her career was launched, and for a matter of months, Cynthia became a household name. Similar to an A-list celebrity, the mannequin superstar began receiving fan mails, gifts and invitations to events, was sent jewelry and dresses from luxury fashion houses, had her own television talk show and starred on the silver screen of Hollywood. Cynthia’s dazzling fame even led to gossip columnists writing about her as an actual living socialite, telling stories of the lavish events she attended with Gaba, her creator.

As a mannequin, her popularity eventually decreased. Cynthia officially retired when Gaba was inducted into the army in 1942. She made a comeback in a television show in 1953, but the duo’s magic was over at the time, and that marked the end of Cynthia’s appearance to the public. Gaba would later admit that “Cynthia never made any sense” in an interview with the New York Times. Nevertheless, it was her popularity that made a significant impact on the use of mannequins in retail sales marketing.

Let’s take a look at the insanely strange star of the 1930s:

Choosing a face for Cynthia, 1937. Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/LIFE.

Part of Cynthia, 1937. Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/LIFE.

Making up for Cynthia, 1937. Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/LIFE.

Cynthia, the mannequin who became a superstar, gets a makeover in 1937. Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/LIFE.

Lester Gaba making an adjustment to his lifelike mannequin Cynthia, 1937. Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/LIFE.

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