Wahlburgers producer 44 Blue Productions, Red Arrow Studios company, is teaming with Wilhelmina Models to produce multiple scripted and unscripted projects about the world’s largest modeling and talent management agency.
44 Blue has acquired scripted and unscripted rights to the story of Wilhelmina Models, founded in 1967 by Dutch supermodel model Wilhelmina Cooper, which marked its 50 anniversary last fall. The story of the groundbreaking agency’s rise is one of several stories that the two companies are co-developing, including an access-driven documentary following the agency and the high-stakes business decisions and strategy leading up to Fashion Week.
44 Blue says the projects will tell the story of the agency and its iconic CEO Wilhelmina Cooper, the first business woman featured on the cover of Fortune Magazine in 1979 at a time when less than 5% of businesses were owned by women. (See photo above of Cooper, left, with model June Sanderson). Originally on the roster of mentor-turned-rival Eileen Ford of Ford Models, Cooper is in the top five of solo-photographed models featured on the most covers of U.S. Vogue Magazine, and appeared on more U.S. Vogue covers than any other model in the 60s. She was also a pioneer in the modeling and business world through the 60s and 70s before her untimely death in 1980 at the age of 40. In the decades that followed the launch of her company, a publicly-known and infamous rivalry existed between Cooper and competing modeling magnates Eileen Ford of Ford Models and John Casablancas of Elite Models.
Cooper will be remembered as a leading force that redefined mainstream beauty around the world and she’s credited with launching or managing the modeling careers of Patti Hansen, Beverly Johnson, Gia Carangi, Naomi Sims (considered the first African-American supermodel) and many more. Following her death, she was played by Faye Dunaway in the 1998 film Gia, also starring Angelina Jolie, and served as the inspiration for Vanessa Williams’ character in ABC’s Ugly Betty.
“We’re honored to collaborate on multiple projects around the Wilhelmina brand, but most importantly to be able to tell the story of Wilhelmina herself — a fierce trailblazer and role model for women in business,” says 44 Blue President and Co-Founder Stephanie Noonan Drachkovitch. “Way before the era of CEO-as-superstar, her vision, determination and business acumen put her on the cover of Fortune and transformed Wilhelmina Models into an international business and pop culture powerhouse that still thrives to this day.”
44 Blue’s current slate includes A&E’s twice-Emmy-nominated Wahlburgers, A&E’s Nightwatch, E!’s Hollywood Medium, Animal Planet’s Pit Bulls & Parolees and HBO’s documentary Rock and a Hard Place. The house has partnerships with Mark Wahlberg, Donnie Wahlberg (Wahlburgers), Whoopi Goldberg (GLAAD Award-winning Strut), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson & Dany Garcia’s Seven Bucks Productions (Rock and a Hard Place) and Dick Wolf (Nightwatch).