Fashion Reverie Interview: Jill Dodd’s “The Currency of Love”

Currency_Love_bookSome call it fickle finger of fate; others explain circumstances as acts of divine intervention; still, there are those who try to find the cause and effect of everything. Whatever the situation or outcome, one can discern from Jill Dodd’s memoir “The Currency of Love” that life’s journey has many paths and detours, and it’s all about how you adapt to change.

From a fashion model to the love interest to the richest man in the world to a fashion maven, Jill Dodd’s life has truly been an adventure. Through it all, Jill Dodd persevered the peaks and valleys with courage, humor and a lot of good fortune. In “The Currency of Love” Jill Dodd details the rocky road, but she also details the glamour, the glitz and the good times.

Fashion Reverie was fortunate to talk with Jill Dodd about the vicissitudes of her life.

Jill Dodd

Jill Dodd

Fashion Reverie: Why this book at this time?

Jill Dodd: I have known I was going to write this book since I was in my 20s in the 1980s. A lot of people tried to talk me out of writing this book. Many of them thought it was too dangerous to tell all these stories and talk candidly about my experiences in fashion and in life. In spite of the opposition, I knew one day I would write this book.

I have been through a lot in my life. I have been bad relationships and an abusive marriage. I now have three children. I have been so busy being a single parent and running these fashion companies that there was no time to tell my story.

When I turned 50 I asked myself what I wanted to do that I had not yet done. And I knew it was the book. So, I put my nose to the grindstone, so to speak, and started putting 100% of my energy into this book. I worked on it every moment I had.

I do think this book is appropriate for the time with so many young people being infatuated with fame and money because of the Kardashians and all the media attention on wealth. I wanted to show the behind scene of the modeling industry; what it is really like behind all of that, and that the wealth and fame alone doesn’t fulfill you.

FR: Were you aware that at around the time this book was published, on the same date in fact, Adnan Khashoggi died? Was that a planned consequence?

Jill Dodd: It was really an unplanned consequence. I was looking forward to celebrating my book publication date and that morning I found out he had passed away. I was in shock for a whole week and that same night of his death I had to speak at a bookstore in Northern California at my book launch.

Jill_Dodd_The_Currency_of_LoveFR: Now, you started out as a mostly commercial swimsuit and lingerie model in California and not soon after you signed with Wilhelmina Model Management you decided to go to Paris and expand your opportunities. Why Paris, and did your opportunities expand?

Jill Dodd: Well, I did every type of modeling you could do in California at that time. We are talking about the late 1970s. California in the late 70s was the center of active sportswear, denim, tee shirts, and casual clothing. I did all the things you could do in California at that time, from print ads to modeling on news shows, to small non-speaking parts on television. At that time there was no high fashion in California. The only high fashion thing I did at that time was modeling in a runway show for Perry Ellis.

When I signed with Wilhelmina Model Management in Los Angeles, I quickly learned that in order to model in New York City and work for brand name American designers and the big fashion magazines I had to work in Europe first. Without the European tear sheets from French Vogue or Elle, the New York modeling agencies are not really interested in developing you as model. That was the traditional route at that time.

FR: At first you hated Paris, but in a short amount of time you grew to love Paris. How did your relationship with Paris change over time?

Jill Dodd: When I got to Paris in 1980, I didn’t speak a word of French. And in the early 80s the French were closed off and not very friendly to tourists and outsiders. No one would help you or explain anything to people who couldn’t speak French properly. The creature comforts in Paris were well below what I was used to in the US. It was hard to find warm water to bathe in; there was no heat in my hotel. It was hard to get food that was healthy because I didn’t have a kitchen in my hotel room. When you are modeling, you can gain weight easily on bread and cheese; however, bread and cheese were the cheapest things to purchase when you had no cooking facilities.

Also, it took longer than I expected to establish myself in Europe. I thought I would be in all the big European magazines in a few months. Well, it didn’t turn out that way. Over time I did fall in love with Paris because I learned to speak French. I learned that the French people are wonderful; once they realize you are not going anywhere, they really open up to you!!

Jill_Dodd_OlympeFR: In the early 80s a lot of European brands and design houses were becoming more attracted to an All-American beauty that was not just blonde American models. You were a part of that new breed. Why this shift in European taste, and do you believe this shift added to your success?

Jill Dodd: Let’s not glamorize the European fashion market in the early 80s. When I arrived in Paris there were no Asian and Hispanic models working, and only a few African American models that worked steadily.

The Europeans wanted an American look, but what they thought of as an American look was very Nordic. You know, tall, willowy blondes with blue eyes and big white teeth. They really wanted a look that came out of Hollywood; you know Cheryl Tiegs or Cybill Shephard.

I always had the healthy, California lifestyle look. I was sporty and athletic and that look was gathering steam in the early 80s, a whole industry around health was developing at that time. Self magazine had just started. You know Jane Fonda’s workout tapes and Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” song. I believe that was my appeal. I landed the first cover of Paris’ version of Self entitled Olympe.

FR: What were some your favorite fashion brands you work with in Europe?

Jill Dodd: I worked with all the major European swimwear companies. I wore Kenzo, Jean-Claude Luca, Yves Saint Laurent, and Chanel in fashion editorials. I did a lot of runway shows, but mostly second-tier European designers. Many of the major fashion houses thought my hips were too wide for their design aesthetic. They wanted a size 0 and I was more a size 2 or 4.

Collages1408FR: Could you name one standout fashion moment in Paris for you?

Jill Dodd: The most memorable fashion moment was modeling on a scaffold in front of the Eiffel Tower with 12 other models, all in couture garments. Also, memorable was doing an editorial for Jardin de Mode.

FR: From the book we know how you got involved with Adnan Khashoggi. Now without giving so much away, what was the initial attraction?

Jill Dodd: I was attracted to his intellect and his spirit of fun. When I was dancing with him the first night I met him, I felt we had a spiritual connection that I hadn’t felt with anyone.

FR: You were always striving for independence; yet, you got into a dependent relationship with Adnan Khashoggi, why?

Jill Dodd: I was not in a dependent relationship with Adnan. I would not let him take care of me. I continued to model through the length of our relationship that was a little under two years. I refused any large gifts from him or him buying me a home. I insisted on living on my own through the entire relationship.

He did offer to pay my college tuition at FIDM and I accepted that. He wanted me to educated because he thought modeling was not a respectable profession. That is the only large gift I accepted from him.

Modeling, initially, was a way for me to earn money to go to fashion design school. I got so distracted by modeling that I forgot about my initial goals for a while. Adnan really helped put me back on track.

Collages1409FR: Even though Adnan, called you a pleasure wife, when did you realize you were really in a modern-day harem?

Jill Dodd: I was denial and didn’t realize until years later that I had been in a modern-day harem. I had trained myself to accept the things I could accept at the moment and keep moving toward financial independence. I put my own feeling aside because I was in love with him and I wanted to be with him at any cost. I needed him emotionally and I didn’t care what came with the relationship.

Remember, he was very, very kind to me. When he told me he wanted me to be his pleasure wife, I didn’t want to understand what that meant. I didn’t care about the details and I felt that way for a long time. However, over time reality started to set in that he had multiple wives and girlfriends. And, that started to bother me.

FR: Now your book ends in the early 1980s, why?

Jill Dodd: I wanted to book to have more focus and present an in-depth look at the time all these things were happening to me. If I had taken “The Currency of Love” into present day, I could not have delved deep into all the topics and culture of the 1980s. The book would have read like a Wikkipedia page.

After Adnan I had two abusive marriages; I was a single mother, and I ran several fashion companies. I thought this was too much to put into one book. So, I settled on my life before the marriages. I wanted the book to read like an adventure story instead of a bunch of facts.

FR: When and how did you start the women’s beach surfer brand, Roxy?

Jill Dodd: I started working at Jag swimwear in 1987. They had one designer there before I started working there. She left and I built that brand to 17 million dollar brand in my tenure there I wasn’t happy with my Jag salary and I was getting offers from other companies because of my success. I wrote to several men’s surf wear brands and told them a wanted to start a women’s division of their brand. I was contacted by Quicksilver and they hired me to start Quicksilver women’s division that over time evolved into Roxy. We had 20 different international licensees globally.

All images courtesy of Jill Dodd

All images courtesy of Jill Dodd

FR: What do you want readers to get from “The Currency of Love”?

Jill Dodd: I want to encourage people to follow their passion and live within their own integrity. I want to people to know that life can throw you some curves and knock you down; however, you have to soldier on because you never know what’s next. I hope women get from this book that they should live in their own truth and not be ashamed.

I also want people to think about an alternative source of strength. I know that I reach the end of myself all the time, and there are times we need to surrender to a higher power and ask for help. And that surrender has gotten me through some rough times.

FR: What’s next for you?

Jill Dodd: I am marketing “The Currency of Love” by doing interviews and speaking at book clubs. I have a piece coming out on 60 Minutes in Australia very soon. And I have speaking engagements in Great Britain, Germany, and France.

“The Currency of Love” is published by Enliven Books, a division of Simon and Schuster.
—William S. Gooch

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