Fame and Fashion

August 2016
Photographs by: 
Charlotte Baroody

A conversation with Deborah Mayberry Mandrell

The first time you meet Deborah Mayberry Mandrell, you know she has a story. From her flowing artisan kimonos and head scarves to her chunky self-made jewelry, there is something behind the glitter in her eyes the color of aquamarines that says, “I’ve got a story I want to share with you, and you just might enjoy it.” Note that the voice is sweet, slow, calm and beautifully Southern.

Deborah was born in 1950 in Charlotte. At age 13 she began modeling, and with that first outfit change and swipe of lipstick her life changed forever. Deborah began working with high-profile designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, Charlotte Ford and Donna Karan. She donned covers of magazines, walked runways and starred in commercials and print. Her career granted her the opportunity for travel, and through her travels she rubbed elbows with many rock stars. Whether she was dining with the Rolling Stones or hanging back stage with Alice Cooper, she knew what life was like in the fast lane, but she never got caught up in the madness of show business.

After she quit modeling in 1988, she opened and closed a successful art gallery, became a jewelry designer, lived in New Mexico, rescued animals of all varieties and now has lived in Surfside Beach for 12 years and works at Christopher’s Fine Jewelry.

We caught up with Deborah recently and here’s what she had to say about her life and her fashion:

What historical fashion muse do you identify with?

I identify with Diana Vreeland for her flamboyance and her extreme sense of style. I love that she loved the color red because so do I. I love Betsey Johnson, too, because she is just so much fun and I remember her from when I was modeling and she worked at Alley Cat and was always so festive. She and I are both breast cancer survivors and she still can do cartwheels across a stage and wear her hair pink if she wants to.

What does style mean to you?

Style is what other people see you as. It shows your personality and energy. As I get older I may try to tone things down because I wear lots of layers and all my jewelry and hats, but I probably won’t. My fashion shows who I am on the inside.

How do you stay illuminated in fashion?

I stay illuminated in fashion by reading all of the fashion magazines, and I just love watching how the seasons and fashion designers are changing.

Who is your favorite fashion designer?

My favorite designer was Oscar de la Renta. He was such a kind man that made beautiful clothes and I will always be grateful for him because he gave me a chance to model on his runway. And Betsey Johnson is again just so much fun and has been from the day she became a designer to present day. She hasn’t changed a bit.

What is your most coveted item of clothing?

My most coveted item of clothing is this unique Betsey Johnson turquoise jacket from the ’70s with a big hand covering the back with colored sparkly fingernails. I still wear it all the time. I also love all of my John Hardy jewelry.