Chelita Secunda (nee - Salvatori ) journalist and fashion stylist: born in London 1 January 1945; married Tony Secunda (one daughter; marriage dissolved); died in Marrakesh 7th March 2000.- Died 7th March 2000. Aged 55.
With a single swipe of her finger, Chelita Secunda helped kickstart a style revolution when, in 1970, she sent Marc Bolan onto Top of the Pops with a subversive smudge of glitter under his eyes; Bolan's stylist, as much as the pop star himself, was the snake- skinned, be-ringed and mascara'd prototype for the glam rock generation.
Chelita's origins were equally glamorous. She was born Chelita Salvatori to a wealthy white Trinidadian family - her mother, Connie, was English, and her father's family, of Corsican origin, owned a department store in Port of Spain; her father George was a racing car enthusiast. As a girl, Chelita was sketched by Picasso, and was educated at the Lycee in South Kensington, London, and in Paris, from where she ran away because, as her childhood friend Barry Powell recalls, "she hated the nuns". When she was 18, her father died from burns after his yacht had blown up. Returning to London in 1963, Chelita Salvatori was taken up by the photographer Norman Parkinson, a family friend whose introductions helped launch her into the fluid 1960s society: "It was like, ..Have you met John Lennon? And this is Princess Margaret'", recalled the artist Kevin Whitney. Parkinson also introduced her to Harpers Bazaar, beginning a career in journalism during which she worked for IPC (as features editor for Woman), and as fashion editor of Nova.
She also met and married the pop manager Tony Secunda, described by the writer Johnny Rogan as "one of the great sensationalists of the Sixties", who was responsible for Procul Harum, the Moody Blues and the Move, and who was famously sued for libelling Harold Wilson on a postcard promoting the Move's 1967 hit "Flowers In The Rain". In 1966, when the designer Ossie Clark's collection combined blue and green, "a radical breakthrough" according to Henrietta Rous, Secunda "dyed her hair blue to celebrate and became his PR". She joined Ossie Clark and Alice Pollock's venture, Quorum, as promoter of Clark's designs, and would work with Sir Mark Palmer in his model agency, English Boy.
Soon Chelita was on phone number terms with the Beatles and the Stones, and was responsible for hiring such models as Kari-Ann Jagger and Amanda Lear - later to become cover girls for Roxy Music, a band whose style owed something to Secunda's own glamorous image. She pre- empted glam rock with her "mad rainbow eye make-up - green and orange, her cheeks highlighted in pink, and over that, reflective diamonds and sequins". Nancy Howard recalled her "angular features" were difficult to photograph, "a bit Cruella de Vil - but she had this dazzling smile and of course a biting wit, which she was famous for".
In 1970 Chelita was engaged by Marc Bolan's wife June as PR for Bolan's group T.Rex. As the producer Tony Visconti recalled, "Chelita saw that Marc was very pretty. It was her idea to take Marc round town and hit the women's shops, getting him the feather boas and the beautifully embroidered jackets he wore. [She] was the first person to really make up Marc. She didn't just put some eye make-up on him, she threw glitter on his cheeks." In 1972 Chelita made a cameo appearance in Bolan's film, Born To Boogie, dressed as a nun.
But Chelita's contract with rock was a fateful one. She set up a meeting - "in her typically Machiavellian way" between her ex- husband and Bolan in 1971, a deal sealed with "pure amphetamine sulphate" produced by "some crazy French guy" as Tony Secunda recalled. "She could be quite insecure," recalled Bolan's subsequent manager, Tony Howard, "a lot of it was veneer and facade". Having previously spurned stimulants - "alcohol bored her to tears," said Whitney - Secunda now began a descent into rock and roll excess.
Ossie Clark's diaries record a sordid but familiar sequence of the era: Chelita's drug sorties for members of the Stones, her "smack binges" and, inevitably, her drug busts. In 1979 Chelita left London for Trinidad with the intention of "escaping the smack stigma and setting up a small hotel," wrote Clark - himself now an addict - but was arrested again for cocaine possession. "I never thought she'd recover," said Duggie Field, "I thought I'd never want to see her again." But Chelita did recover, attending Narcotics Anonymous; in 1988 she went to the Wiltshire clinic "Clouds", and kicked the habit. Like her friends Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull, "they all made their journeys in recovery in the same way," recalled Field, "Anita was a big inspiration to Chelita."
With the help of friends, Chelita resumed her work in journalism. In the mid-1980s she became the London correspondent for the Parisian magazine City; and later performed the same role for the influentual Japanese magazine Hanatsubaki. Jarman gave her a part in his 1986 film Caravaggio. She was a survivor in spite of, or even because of, the vicissitudes. Chelita remained a fashion doyenne and first nighter, a favoured muse for designers such as Stephen Jones and Julien MacDonald, who willingly gave her clothes and hats to wear - she never looked anything less than spectacular ("You never saw her in jeans," recalled Nancy Howard).
Chelita organised the Alternative Miss World competitions for Andrew Logan, who had known her since the early days - "this diminutive little person driving round in a Bentley with a pair of King Charles spaniels". Logan's 1987 portrait shows her clad in a bright yellow turban, with a heart containing a portrait of her daughter, Tallulah. Chelita had only recently moved to Marrakesh, where she had been working single- handedly to open a hotel, an effort which may have brought on the heart attack that killed her. "Chelita was one of the most dynamic people I've ever met," said Logan. Chelita was already a legend among her friends: Duggie Field remembered one evening as he and the designer Manolo Blahnik waited in a taxi for Chelita to get ready for a party. At the last minute, she decided not to go, at which point Blahnik got out of the cab, declaring, "I can't go anywhere if I haven't got Bianca or Chelita on my arm."
Black and White Photo of Chelita Secunda