LIFE

Why Karen Elson, Model and Musician, Is Fashion’s “Ultimate Muse”

In a recent interview with W, designer Anna Sui described model and musician Karen Elson as the “ultimate muse” — “she has this chameleon quality,” Sui said. When she steps onto the stage, Elson-the-musician is wholly herself at her most candid and vulnerable. But in front of the camera, Elson-the-model has played an eclectic, wide-ranging cast of characters over her 22-year career, including the twisted member of the Black Rose Ministry cult, a grunge grifter, a New Orleans bohemian, and the cast member of an imagined campaign for “Tantrum Intimates.” In the pages of W, she’s inspired the likes of Steven Meisel, who first shot her for the cover of Vogue Italia in 1997, Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Bruce Weber, Emma Summerton, and practically every other marquee-name photographer out there. On the occasion of her sophomore album Double Roses, we look back at a few of Elson’s most gorgeous on-film moments from the W archives.

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Karen Elson in “Transformers,” September 2011

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Karen Elson in “Inside Out,” October 2005

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Karen Elson in “Come On Down to Nawlins,” April 2008

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Karen Elson in “First Places,” April 2004

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Karen Elson in “Come On Down to Nawlins,” April 2008

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Karen Elson in “The Dreamers,” March 2017

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Karen Elson in “Tantrum Intimates,” November 2011

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Karen Elson in “Cult Classics,” August 2016

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Karen Elson in “Model Mania,” November 2012

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Karen Elson in “Come As You Are,” September 2013

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Karen Elson in “Man with a Mission,” February 2011

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Karen Elson in “Sharp Suiters,” August 2011

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Karen Elson in “Hot House,” March 2007