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Karen Elson

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Model and singer/songwriter Karen Elson was born in Oldham, England, to a working-class family. Though her height, pale skin, and red hair made her a prime target for teasing while she was in school, these attributes also made her an ideal model. After being spotted by a talent scout while shopping at age 16, Elson embarked on a modeling career. Stints in London and Paris were frustrating, but she found success in Tokyo, Milan, and New York by the time she was 18. Elson appeared on the covers of Vogue, Elle, and W magazines and also appeared in advertising campaigns for Burberry, Chanel, and Yves St. Laurent. While her modeling career was taking off, she also explored her passion for music, writing songs and teaching herself how to play guitar as she lived with models Maggie Rizer and Erin O’Connor. Elson ventured into becoming a musician slowly; in 2003, she contributed backing vocals to a remix of Robert Plant's “Last Time I Saw Her.” The following year, she founded the political cabaret troupe the Citizen’s Band with a number of artists and musicians as a response to President George W. Bush’s reelection; she sang original songs as well as covers with the group. Elson was also featured singing the song “Coming Down” on a CD accompanying the August 2005 issue of Uncut Magazine. That year, she also appeared in the Floria Sigismondi-directed video for the White Stripes' “Blue Orchid,” where she met Jack White; the couple married in June 2005 and moved to Nashville, TN (they had two children and then split in 2011). In 2006, Elson appeared on the Serge Gainsbourg tribute Monsieur Gainsbourg: Revisited, singing “I Love You (Me Either)" with Cat Power. Along with operating a vintage boutique, Venus & Mars -- The Showroom, Elson finally allowed White to hear her songs. He helped her record them, acting as producer and playing drums with a backing band that also included guitarist Jackson Smith. Her official solo debut, The Ghost Who Walks, arrived in May 2010. ~ Heather Phares

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