Nico’s style shifted dramatically during her lifetime. She started out as a sunny blonde model in the pages of Vogue, shifted into one of Warhol’s most famous superstars, and then rose to new heights with a genre-shifting music career.
The iconic singer was born with the name Christa Päffgen on October 16, 1938, although there has been some uncertainty surrounding her birth date. She grew up in Germany during the height of World War II, living with her mother after her father died in a concentration camp.
At age fifteen, she began to work as a model in Berlin. The name Nico was coined for her by photographer Hebert Tobias. She was successful in Europe, appearing in high profile ad campaigns for Lanvin and working directly for Coco Chanel in Paris.
In 1959, she was offered a small role in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita after the director noticed her hanging around on the set one day. Encouraged by this, she set out to work as an actress in New York City. There, she found fame through different endeavors.
She befriended Andy Warhol and began to spend time at the Factory, Warhol’s hangout for artists and socialites. It was Warhol’s idea to give Nico a role within the band he was managing, an up and coming group called the Velvet Undeground.
While Nico was always considered a pretty girl, nothing about her was delicate. She had very defined cheekbones, prominent facial features, eyes that were always covered in thick liner, and a trademark musical sound: a deep, almost haunting, singing voice. It was this unique voice that fuelled Nico’s career; after releasing one album with the Velvet Underground, she had a critically acclaimed solo career which spawned six studio albums. Her work would later inspire a variety of musical genres and style subcultures, ranging from goth-rock to punk bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Nico struggled with drugs for the bulk of her career, but sadly, it was when she was trying to live a quieter, healthy lifestyle that she passed away. She fell while riding her bike in Spain and was taken to the hospital, and on June 16, 1988 Nico passed away after what was diagnosed as a brain hemorrhage.
Although her life was cut short, her accomplishments were anything but limited – everything from ballet shows to musical acts have been created in her name.
Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.