Audrey Munson, an Irish American woman, became America's "first supermodel" in the early 20th century, earning nicknames such as "Miss Manhattan" and "the American Venus."
Munson was born in Rochester, New York, in 1891 to Edgar Munson and Catherine 'Kittie' Munson (née Mahoney), the daughter of Irish immigrants.
After a short-lived career in theater, Munson made a big break in the modeling business when while window-shopping on Fifth Avenue with her mother in 1909, when she was just 18 years old.
Munson noticed a man paying particularly close attention to her and confronted him, prompting him to invite him to pose for him at his photography studio.
The man was Felix Benedict Herzog, a prominent photographer in early 20th-century New York. Herzog died less than three years later due to complications from intestinal surgery, but he had already helped kickstart Munson's modeling career.
Munson steadily built a network of connections and was invited to pose for renowned sculptor Isidore Konti for a sculpture that would feature in the main ballroom of New York's Hotel Astor.
However, the opportunity came with a catch; Munson would have to pose nude.
Munson was open to the idea, but her mother was less receptive to the idea. It took three months for Mahoney to be convinced before Munson finally posed for the sculpture.
The opportunity kickstarted Munson's modeling career, leading her to become one of the most renowned models in New York.
She is estimated to have posed for over 200 artists, while her sculptures are featured in dozens of buildings throughout the city. At least 30 statues bear her likeness in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while most neighborhoods in Manhattan have at least one statue bearing her image.
A 25-foot gilded copper statue sitting atop the Manhattan Municipal Building is arguably the most striking sculpture that depicts Munson's likeness. The statue is the second-largest statue in New York, dwarfed only by the Statue of Liberty.
Another famous statue of Munson is found atop the USS Maine National Monument in Columbus Circle, which was funded by William Randolph Hearst in 1913 to honor the 260 sailors who died in the sinking of the USS Maine in 1898.
Munson attempted to swap modeling for acting and became the first actress to appear nude in a non-pornographic film when she starred in the film "Inspiration".
However, her acting career never took off and she was unable to generate the same sort of renown when she eventually tried to reignite her modeling career.
Her mental health subsequently began to deteriorate and at the age of 28, she swallowed mercury-based poison in an attempt to kill herself.
She survived, but her mother had her committed to an asylum a decade later, citing depression, delusions, and hallucinations.
Munson remained at the St. Lawrence State Hospital in Ogdensburg, New York, for 65 years before dying at the age of 104 in February 1996.