Her name is Marcie Hunt and she dances on the sand: The original ‘Rio’ speaks!

Published On June 19, 2024 » By »
Real-life 'Rio' model Marcie Hunt in 1981 (left), and in 2023 (right)

Real-life ‘Rio’ model Marcie Hunt in 1981 (left) and 2023 (right)

In the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, fashion model Marcie Hunt was known in the industry as “the smile.” But it took until 2024 for her to find out, along with the rest of Planet Earth, that she was the “cherry ice cream smile” — i.e., the face of Duran Duran’s iconic, Patrick Nagel-illustrated Rio album cover.

Hunt was as shocked as anyone else was last week, when Nagel historians Monica Moynihan and Mark Walker jointly announced on Instagram that a vivid image captured by Francois Lamy for a glossy Angelo Tarlazzi editorial spread had inspired one of the most recognizable and decade-defining album covers of all time. Not even the Duran Duran members themselves or the late Nagel’s technical art assistant, Barry Hahn, knew that that page, from the February 1981 issue of French Vogue, was the tear sheet consulted by Hahn’s former boss for Rio.

“I was amazed!” Hunt tells me over Zoom from her home in Northern California, still flashing that broad, dazzling grin. “I didn’t know Patrick Nagel’s art was based on real people, and so at the time I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a beautiful album, lovely illustration,’ but I really didn’t think about it being me. Plus, there were other models at that time that were being questioned about whether it was them or not; I think they were looking at Carol Alt. … But now, I’m looking at the cover — the angle, the shape of the mouth — and it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh. It’s me.’”

Hunt can only speculate, since Nagel died in 1984, why — of all the magazines and fashion layouts that Nagel could have referenced when he was commissioned by Duran Duran to create the art for their breakthrough sophomore LP — he gravitated to her photo. “There was a lot of energy in that picture, in the smile and the eyes, and Duran Duran are a big-energy group,” she muses. “There was this kind of glamour and adventure and fun, and I think something about the look in the eyes and this big smile was attractive. I don’t know why it was different from other models, but really, there weren’t as many big smiles going on at that time.”

Hunt makes an interesting point. Most high-fashion editorials feature supermodels looking cool, surly, and unapproachable — smizing, perhaps, but not smiling — yet almost every vintage magazine cover featuring Hunt is totally toothy. “I actually have a fair amount of photos where I was pouty or sexy or whatever you want to call it: ‘Why does she look angry?’ or ‘What’s her deal there?’” she laughs. “But then I met Grace Coddington from English Vogue. I was walking out a door — I was just starting to work for French Vogue and I didn’t know who Grace was at the time — and I just gave her a big smile. And she decided that they hadn’t had a smile on [the cover of] English Vogue for forever. And so, that’s how that began: me doing so many of those covers with the big smile. It was all right place, right time.”



Hunt, who grew up in Saratoga, Calif., began modeling in 1974 in New York, after Victor Bruce Cooper, co-founder of the Wilhelmina Models agency, “came out to San Francisco to look for new faces. And at that time, it was just the ‘classic face,’ just kind of a classic look, and that’s what they thought I had.” Hunt actually lived with Victor and his wife/business partner, former Dutch model Wilhelmina Cooper, in New York City for six months before she got the opportunity to work in Paris. She was 21 — “old,” by industry standards, to be launching a modeling career — but that turned out to be an advantage for her.

“There are so many models that start when they’re 16, 17, 18. But because I went to college for a while and I studied French after high school, I was older. And I think it really helped me, because I was able to have my head on my shoulders and just be a little more solid in terms of knowing what I was getting into. There were a lot of models that were really young that would go to the nightclubs every night, and pretty soon they wouldn’t look that great — we didn’t have airbrushing like they do now, so when you were in front of the camera, you had better look good!” explains Hunt, who spoke “almost fluent French” by the time she hit the Paris scene. She then adds with a flash of that smile and a laugh: “So, I would go to nightclubs on the days when I wasn’t working.”

Hunt’s relative maturity and more sophisticated look also made her a perfect muse for both Nagel and Duran Duran, who always respectively depicted strong, full-grown women in their illustrations and music videos. “I was slender — not starved,” says Hunt (who reveals that while she never underwent extensive dental work like veneers or braces to achieve her signature smile, she did have to get “a number of fillings” due to her fondness for her mother’s home-baked sugary desserts). “I did have a few times when I did runway shows, like when Valentino would measure my hips and say, ‘Oh, no, I’m sorry, your hips are too broad.’ And I said, ‘Yes, I do have hips!’ They wanted two- or three-inches-smaller hips, a more boyish look in the sense of the body. And I think it is a shame that later on it did take on that aspect, because for many young models, they were really starving themselves. And being anorexic is not a positive thing.”

Despite her va-va-voom figure — and the fact that she inspired Nagel, who was the in-house illustrator for girly mag Playboy — Hunt never did any racier modeling, like lingerie or cheesecake shoots. She only has one tiny regret about that. “It’s fine for other models to do this — I am not judging at all, of course — but Helmut Newton used to do an annual book where it would be nude, and he did ask me if I would like to do that. And at the time I said, ‘Helmut, how about if I’m behind the camera and you can be in front of the camera?’ And he just sort of looked aghast. And as I recall, I don’t think I ever worked with him again. I felt kind of bad afterwards,” she giggles.



Interestingly, Hunt never crossed paths with Duran Duran back in the day, even though the band members often partied with, made music videos with, or even dated and married models. But she does recall a couple of funny celebrity-circuit encounters. “In Tatler magazine, there was an interview about me, about Jack Nicholson following me across the seas, which wasn’t exactly true,” she laughs. “I met Jack in London while I was working for Tatler, and then he said, ‘Hey, you should come to a party.’ He gave me a call at 3 in the morning and was asking if ‘Marie’ was there. … It was at night, probably from wherever he was partying.” Hunt, who was at that time seriously dating the Frenchman who would become her first husband, turned the actor down, saying, “‘Hey, I’m monogamous. I’m living with somebody. I’m sure you’re very interesting, but I’m not interested in that way.’ And he said, ‘Well, that’s never bothered me before!’ And this was in Tatler magazine.”

Later, Hunt had another interesting moment with Nicholson’s famous philanderer pal, Warren Beatty. “That was at a nightclub party. There was going to be a ‘model of the evening’ that Warren Beatty would spend time with, let’s put it that way. I want to say this the right way,” she chuckles. “So, we’re out on the dance floor, and Warren looks over to me and he whispers, ‘You’re not my type — but you’re Jack’s type.’ And I said, ‘Yes, I know!’ Because that incident had already happened in London when Jack called me.”

Marcie with her own recent art prints, Napa 2024

Marcie with her own recent art prints, Napa 2024

By the mid-‘80s, Hunt had tired of such adventures; she was also separating from her French husband, so she “wanted to move back to California and start a new life, a different life.” But, she stresses, “I loved modeling. I loved the traveling and meeting all these super-creative, zany people. I treated it as a business, but also just loved the creativity involved in it. … I was always just creating myself in the photos. That’s how I saw it, and that’s what I really enjoyed the most.”

Hunt met her second/current husband, Tom Dinkel, in 1992, and in 2006 they co-founded the Dos Lagos Vineyards winery in Napa — which brings new meaning to the Rio-era lyric “mouth is alive with juices like wine” from “Hungry Like the Wolf,” which the couple actually danced to at their wedding. (A longtime Duranie, Hunt cites “Reach Up for the Sunrise,” “Notorious,” and “Ordinary World” as her other favorite Duran tracks.) She also continued to tap into her creativity, becoming a painter and designing the labels for Dos Lagos’s wine bottles. (She’s fan of Nagel’s artwork as well, saying, “I love the pop art that Patrick did. It’s beautiful, it’s elegant, it’s sexy.”)

Marcie Hunt and her husband, Tom Dinkel, dancing to "Hungry Like the Wolf" at their wedding in the '90s.

Marcie Hunt and her husband, Tom Dinkel, dancing to “Hungry Like the Wolf” at their wedding in the ’90s

After she retired from modeling, Hunt became a “very private person,” and until very recently hadn’t posted on her personal Instagram account since 2021. (She logged back on last week, after her identity as the real-life Rio went viral.) However, Hunt is enjoying her newfound, completely unexpected fame. “I just thought this was such a beautiful thing, and the [fans’] energy is so incredible. I feel so honored really to be linked with Duran Duran and all the fans, of which I include myself,” she says.

Hunt reveals that the band has been in touch “through their management group” and gave a “brief hello,” and she’s hoping that when she and Dinkel are vacationing in Europe this summer, their travels will coincide with Duran Duran’s tour itinerary and they’ll be able to meet up in person. “I mean, that would be fantastic,” she marvels. When pressed to name her favorite Duran member, she gigglingly confesses “probably Simon,” but she is thrilled at the prospect of meeting the entire group that unwittingly immortalized her as the Mona Lisa of the new wave era.

“I am just so honored by everything, by being connected with the band and its members, and I hope for even more of that in the future as well,” says Hunt. “It’s just been so much fun, and I feel so blessed.”

Marcie Hunt speaking via Zoom, with her own artwork behind her, in 2024.

Marcie Hunt speaking via Zoom, with her own artwork behind her, in 2024

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