Constance Joannes was 16 years old when she had her first meeting with legendary modeling agent John Robert Powers in 1938. Powers saw potential in the dark-haired girl, but told her to come back when she finished high school. (Good for him, recognizing that brains shouldn’t take a back seat to beauty!) Connie did just that, leaving her hometown of Woodridge, New Jersey, for New York City in 1940.
“I went to work right then and there,” she says, “and worked continuously, modeling in print and television until I was in my mid-forties.”
Those of a certain age might remember Connie as the chic Avon Lady of the 1950s and 60s. (Who wouldn’t answer the door when she called?) She modeled for many of the biggest brands of the day: Ivory soap, Coty cosmetics, Ipana toothpaste, Bell Telephone and Rheingold beer. She even competed in the Miss Rheingold contest, but we’re positive she never got lit on the product, as the Anne Taintor design suggests (see below).
Throughout her long career, Connie appeared on a number of magazine covers, including McCall’s, Cosmopolitan and Redbook (where she was the cover girl eight times). One magazine cover she vividly remembers is True Romance; the image would later become a popular Anne Taintor design. Considered something of a titillating rag, True Romance was an unusual place for Connie’s wholesome face to appear. “The issue was on the newsstand when I was being introduced to my future in-laws,” she says, “and I was hoping they wouldn’t see it!”
Apparently, a scandal was averted, for Connie and her fiancé married in 1941. Emerson Dickman was a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox who matched his wife in enviable good looks; his teammates waggishly called him Robert Taylor, after the popular heartthrob actor. He and Connie had three children, Emerson, Robert and Connie; you can see six-month-old Bobby in the Ivory soap ad below. (“Tell everybody where you get that lovely complexion, Mommy!”)
Emerson left the Red Sox to join the Navy during World War II and spent much of his time putting cadets through his famously punishing physical drills, what he called his “Gene Tunney tactics.” After the war, he coached baseball at Princeton—taking the team to the Eastern Intercontinental Baseball League title for three consecutive years—then switched careers and was in radio/TV sales. He passed away in 1981.
After retiring from modeling, Connie put her good taste to use as an interior decorator; she owned two shops in northern New Jersey.
Years later, her daughter, Connie, was shopping at a Sparta gourmet and gift store called Garlic & Oil, when she spotted her mom smiling at her from a shelf. There was Connie, on Anne Taintor napkins! At the cash register, Connie told the shop owner that the woman on the napkins was her mother. The owner replied that a lot of people thought the photos on Anne Taintor’s products remind them of their mothers, and Connie said, “No that really is my mom!”
In the late 1980s, Connie married Patrick Brescia, who has since passed away. She now splits her time between New Jersey and Florida. At 89, Connie is still as beautiful—and active—as ever. She paints, cooks (“loves to entertain!”), plays bridge and golf, and keeps up with seven grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. She’s also somewhat hooked on technology, “I am addicted to my iPad,” she confesses. “My favorite game of the moment is Angry Birds.”