After Maui, Kansbod moved easily into the Mademoiselle and Vogue world of high-fashion modeling and gained her greatest fame during the four years (1979 through '83) that she was the featured model for Revlon's Natural Wonder campaign. One photo in particular, snapped by fashion photographer Arthur Elgort, captured her essence: She kneels on a beach in a cream-colored silk shirt, her skin shimmering, looking both wise and innocent and, as Revlon desired, both natural and wonderful. "Arthur always said I was a very good 'lounging model,' " says Kansbod, "which was a nice way of saying I looked better when sitting down. The Revlon ads were perfect for me because I was a lousy runway model. I absolutely couldn't walk in high heels."
Actually, she didn't walk much anywhere. She dashed from job to job and from New York to Paris and back again, working and partying with equal intensity, burning the candle at both ends. "Work all day, go out and party, get in at 5 a.m., get up the next day and do the same thing," says Kansbod, sounding weary at the memory. "I never messed up too badly, like some of the other girls, but I wish I would've put on the brakes a little more often." It affected her work slightly, she believes—"Frankly, I was a real bitch to work with at times," she says—but she was always in demand.
Finally, about five years ago, Kansbod did take her foot off the accelerator. She had bought a farm in rural Bucks County, Pa., and she began to spend a lot of time there with Philippe, then her boyfriend, whom she had met in New York. In 1986 they married and moved to Parmain, a small village about 25 miles northwest of Paris from which Philippe could manage his sealing compounds factory.
"It was not easy for me at first," says Kansbod. "Sure, I wanted out of the crazy modeling world, but here I was in the country, with a teeny baby and a 12-year-old son [Luduvic, from Philippe's previous marriage] to take care of. I wanted to be Miss Perfect Housewife—you know, singing all day while I ran the vacuum cleaner—and it frustrated me when it wasn't perfect.
What she wants now is a "compromise life-style," one in which she can spend a lot of time "rolling around on the floor with my daughter" and model on a part-time basis. To that end she has been making calls, enduring the go-sees, getting out the word that the Natural Wonder Girl would like to be naturally wonderful again. "I don't want the cat-and-dog race," says Kansbod, tapping ashes off her cigarette, "but what I miss is the teamwork, the new experiences, the excitement, the ambience of modeling. I have to face the fact that I liked it in front of the camera.
"Obviously, I can't do what I did before. I'm too old now. In the modeling world they are always looking for the new name, the new face, the new look. I'm not new. I'd have to do advertising for computers or something like that.
"But that's fine. That's what I want. I'm putting out my tentacles. Listen, you tell them that Lena Kansbod is back!" She laughs, and, once again, her face gets red.