The story, which I titled "The World's Most Famous Debutante" is loosely based on the life of heiress Brenda Duff Frazier, who appears with her mother in the picture above. It was snapped around the time Frazier was officially launched into society.
I originally read Frazier's profile in a 2-volume reference set, titled Icons of Beauty, which I reviewed in the April 2010 issue of Library Journal. In Frazier's entry, the image of the aging woman below was also included. Brenda, who enjoyed international acclaim before and during her formal entry into society, eventually became a painfully thin, drug-addicted recluse, who (while still incredibly rich) was never particularly happy. In fact, if you look closely, you will notice that-- although she is fully made up and in a opulent fur-collared dressing gown--she has not left her bed.
In the story, I characterized Frazier's mother in a similar way, as a thin, egocentric chain-smoker. However, I don't really know much about Frazier's mother, and the image above does not offer the same impression of jealous connivance that I give in the story. In "The World's Most Famous Debutante," Beverly's mother is a willowy, fashion-conscious anorexic, prone to drinking and jealous of her daughter's fame, which is the very kind of success she herself failed to achieve.
Here is an excerpt from the story, which details the hasty marriage between Beverly's father and mother. Again, this is entirely fictionalized. I know very little, if anything about Brenda Frazier's family.
"And then suddenly, before he truly knew what was happening—a matter of weeks only, maybe even days, he couldn't remember—David was watching this girl, named Louisa Edwards, walking towards him over a carpet covered with rose petals as he stood waiting at a grand white altar. She was wearing an engagement ring he'd never even seen, an engagement ring sent by his father as a token of David's "sincere affection" and "intentions," as the accompanying note, typed by his father's secretary, had indicated. David saw the girl just once before the engagement, during a tea set up by his father, and it had been an awkward affair, as the pair had absolutely nothing to say to one another. She waited for him to speak, and his mind was racing so fast with panic—sheer animal panic—that he couldn't latch onto a single worthwhile thought to utter. He saw her little pearl-colored teeth, her curls as perfect as a china doll's, her baby pink fingernails filed to unsettlingly sharp, if stylish, points. She smiled at him and gamely lowered her eyes, knowing this was the mark of a good girl. But this was not for him. He went to the lavatory once, with the desperate idea of fleeing. But duty to his father led him back to the table, where he sweated through another half hour of discomfort."
Read the whole story, "The World's Most Famous Debutante".