Late last year, a rising fashion model and her sister died in a horrific car accident after leaving Georgetown. This month, we remember Lizzie and Victoria Stefan.
I met Elizabeth Stefan when she was just 14 years old in the summer of 2004. I knew when I saw her she had an instinct for creating characters on the printed page. With her tall slender frame, angelic heart face and a perfect full mouth that relaxed into a pout, I was immediately inspired to shoot editorial pictures of her. She had a sharp wit and I thoroughly enjoyed her company. My photography team went to work and transformed this girl from Centreville, VA into a creature full of mystique and allure. The tall boots, bustier, couture shirt and long leather jacket made her look like she was born in the clothes. It was the beginning of a connected relationship that would last the rest of her life. As she developed her skills and traveled to all the model haunts, she became very comfortable with the world community of young women who are always en route to wherever the market and season dictated. She would return to Washington and drop in to show me the work she was doing.
?It was not an easy journey for Lizzie. She was truly her own person, even a little off rhythm at times, and struggled to fit in. Somehow she always found her way. We continued to work together and she gained the confidence I knew she would need to negotiate the tumultuous landscape of a business in constant flux. Lizzie’s career was just truly beginning to take shape and her client list was growing in New York when I called her to do a job for me. We had not worked together for a year or so and I was looking forward to it. I always got what I wanted whenever I worked with her, and knew the client would be happy. She stopped by to see me and we talked about it. That was in November 2009, she was coming home for Christmas and we were both excited. I was on location in South Carolina when I received a message on Facebook from the mother of another model, Amber, who had risen in the ranks alongside Lizzie. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. She asked me if I’d heard a rumor about Lizzie being killed in a car accident the night before. I was stunned. I was certain it wasn’t true. Lizzie would never miss a shoot!
?She had worked with my son Matthew Taylor doing short films. They were some of his favorite pieces. He had sold her the black Jaguar he bought when he graduated from college a while back and I felt a wave of sickness as I thought about her in my son’s car. My phone started buzzing and finally it was confirmed that she and her sister were returning from Washington late in the evening and hit a jersey wall head on. Her sister Victoria was driving. They were both killed instantly. I packed my gear and immediately left Hilton Head for home.
?We had gotten to know the family and immediately understood where all that personality and beauty came from. Lizzy’s mother was striking and we were not surprised to learn she had been a former Miss Sweden. Her other two sisters were just as lovely and each was distinctly different. Her father was the rock and spent time in Iraq while Eva, her mother, held everything together. I could see by all the family photos and having spent time with the girls they were a family of passion, and thoroughly enjoyed each other. If you knew Lizzie you would never forget her. She left an indelible mark on everyone she encountered.
?We have lost a truly complex and vivacious woman whose humor and love for beauty will prevail. Lizzie’s mother was highly surprised when she received a portrait of Lizzie painted by Peter Max the artist. It was no surprise to me that the artist recognized her as a person worthy of being immortalized in the capture of the painter’s hand. Knowing Lizzie, or Lisi as she was known in the business, I can laugh even now at the casualness and ease of her ability to form lasting relationships with all kinds of people with little or no effort. She was truly the genuine article.