I’m from a little town in East Texas: Center. I always knew that I was not going to stay in Center. I went to Dallas first, then I spent a little time in New York, and then I came back to Dallas. I worked at Neiman Marcus, and I think someone said, “Why don’t you put this on and show it to this customer?” I decided that was a lot easier to do than wait on the customer, so I began modeling. The price of doing a fashion show was, I think, probably $12 or $15. I suddenly thought, “Well, I guess I could have an agency, and we could get maybe twenty dollars a show.” My sights weren’t so high, but at least I got started.
At first I didn’t have such a good eye [for choosing models] because I was always so amenable to letting people have a chance. But if you look at them and you know they really aren’t going to compete with the people that you already have, the best thing you can do is tell them the truth. Back then, when I first started, the agencies were still looking for girls who were more curvy. Now we are looking for straight up and down. Skinny minnies. Fortunately or unfortunately in this business, you have to start with a series of givens: You have to be five eight; you have to be thin; preferably you have a pretty face and wonderful hair too. Because in this business you’re dependent upon the people that you choose and present to the client, I think the most important thing is a selective eye, which I’ve run out of but my daughter hasn’t. That’s basically what this business is about. You have to have a very good eye.
I think success is totally individualistic. Each person has his or her own feeling about it. Success is evasive, but once you decide that you’ve got it, it certainly is a relaxation. I have been enormously lucky.
Kim Dawson was born and raised in Center. After graduating from high school, she moved to Dallas to attend a business school. During WWII she moved to the East Coast to work for Texas senator Tom Connally’s office and was discovered by model agent Harry Conover. After working in New York and in Europe, she moved back to Dallas and got a job at Neiman Marcus. She started the Kim Dawson Agency in 1959, and in 1964 Trammell Crow selected her to assume the newly created position of fashion director of the Dallas Apparel Mart. She was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1987.