PaperCity Magazine

November 2019- Dallas

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96 SHE'S THE BOMB KARLA McKINLEY T his month's Bomb is beauty incarnate. Before I even came to know Karla McKinley, I realized she had a beautiful soul, given that so many mutual acquaintances told me, "You really need to feature Karla as one of your Bomb girls." They were right. Karla is one of those rare women whom men fantasize about taking home to meet their mother — yet she's also loved by women for her kind, engaging, and intelligent personality. Another reason for her beauty? She's a breast cancer survivor who battled her diagnosis with grace and humor. For me, Karla's beauty is in her eyes. Just like the lyrics from the 1970s Sugarloaf song, she's a "green-eyed lady … child of nature." Here, I can see Karla's earthen spirit — one that is fresh and calming. Born in Lubbock, her mother owned the clothing store Diana's, Karla began modeling at age 15 and signed on early B Y B I L L Y F O N G with Dallas legend Kim Dawson. She remembers Dawson as "a true visionary who helped put our city on the international fashion landscape." Karla enjoyed the era of fashion's girl- next-door moment, when super models Christie Brinkley and Kim Alexis seemed to be in every advertisement. Karla was also traveling the globe for commercial fashion shoots, but "at 5' 7", I wasn't tall enough to do runway," she says, "but I could definitely wear a bathing suit." Through modeling, Karla worked her way through Europe and lived in Japan for a time. "We were the only blondes," Karla remembers. "I was posing with Toyotas. It was crazy fun work, and I loved it." The leggy blonde met her husband, Mark McKinley, at age 22 during a stop home between modeling gigs. He made quite the impression: Five years later, Karla hung up her swimsuit and retired from modeling to settle down. Together, Mark and Karla have three children — and now two grandchildren. Karla's sense of style is effortless and cool. Each time we met to discuss this story, she was roll-out-of-bed glamorous. On one occasion, we met at her daughter's home while she was on babysitting duty. Karla wore a scrumptious tone-on-tone cream sweater and jeans paired with Gucci Princetown fur loafer mules, all pulled together with several pieces of Madison McKinley jewelry — her daughter's namesake line of jewelry, which Karla co-founded. Throughout the years, many local charities have been on the receiving end of Karla's support. And art has always been a passion; in fact, she and Mark have an enviable collection of their own. The couple supports the Dallas Museum of Art and Dallas Contemporary. She and her husband also lead the Merrymac McKinley Foundation, which supports education, which the McKinley family believes is the great equalizer. Perhaps this is yet another layer to Karla's beauty: her passion and commitment to her community. Approximate date of the photo. I'm thinking this was spring of 1985. I know it was after the end of 1984, since that's when I had my hair cut short. The occasion. A photo shoot. Don't ask me who it was for, though, since that was my heyday, and I'm hard-pressed to remember. What were you wearing? I bought the Matisse-print bathing suit in Milan when I was living in Italy. The suit I'm wearing over it was probably Todd Oldham. Since Todd was from Dallas, he was always very generous about loaning his clothes; he wanted them to be seen, especially since those were the early days of his career as a designer. Todd was so before his time and so kind to everyone. What price fashion? I do remember one thing that I was particularly proud to buy on my own. I was probably 21, and it was a Perry Ellis outfit that I walked into Neiman's and paid cash for — because I didn't have a credit card. I still own it and think Madison has the skirt now. It was probably around $350, which, of course, at that time was a lot for me. Why this is a picture? I did have some really good '80s hair. It was a fun time in my life, and I'm so grateful for the experiences, especially the travel. I was in the right place at the right time. The girl next door was what they wanted. Karla McKinley, 1985 96

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