In 1965, Valerie Askew’s life was the epitome of drudgery. She had four children under five, lived in a crumbling London flat with no heating or hot water and had to manhandle a pram up four flights of stairs. Because her unemployed husband was half Indian, they could not find any decent accommodation from racist landlords. With no money, she took in sewing until her fingers swelled from the stress.

Several years later Askew was a matriarch of British glamour, running the biggest modeling agency in Europe, with offices in London, Milan, Tokyo and Los Angeles and a growing renown as the “best eyes in the business” for spotting talent.

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