Which U.S. President Was on the Cover of Cosmopolitan as a Male Model?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to architecture and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the magazine urban legends featured so far.

MAGAZINE URBAN LEGEND: Gerald Ford was a male model who appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan.

Gerald Ford had an interesting (and impressive) path to becoming a career politician (before becoming the first President of the United States to never be elected either President or Vice-President, as he replaced Spiro Agnew as Vice President after Agnew resigned and then replaced Richard Nixon as President after Nixon resigned).

He paid his way through college at the University of Michigan by washing dishes in his fraternity house. He was also a star football player, helping to lead Michigan to two national titles in 1932 and 1933. Upon graduation in 1935, he got offers to play professional football but he turned them down to instead go to Yale to become a football and boxing coach. His intent was to enroll at their law school, but they initially turned him down due to his full-time coaching work. After attending Michigan’s Law School in the Summer of 1937, he was finally admitted to Yale’s Law School in the Spring of 1938.

After receiving his law degree in 1941, Ford started a legal practice with a friend but then his destiny (and that of many young men in America) was changed forever by the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States entering World War II. Ford enrolled in the Navy and after a year of training (where he rose in the ranks to Lieutenant), he went to the Pacific in 1943 and served his country well, receiving a number of medals. Before leaving to go overseas, however, he had an interesting chapter in his life…as a male model!

Ford’s first serious girlfriend was Phyllis Brown, a model. In 1940, before he graduated law school (and before his interest in politics was spurred by his volunteer work on the 1940 campaign for Wendell Willkie), Ford posed with Brown in a pictorial for Look Magazine early in the year, as part of a series of photos about a winter trip for the young couple…

In 1942, while in the Navy, Ford and Brown posed for the acclaimed magazine cover painter Bradshaw Crandell and together they actually appeared on the cover of the April 1942 issue of Cosmopolitan!!


I don’t know exactly when Ford and Brown parted ways, but presumably it was sometime during the war. Ford ended up marrying another former model and dancer, Elizabeth “Betty” Bloomer Warren in 1948, right before getting elected to Congress for the first time (she at first wanted to wait until after the campaign, because she felt that her past as a dancer would be seen as a detriment to him).

In any event, if anyone ever asks what United States President was a male model on the cover of Cosmopolitan, now you know!

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

2 Responses to “Which U.S. President Was on the Cover of Cosmopolitan as a Male Model?”

  1. Since Ford was in the Navy and he’s shown wearing his Navy uniform, did Cosmo have to get the Navy’s permission to run this cover?

  2. […] always on the lookout for ways to earn money to make his way through law school—so when he was asked to pose for a Look magazine photo spread with girlfriend and model Phyllis Brown in 1940, he did […]

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