Natalie Portman (born June 9, 1981) is an Israeli-born American actress. With an extensive career in film since her teenage years, she has starred in various blockbusters and independent films, for which she has received multiple accolades, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, and two Golden Globe Awards.
Portman began her acting career at age twelve, when she starred as the young protégée of a hitman in the action drama film Léon: The Professional (1994). While in high school, she made her Broadway debut in a 1998 production of The Diary of a Young Girl and gained international recognition for starring as Padmé Amidala in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999). From 1999 to 2003, Portman attended Harvard University for a bachelor's degree in psychology, while continuing to act in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (2002, 2005) and in The Public Theater's 2001 revival of Anton Chekhov's play The Seagull. In 2004, Portman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and won a Golden Globe Award for playing a mysterious stripper in the romantic drama Closer.
Portman's career progressed with her starring roles as Evey Hammond in V for Vendetta (2005), Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), and a troubled ballerina in the psychological horror film Black Swan (2010), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She went on to star in the romantic comedy No Strings Attached (2011) and featured as Jane Foster in the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero films Thor (2011), and Thor: The Dark World (2013), which established her among the world's highest-paid actresses. She has since portrayed Jacqueline Kennedy in the biopic Jackie (2016), earning her third Academy Award nomination.
Portman's directorial ventures include the short film Eve (2008) and the biographical drama A Tale of Love and Darkness (2015). She is vocal about the politics of America and Israel, and is an advocate for animal rights and environmental causes. She is married to dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, with whom she has two children.
Natalie Herschlag was born on June 9, 1981, in Jerusalem, to parents of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Her native language is Hebrew. She is the only child of Shelley (née Stevens), an American homemaker who works as Portman's agent, and Avner Hershlag, an Israeli-born gynecologist. Her maternal grandparents were American Jews, whereas her paternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants to Israel.
Portman and her family first lived in Washington, D.C., but relocated to Connecticut in 1988 and then moved to Long Island in 1990 where she attended a Jewish elementary school, the Solomon Schechter Day School of Nassau County. She studied ballet and modern dance at the American Theater Dance Workshop, and regularly attended the Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. Describing her early life, Portman has said that she was "different from the other kids. I was more ambitious. I knew what I liked and what I wanted, and I worked very hard. I was a very serious kid."
When Portman was ten years old, a Revlon agent spotted her at a pizza restaurant and asked her to become a child model. She turned down the offer but used the opportunity to get an acting agent. She auditioned for the 1992 off-Broadway Ruthless!, a musical about a girl who is prepared to commit murder to get the lead in a school play. Portman and Britney Spears were chosen as the understudies for star Laura Bell Bundy.
Six months after Ruthless! ended, Portman auditioned for and secured a leading role in Luc Besson's action drama Léon: The Professional (1994). To protect her privacy, she adopted her paternal grandmother's maiden name, Portman, as her stage name. She played Mathilda, an orphan child who befriends a middle-aged hitman (played by Jean Reno). Her parents were reluctant to let her do the part due to the explicit sexual and violent nature of the script, but agreed after Besson took out the nudity and killings committed by Portman's character.
After filming The Professional, Portman went back to school. She also enrolled at the Stagedoor Manor performing arts camp, where she played Anne Shirley in a staging of Anne of Green Gables.
In 1996, Portman had brief roles in Woody Allen's musical Everyone Says I Love You and Tim Burton's comic science fiction film Mars Attacks!.
Portman was cast opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet (1996), but she dropped out during rehearsals when studio executives found her too young for the role. She was also offered Adrian Lyne's Lolita, based on the novel of the same name, but she turned down the part due to its excessive sexual content.
Portman instead signed on to star as Anne Frank in a Broadway adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank, which was staged at the Music Box Theatre from December 1997 to May 1998. She found a connection with Frank's story, given her own family's history with the Holocaust.
Natalie Portman began filming the part of Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy in 1997, which marked her first big-budget production. She worked closely with the director George Lucas on her character's accent and mannerisms, and watched the films of Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn, and Katharine Hepburn to draw inspiration from their voice and stature.
The first film of the series, Episode I – The Phantom Menace was released in 1999, when she was in her final year of high school. She did not attend the film's premiere so she could study for her high school final exams. The film earned $924 million worldwide, the second highest-grossing film of all time to that point, and it established Portman as a global star.
Portman graduated from Syosset High School in 1999.
Following production on The Phantom Menace, Portman played the leading role in the coming-of-age film Anywhere but Here (1999) for which she received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination for it.
In 2000 she began attending Harvard University to pursue her bachelor's degree in psychology, where she also studied advanced Hebrew literature, neurobiology, thus significantly reducing her acting roles over the next few years. When asked about balancing her career and education, she said, "I don't care if [college] ruins my career. I'd rather be smart than a movie star."
In the summer of 2001, she returned to Broadway to perform Chekhov's drama The Seagull, which was directed by Mike Nichols and co-starred Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The following year, she reprised her role of Amidala in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, which she had filmed in Sydney and London during her summer break of 2000. She was excited by the opportunity to play a confident young woman who did not depend on the male lead. Portman graduated from Harvard in 2003 and her sole screen appearance that year was in the brief part of a young mother in the war film Cold Mountain.
Next year she played a mysterious stripper in Closer, a drama directed by Mike Nichols based on the play of the same name, and co-starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, and Clive Owen. The actress agreed to her first sexually explicit adult role, after turning down such projects in the past, saying that it reflected her own maturity as a person. Closer grossed over $115 million against a $27 million budget, and Portman won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in addition to receiving an Academy Award nomination in the same category.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, the final installment of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, was Portman's first film release of 2005. It earned over $848 million to rank as the second-highest-grossing film of the year.
In late 2006, she starred in Miloš Forman's Goya's Ghosts, about the painter Francisco Goya. Forman cast her in the film after finding a resemblance between her and Goya's portrait The Milkmaid of Bordeaux. She insisted on using a body-double for her nude scenes after discovering on set that she had to perform them when they were not originally in the script.
Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson starred as rival sisters Mary and Anne Boleyn, respectively, in the period film The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). She was excited by the opportunity to work opposite another actress her age, bemoaning that such casting was rare in film. The film had modest box-office earnings.
She served as a jury member of the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and also launched her own production company, named handsomecharlie films, after her late dog. Portman's directorial debut, the short film Eve, opened the short-film screenings at the 65th Venice International Film Festival. It is about a young woman who goes to her grandmother's romantic date, and Portman drew inspiration for the older character (played by Lauren Bacall) from her own grandmother.
In 2009, Portman played a ballerina overwhelmed with the prospect of performing Swan Lake in Darren Aronofsky's psychological horror film Black Swan. She was trained by the professional ballerina Mary Helen Bowers, and in preparation, she trained for five to eight hours daily for six months and lost 20 pounds (9 kg). Her performance was acclaimed.
Black Swan emerged as a sleeper hit, grossing over $329 million worldwide against a $13 million budget, and earned Portman several prizes including the Academy Award for Best Actress.
In 2010, Portman signed on with Dior and appeared in several of the company's advertising campaigns. Portman is the face of one of the company's fragrances, Miss Dior, inspired by Catherine Dior. She has starred in campaign videos for the fragrance, and promoted a new version of the fragrance, Rose N'Roses, in 2021.
Portman next served as an executive producer for No Strings Attached (2011), a romantic comedy starring Ashton Kutcher and her as a young couple in a casual sex relationship. She described the experience of making it as a "palate cleanser" from the intensity of her Black Swan job. It received unfavorable reviews but was a commercial success.
In 2012, Natalie Portman topped Forbes' listing of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. Forbes featured her in their Celebrity 100 listing of 2014, and estimated her income from the previous year to be $13 million.
Portman portrayed Jacqueline Kennedy in the biopic Jackie (2016), about Kennedy's life immediately after the 1963 assassination of her husband. She was initially intimidated to take on the part of a well-known public figure, and eventually researched Kennedy extensively by watching videos of her, reading books, and listening to audiotapes of her interviews. She also worked with a dialect coach to adapt Kennedy's unique speaking style.
She won the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Actress and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Natalie Portman met French danseur and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, while working together on the set of Black Swan. The couple began dating in 2009 and wed in a Jewish ceremony held in Big Sur, California on August 4, 2012. They have two children, son Aleph (born 2011) and daughter Amalia (born 2017). The family lived in Paris for a time, after Millepied accepted the position of director of dance with the Paris Opera Ballet, and Portman expressed a desire to become a French citizen. They currently reside in Los Angeles.
In January 2014, her husband Millepied said he was in the process of converting to Judaism.
Natividad Abascal y Romero-Toro (born 2 April 1943, in Seville, Spain), more commonly known as Naty Abascal (formerly, the Duchess of Feria), is a Spanish socialite and former fashion model. She has been a member of the International Best Dressed List since 1984.
Natividad Abascal Romero-Toro (Sevilla, 1 de abril de 1943), más conocida como Naty Abascal o Nati Abascal, es una modelo de alta costura española, musa de diseñadores como Elio Berhanyer,Valentino y Óscar de la Renta y exduquesa de Feria.
Naty Abascal's modeling career started when Spanish fashion designer Elio Berhanyer asked both her and her twin sister Ana Maria to model some of his designs at the International Exhibition in New York in 1964. The couple caught Richard Avedon's eye and he decided to photograph them in Ibiza later in 1964 for his 'The Iberians (The Blaze in Spain)' editorial in Harper's Bazaar.
By 1965 Abascal was on the cover of this publication in another photograph signed by Avedon. After this, her modeling career took off and she settled in New York. Among others, she worked for Oscar de la Renta from his very early days(they met while he was still working for Elizabeth Arden) and became great friends, a friendship that lasted until his death.
Designer Valentino Garavani met Abascal in 1968 at a party when she was 25 years old. By then, she had already been working as a model in New York for at least 3 years and had a full-time contract with Ford model agency; years later she would also be employed by Wilhelmina model agency. Valentino brought her to the island of Capri for modeling shoots and, ever since, they've remained close friends.
In 1971 Abascal married Murray Livingstone Smith, a Vice-President of an advertising agency, although this has been disputed. They met at Cartier in NYC, and a few months later Smith sent a red Ferrari to her house with a note saying "Marry me". They did, but split up in 1975.
In 1971 she also had a small role in Woody Allen's 1971 film Bananas as the guerrilla girl Yolanda. This same year she posed naked for Playboy magazine and was also the cover of Andy Warhol's magazine Interview.
In 1974 she made a commercial for Alka-Seltzer with Salvador Dalí which was seen as "too aggressive" by certain viewers. Dalí was shown pretending to stab Naty with some paint brushes, as he painted her body. The commercial was not particularly successful and was taken back from public view quite quickly.
Towards the end of 1975 she returned to her home in Seville, Spain. She reunited with an ex-boyfriend from her teenage years, Rafael Medina y Fernandez de Cordoba, Duke of Feria and Marquis of Villalba. They married in July 1977 and had two sons: Rafael, born on 25 September 1978, who is the present Duke of Feria, and Luis, born on 30 August 1980.
At the beginning of the 1980s, and well after having left the fashion world, she jumped again on the catwalks for her friend Carolina Herrera's first collection. It would be her last catwalk show. In 1982, several years after having left the fashion world, Norman Parkinson decided to portray her in the Caribbean for Town and Country magazine. In 1984 she presented Oscar de la Renta's collection to the Spanish media and in 1987 Lord Snowdon also photographed her in Seville. Naty and Rafael Medina split up in 1989 and divorced in unfriendly terms.
Abascal is known as one of Valentino Garavani's Spanish muses and she's also closely connected to Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera, among other designers. She still works regularly as a stylist for Hola! magazine as well as many other random projects.
Nieta del V marqués de Romero-Toro, título pontificio, nació en una familia de 12 hermanos. Tiene una hermana gemela, Ana María. Su padre, Domingo Abascal y Fernández, era un rico abogado, dueño de extensos olivares y un próspero negocio de aceitunas, y su madre, María Natividad Romero-Toro y Noriega, fue la primera mujer que abrió una boutique en Sevilla.
Cuando contaba con 21 años, el modisto Elio Berhanyer les propuso a su hermana gemela Ana María y a ella que presentaran su colección en Nueva York durante la Exposición Mundial de 1964. Allí conocieron a Richard Avedon quien, a su regreso a España, les ofreció posar para un reportaje de 15 páginas en la revista de moda Harpers Bazaar que se publicaría en enero de 1965. Meses después, Avedon volvió a fotografiarla (esta vez a Naty sola) para la portada de la misma revista.
A partir de entonces, comenzó a subir su cotización como modelo y se instaló en Nueva York. Elieen Ford, directora de la agencia de modelos más importante de Estados Unidos, la contrató y Nati Abascal comenzó a pasar modelos de los más famosos modistos. Presentó pieles de Revillon y Maximilliam y posó en los platós con joyas de Cartier o Bulgari. Está considerada la musa de los modistos Óscar de la Renta y Valentino. En 1970 se casó con el escocés Murray Livingstone Smith, del que se divorciaría cinco años más tarde.
Woody Allen la contrató en 1971 para su película Bananas, en la que interpretó el papel de una guerrillera latinoamericana. También realizó un spot publicitario para televisión en el que aparecía pintada por Salvador Dalí, y posó desnuda para el número de julio de 1971 de la revista Playboy.
En 1975, tras su divorcio, decidió regresar a Sevilla, donde, el 14 de julio de 1977, contrajo matrimonio con Rafael Medina y Fernández de Córdoba, duque de Feria, marqués de Villalba y segundo hijo de los duques de Medinaceli, al que conocía desde la infancia. La ceremonia se celebró en la onubense ermita de El Rocío. A partir de entonces se alejó de las pasarelas. De su matrimonio con el duque de Feria nacieron dos hijos: Rafael Medina (nacido el 25 de septiembre de 1978) y Luis Medina(nacido el 31 de agosto de 1980).
En la década de los ochenta colaboró como estilista y seleccionando grandes casas en España para la revista "House and Garden", regresando a su trabajo de modelo por todo el mundo a raíz de su separación.
Tras el verano de 1988 empezaron a correr rumores sobre la posible relación sentimental entre Nati Abascal y Ramón Mendoza, presidente del Real Madrid. En octubre de ese año se separó de su marido. Su relación con el presidente del club madrileño duró hasta aproximadamente finales de 1989.
El 13 de febrero de 1989 se dictó sentencia en el juicio de separación de los duques de Feria. En ésta, además de establecerse las pensiones correspondientes, se concedió la patria potestad de los hijos a Nati Abascal, y se recogía la renuncia expresa de ella al uso de los títulos que había obtenido por matrimonio: Excelentísima señora doña Natividad Abascal Romero-Toro, duquesa de Feria y marquesa de Villalba (1977-1989).
Meses después, en junio de 1989, una posterior sentencia le concedía la patria potestad al aristócrata. Los trámites para la nulidad del matrimonio los inició el duque de Feria en enero de 1992.
Nati Abascal está considerada como una de las mujeres más elegantes del mundo. Entre los galardones que ha recibido por ello se encuentran: en 1987 el Óscar a la elegancia de Nueva York de 1986, lo que le permitió ser incluida en el libro "Hall of Fame", en septiembre de 1988 finalista en el premio mundial Elegance Award, y en noviembre de 1993 la Asociación de Críticos norteamericanos la eligió como la mujer mejor vestida del mundo, sucediendo a la princesa Carolina de Mónaco. Además, ha conseguido en cuatro ocasiones el premio a la mujer más elegante de España (1986, 1987, 1988 y 1992), merced a una encuesta realizada por la revista ¡Hola! entre diseñadores de moda y lectores.
Actualmente trabaja colaborando en los estilismos y realizaciones de reportajes para la revista ¡Hola! y presta su imagen para conocidas marcas de joyas.
Natacha Rambova (born Winifred Kimball Shaughnessy; January 19, 1897 – June 5, 1966) was an American film costume designer, set designer, and occasional actress who was active in Hollywood in the 1920s. She was married to Hollywood legend Rudolph Valentino for a short period of time. In her later life, she abandoned design to pursue other interests, specifically Egyptology, a subject on which she became a published scholar in the 1950s.
Rambova was born into a prominent family in Salt Lake City who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was raised in San Francisco and educated in England before beginning her career as a dancer, performing under Russian ballet choreographer Theodore Kosloff in New York City. She relocated to Los Angeles at age 19, where she became an established costume designer for Hollywood film productions. It was there she became acquainted with actor Rudolph Valentino, with whom she had a two-year marriage from 1923 to 1925. Rambova's association with Valentino afforded her a widespread celebrity typically afforded to actors. Although they shared many interests such as art, poetry and spiritualism, his colleagues felt that she exercised too much control over his work and blamed her for several expensive career flops.
After divorcing Valentino in 1925, Rambova operated her own clothing store in Manhattan before moving to Europe and marrying the aristocrat Álvaro de Urzáiz in 1932.
It was during this time that she visited Egypt and developed a fascination with the country that remained for the rest of her life. Rambova spent her later years studying Egyptology and earned two Mellon Grants to travel there and study Egyptian symbols and belief systems. She served as the editor of the first three volumes of Egyptian Religious Texts and Representations (1954–7) by Alexandre Piankoff, also contributing a chapter on symbology in the third volume. She died in 1966 in California of a heart attack while working on a manuscript examining patterns within the texts in the Pyramid of Unas.
Rambova has been noted by fashion and art historians for her unique costume designs that drew on and synthesized a variety of influences, as well as her dedication to historical accuracy in crafting them. Academics have also cited her interpretive contributions to the field of Egyptology as significant.
In popular culture, Rambova has been depicted in several films and television series, figuring significantly in the Valentino biopics The Legend of Valentino (1975), in which she was portrayed by Yvette Mimieux, and Ken Russell's Valentino (1977) by Michelle Phillips. She was also featured in a fictionalized narrative in the network series American Horror Story: Hotel (2015), portrayed by Alexandra Daddario.
Rambova was born Winifred Kimball Shaughnessy on January 19, 1897, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her father, Michael Shaughnessy, was an Irish Catholic working in the mining industry. Her mother, Winifred Shaughnessy was the granddaughter of Heber C. Kimball, a member of the first presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and was raised in a prominent Salt Lake City family. At her father's wishes, Rambova was baptized a Catholic though she later was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the urging of her mother at age eight.
Rambova's parents had a tumultuous relationship: Her father was an alcoholic, and often sold her mother's possessions to pay off gambling debts. This led her mother to divorce Shaughnessy in 1900 and relocate with Rambova to San Francisco.
There, she remarried to Edgar de Wolfe in 1907. During her childhood, Rambova spent summer vacations at the Villa Trianon in Le Chesnay, France with Edgar's sister, the French designer Elsie de Wolfe.
The marriage between her mother and Edgar de Wolfe was short-lived, and she again remarried, this time to millionaire perfume mogul Richard Hudnut.
Rambova was adopted by her new stepfather, making her legal name Winifred Hudnut. Rambova was given the nickname "Wink" by her aunt Teresa to distinguish her from her mother because of their shared name. She also sometimes went by Winifred de Wolfe, after her former step-aunt Elsie, with whom she maintained a relationship after her mother's divorce from Edgar.
A rebellious teenager, Rambova was sent by her mother to Leatherhead Court, a boarding school in Surrey, England. In her schooling, she became fascinated by Greek mythology, and also proved especially gifted at ballet.
After seeing Anna Pavlova in a production of Swan Lake in Paris with her former step-aunt Elsie, Rambova decided she wanted to pursue a career as a ballerina. Her family had encouraged her to study ballet purely as a social grace, and were appalled when she chose it as her career. Her aunt Teresa, however, was supportive, and took Rambova to New York City, where she studied under the Russian ballet dancer and choreographer Theodore Kosloff in his Imperial Russian Ballet Company.
While dancing under Kosloff, she adopted the Russian-inspired stage name Natacha Rambova. Standing at 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 m), Rambova was too tall to be a classical ballerina, but was given leading parts by the then-32-year-old Kosloff, who soon became her lover. Rambova's mother was outraged upon discovering the affair as Rambova was 17 years old at the time, and she tried to have Kosloff deported on statutory rape charges. Rambova retaliated against her mother by fleeing abroad, and her mother ultimately agreed to her continuing to perform with the company.
Around 1917, Kosloff was hired by Cecil B. DeMille as a performer and costume designer for DeMille's Hollywood films, after which he and Rambova relocated from New York to Los Angeles. Rambova carried out much of the creative work as well as the historical research for Kosloff, and he then stole her sketches and claimed credit for these as his own.
When Kosloff started work for fellow-Russian film producer Alla Nazimova at Metro Pictures Corporation (later MGM) in 1919, he sent Rambova to present some designs. Nazimova requested some alterations, and was impressed when Rambova was able to make these changes immediately in her own hand. Nazimova offered Rambova a position on her production staff as an art director and costume designer, proposing a wage of up to USD$5,000 per picture (equivalent to $63,812 in 2019).
Rambova immediately began working for Nazimova on the comedy film Billions (1920), for which she supplied the costumes and served as art director. She also designed the costumes for two Cecil DeMille films in 1920: Why Change Your Wife? and Something to Think About. The following year, she served as the art director on the DeMille production Forbidden Fruit (1921), in which she designed (with Mitchell Leisen) an elaborate costume for a Cinderella-inspired fantasy sequence.
While working on her second project for Nazimova--Aphrodite, which never was filmed Rambova revealed to Kosloff that she planned on leaving him. During the ensuing argument, he attempted to kill her, shooting at her with a shotgun. The gun fired into Rambova's leg, and the bullet lodged above her knee. Rambova fled the Hollywood apartment she shared with Kosloff to the set of Aphrodite, where a cameraman helped her remove the birdshot from her leg. Despite the nature of the incident, she continued to live with Kosloff for some time.
Stylistically, Rambova favored designers such as Paul Poiret, Léon Bakst, and Aubrey Beardsley. She specialized in "exotic" and "foreign" effects in both costume and stage design. For costumes she favored bright colors, baubles, bangles, shimmering draped fabrics, sparkles, and feathers. She also strived for historical accuracy in her costume and set designs.
In 1921, Rambova was introduced to actor Rudolph Valentino on the set of Nazimova's Uncharted Seas (1921). She and Valentino subsequently worked together on Camille (1921), a film which was a financial failure and resulted in Metro Pictures terminating their contract with Nazimova. While making the film, however, Rambova and Valentino became romantically involved. Although Valentino was still married to American film actress Jean Acker, he and Rambova moved in together within a year, having formed a relationship based more on friendship and shared interests than on emotional or professional rapport. They then had to pretend to separate until Valentino's divorce was finalized, and married on May 13, 1922 in Mexicali, Mexico, an event described by Rambova as "wonderful ... even though it did cause many worries and heartaches later."
However, the law required a year to pass before remarriage, and Valentino was jailed for bigamy, having to be bailed out by friends. They legally remarried on March 14, 1923 in Crown Point, Indiana.
Both Rambova and Valentino were spiritualists, and they frequently visited psychics and took part in séances and automatic writing. Valentino wrote a book of poetry, entitled Daydreams, with many poems about Rambova. When it came to domestic life, Valentino and Rambova turned out to hold very different views. Valentino cherished Old World ideals of a woman being a housewife and mother, while Rambova was intent on maintaining a career and had no intention of being a housewife. Valentino was known as an excellent cook, while Rambo a occasionally baked and was an excellent seamstress. Valentino wanted children, but Rambova did not.
While her association with Valentino lent Rambova a celebrity typically afforded to actors, their professional collaborations showed-up their differences more than their similarities, and she did not contribute to any of his successful films in spite of serving as his manager.
In The Young Rajah (1922) she designed authentic Indian costumes that tended to compromise his Latin lover image, and the film was a major flop. She also supported his one-man strike against Famous Players-Lasky, which left him temporarily banned from movie work.
Beginning in February 1924, she accompanied Valentino on a trip abroad that was profiled in twenty-six installments published in Movie Weekly over the course of six months.
Rambova's later work with Valentino was characterised by elaborate and costly preparations for films that either flopped or never manifested. These included Monsieur Beaucaire, The Sainted Devil, and The Hooded Falcon (a film that Rambova co-wrote, but was never realized). By this time, critics and the press were beginning to blame Rambova's excessive control for these failures. United Artists went so far as to offer Valentino an exclusive contract with the stipulation that Rambova had no negotiating power, and was disallowed from even visiting the sets of his films.
After this, Rambova was offered $30,000 to create a film of her choosing, which resulted in the production of What Price Beauty?, a drama which she co-produced and co-wrote.
In 1925, Natacha Rambova and Rudolph Valentino separated, and an acrimonious divorce ensued.
After the divorce proceedings began, Rambova moved on to other ventures: On March 2, 1926, she patented a doll she had designed with a "combined coverlet", and also produced and starred in her own picture, Do Clothes Make the Woman? The film, however, was not well received by critics.
After its release, Rambova never worked in film, on or offscreen, again. Three months later, Valentino died unexpectedly of peritonitis, leaving Rambova inconsolable, and she purportedly locked herself in her bedroom for three days. Though she did not attend his funeral, she sent a telegram to Valentino's business manager George Ullman, requesting he be buried in her family crypt at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx (a request Ullman denied).
Though her work in both set and costume design has been deemed influential by film and fashion historians alike, Rambova herself claimed to "loathe fashion," adding:
"I want to dress in a way that is becoming to me, whether it is the style of the hour or not. So it should be with all women, in my opinion. All women should not wear knee-length skirts, even if that is the prevailing fashion; clothes that are becoming to the tall, languid type, would not do at all for a short girl of the staccato type, who has to have sharp clothes to express her personality."
Thus, Rambova's approach to fashion design in her post-film career was conscious of the individual, a practice which fashion historian Heather Vaughan suggests was carried over from her past designing movie costumes for "individual character types."
After Valentino's death, Rambova relocated to New York City. There, she immersed herself in several endeavors, appearing in vaudeville at the Palace Theatre and writing a semi-fictional play entitled All that Glitters, which detailed her relationship with Valentino, and concluded in a fictionalized happy reconciliation. She also published the 1926 memoir, Rudy: An Intimate Portrait by His Wife Natacha Rambova, which contains memories of her life with him. The following year, a second memoir was published entitled Rudolph Valentino Recollections (a variation of Rudy: An Intimate Portrait), in which she prefaces an addended final chapter by asking that only those "ready to accept the truth" read on; what follows is a detailed letter supposedly communicated by Valentino's spirit from an astral plane, which Rambova claimed to have received during an automatic writing session.
While residing in New York, she frequently arranged séances and claimed to have made contact with Valentino's spirit on several occasions. Rambova also appeared in supporting parts in two original 1927 Broadway productions: Set a Thief, a drama, Jr., and Creoles, a comedy.
In June 1928, she opened an elite couture shop on Fifth Avenue and West 55th street in Manhattan, which sold Russian-inspired clothing that Rambova herself designed. Her clientele included Broadway and Hollywood actresses such as Beulah Bondi and Mae Murray.
On opening the shop, she commented: "I'm in business, not exactly because I need the money, but because it enables me to give vent to an artistic urge." In addition to clothing, the shop also carried jewelry, although it is unknown if it was designed by Rambova or imported.
By late 1931, Rambova had grown uneasy about the economic situation of the United States during the Great Depression, and feared the country would experience a drastic revolution. This led her close her shop and formally retire from commercial fashion design, leaving the United States to live in Juan-les-Pins, France in 1932.
On a yacht cruise to the Balearic Islands, she met her second husband Álvaro de Urzáiz, a British-educated Spanish aristocrat, whom she married in 1932. They lived together on the island of Mallorca and restored abandoned Spanish villas for tourists, a venture financed by Rambova's inheritance from her stepfather.
It was during her marriage to Urzáiz that Rambova first toured Egypt in January 1936, visiting the ancient monuments in Memphis, Luxor, and Thebes. While there, she met archeologist Howard Carter, and became fascinated by the country and its history, which had a profound effect on her. "I felt as if I had at last returned home," she said. "The first few days I was there I couldn't stop the tears streaming from my eyes. It was not sadness, but some emotional impact from the past–a returning to a place once loved after too long a time."Upon returning to Spain, Urzáiz became a naval commander for the pro-fascist nationalist side during the Spanish Civil War. Rambova fled the country to a familial château in Nice, where she suffered a heart attack at age forty. Soon after, she and Urzáiz separated. Rambova remained in France until the Nazi invasion in June 1940, upon which she returned to New York.
Rambova's interest in the metaphysical evolved significantly during the 1940s, and she became an avid supporter of the Bollingen Foundation, through which she believed she could see a past life in Egypt. Rambova was also follower of Helena Blavatsky and George Gurdjieff, and conducted classes in her Manhattan apartment about myths, symbolism and comparative religion. She also began publishing articles on healing, astrology, yoga, post-war rehabilitation, and numerous other topics, some of which appeared in American Astrology and Harper's Bazaar.
In 1945, the Old Dominion (a predecessor to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) awarded Rambova a grant-in-aid of USD$500 for "making a collection of essential cosmological symbols for a proposed archive of comparative universal symbolism. " Rambova intended to use her research to generate a book, which she wanted Ananda Coomaraswamy to write, with the principal themes derived from astrology, theosophy, and Atlantis. In an undated letter to Mary Mellon, she wrote:
It is so necessary that gradually people be given the realization of a universal pattern of purpose and human growth, which the knowledge of the mysteries of initiation of the Atlantean past, as the source of our symbols of the Unconscious, gives ... Just as you said, knowledge of the meaning of the destruction of Atlantis and the present cycle of recurrence would give people an understanding of the present situation.”
Rambova's intellectual investment in Egypt also led her to undertake work deciphering ancient scarabs and tomb inscriptions, which she began researching in 1946. While researching at the Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale in Cairo, she met the institute's director, Alexandre Piankoff, with whom she established a rapport based on their shared interest in Egyptology. Piankoff introduced her to his French translation of the Book of Caverns, a royal funerary text, which he was working on at the time.
Her interest in the Book of Caverns led her to abandon her studies of scarabs, and she began translating Piankoff's French translation into English, an endeavor she felt "was the main purpose and point" of her studies in Egypt. She secured a second two-year grant of US$50,000 through the Mellon and Bollingen Foundations to help Piankoff photograph and publish his work on the Book of Caverns.
In the spring of 1950, the group was given permission to photograph and study inscriptions on golden shrines that had once enclosed the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun, after which they toured the Pyramid of Unas at Saqqara.
After completing the expedition in Egypt, Rambova returned to the United States, where, in 1954, she donated her extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts (accumulated over years of research) to the University of Utah's Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA).
She settled in New Milford, Connecticut, where she spent the following several years working as an editor on the first three volumes of Piankoff's series Egyptian Texts and Religious Representations.
Rambova continued to write and research intensely into her sixties, often working twelve hours per day.
In the years prior to her death, she was working on a manuscript examining texts from the Pyramid of Unas for a translation by Piankoff. This manuscript, which exceeds a thousand pages, was donated to the Brooklyn Museum after her death.
In the early 1950s Rambova developed scleroderma, which significantly affected her throat, impeding her ability to swallow and speak.
She grew delusional, believing that she was being poisoned, and quit eating, resulting in malnourishment. On September 29, 1965, she was discovered going "berserk" in a hotel elevator in Manhattan. Rambova was admitted to Lenox Hill Hospital, where she was diagnosed with paranoid psychosis brought on by malnutrition.
With her health in rapid decline, Rambova's cousin, Ann Wollen, relocated her from her home in Connecticut to California, in order to help take care of her. She was then relocated to a nursing home at Las Encinas Hospital in Pasadena. She died there six months later of a heart attack on June 5, 1966 at the age of 69. At her wishes, Rambova was cremated, and her ashes were scattered in a forest in northern Arizona.
Rambova was one of the few women in Hollywood during the 1920s to serve as a head art designer in film productions. At the time, her costume and set designs were considered "highly stylized," and divided opinion among critics. Rambova's sets incorporated shimmering shades of silver and white against sharp "moderne" lines, and blended elements of Bauhaus and Asian-inspired geometries.
Rambova's clothing designs drew on various influences, described by fashion critics as blending and re-working elements of Renaissance, 18th-century, Oriental, Grecian, Russian, and Victorian fashion. Common preferences in her work included the dolman sleeve, long skirts with high waists, premium velvets, and intricate embroidery, as well as incorporation of geometric shapes and use of "vivid colors ... that are violent and definite. Scarlets, vermilions, strong blues, [and] blazoning purples." She was cited as influential by several designers with whom she worked, including Norman Norell, Adrian, and Irene Sharaff.
Rambova typically dressed in the style of her designs, and thus her personal style was also influential: She often wore her hair in coiled "ballerina style" braids, sometimes covered in a headscarf or turban, with dangling earrings and calf-length velvet or brocade skirts. Actress Myrna Loy once proclaimed Rambova the "most beautiful woman she'd ever seen."
In 2003, Rambova was posthumously inducted into the Costume Designers' Guild Hall of Fame.
Rambova's scholarly work has been regarded as significant by contemporary academics in the fields of Egyptology and history.
In the 1950s, Rambova donated her extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts to the University of Utah, displayed in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts's Natacha Rambova Collection of Egyptian Antiquities. Both Rambova and her mother were credited as "vital" to the establishment of the museum through their donations of paintings, furniture, and artifacts.