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No Prima Donna

Feb. 07, 1989
Feb. 07, 1989

Table of Contents
Feb. 7, 1989

Cover
  • Here's a portfolio of six new covers featuring your SI models in swimsuit venues of the past

Memories
Point After
Departments

No Prima Donna

Modest Sheila Roscoe still doesn't understand how she ever got to be a model

Sheila Roscoe checks her hand for traces of dark Belgian chocolate, hastily wipes it on an apron and extends it in a firm introduction. "Hi, I'm Roscoe," she says. A moment later she adds, "Pretty glamorous, huh?"

This is an article from the Feb. 7, 1989 issue Original Layout

Well, yes. Roscoe may have sneaked in a few nibbles over the past four years while slathering frosting on chocolate bombes and baking buttery croissants as an assistant manager and executive pastry coordinator at the C'est Si Bon bakery-cafè in Corona del Mar, Calif., but she has maintained the figure that graced the cover of SI in 1972. Now in what she calls her "late, late 30's," she is still an active model.

"I've tried, but I can't seem to quit," she says. The place is rich with aromas—of rising dough, gourmet coffee and the nearby Pacific Ocean. "I get calls when they need the bank-executive look or the upscale mom—something a little sophisticated. I do it because it's still like being Cinderella."

Roscoe had been modeling for only a year when she got a one-day swim-suit assignment with SI in Marina del Rey harbor. "It was by far the biggest thing I had done," she says. "I remember being worried that I'd have to buy my own lunch."

When she is handed a copy of the issue in which she appeared, Roscoe draws a breath. "Oooh, this is scary," she says with mock foreboding. She winces when she comes upon herself in a white jersey jumpsuit, by topless creator Rudi Gernreich, that featured a softball-sized black circle over each breast. "Thank God people never actually wore that," she says with a laugh. "Of course, it's nothing compared to what the models are wearing now. Me? I'm strictly one-piece conservative. Safe."

The persona Roscoe portrays before a camera is different from that of the genuine article. Though she's an elegant brunette who resembles Audrey Hepburn, she has a relaxed openness that makes it easy to understand why everyone calls her Roscoe. "Roscoe is nothing like the prima donna image of a model—she downplays everything," says Scott Russell, one of the owners of C'est Si Bon.

Russell is the only one of her 30 coworkers Roscoe has told about her interview with SI, but during it her coworkers shoot glances at her. "I'm embarrassed," she says. "I guess I'm not comfortable when I stand out."

She felt the same way as a kid in Hot Springs, Ark., where her father, George, ran a liquor store. "I wasn't exactly Daisy Mae," she says. "But I've never lost those country values."

She remembers wanting to be a stewardess when she grew up, but otherwise, she says, "I don't think I was known for anything in my childhood." She was surprised when she was chosen basketball homecoming queen her senior year at Hot Springs High. "I think it was more because I got along with people than because of looks," she says. "I'm lucky because I'm not overly attractive. I have a good look, but it's not one that intimidates other women." She admits, however, that "other people have always seen more in me than I see in myself."

One of those people was Jack Roberts, then the co-owner of Carson and Roberts, a Los Angeles public relations and advertising agency, who was a passenger on a TWA flight on which Roscoe, who had moved to Los Angeles after high school, worked as a flight attendant. "He said he thought I was very photogenic and told me that he would get me an interview with the Nina Blanchard Agency in Los Angeles," says Roscoe. "It wasn't a line—there were no strings attached.

"Nina looked at me and basically told me I was too short and too heavy. But she could see I had the high cheekbones and a long neck, and something told her I might do all right. And since she had such a high regard for Roberts's instincts, she'd give me a try."

There was no denying the 5'7" Roscoe looked great in a swimsuit. After she had done a series of small jobs, Blanchard recommended her to SI swimsuit editor Jule Campbell. A few months later Roscoe was on the cover.

"My dad cleaned out every newsstand he could find and gave copies to all his friends," says Roscoe. She also became a celebrity in the skies. "The senior stewardess on our flight used to sneak behind me while I greeted passengers, hold the magazine over my head and go 'That's her' with her lips. I could have killed her."

The SI cover led to several modeling contracts, and in 1974 Roscoe quit her job as a flight attendant to become a full-time model. Over the next few years she traveled across the U.S. and Europe, once modeling fur coats in 110° heat in Palm Springs. On another occasion she suffered snow blindness after shooting a cigarette ad in the Alps. "I was never a superstar," says Roscoe, "but I am satisfied. If I didn't get a job, I didn't want to slit my wrists. It was an accident that I became a model, and I've never forgotten that."

By the early '80s, Roscoe's 10-year marriage had ended, and she was looking for a graceful transition from an insecure career. She had moved to Corona del Mar, where she knew the five former Club Med staffers who had started C'est Si Bon. "We became like family," says Roscoe, who has a "good, semiserious relationship" with Russell.

When she is not occupied at C'est Si Bon, she does about 30 modeling shoots a year. Modeling also gives her a chance to indulge the Roscoe most people don't know. "I'm not the same person in front of the camera," she says. "I just take an attitude that says, 'Hey, I've got it all.' I don't know where I picked that up."

Maybe from always having had more than she knows.

TWO ILLUSTRATIONSPHOTOJOHN G. ZIMMFRMANPHOTOGREGORY HEISLERROSCOE'S DOG, TACIIE. IS APPARENTLY AS SELF-EFFACING AS HER MASTER