Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2014

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Bernie Lenz: 1921 — 2010:

Modeling pioneer thrived as teacher, entrepreneur

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Bernie Lenz

When retired fashion model Bernie Lenz went to Southern Nevada’s public junior and senior high school classrooms in the 1960s and ’70s and spoke to girls about possible careers in the fashion industry, drumming up business for her modeling school at 15th Street and Charleston Boulevard was not her only goal.

“Mom taught a lot of free classes just to set the girls straight on what they would need to do to make it in the modeling industry and how to do the job the right way,” said Lenz’s daughter “Two” Lenz. “She taught by example. When my mother walked into a classroom, she was poise and beauty personified.”

Brunetta Mae “Bernie” Lenz, a member of the International Models Hall of Fame whose Lenz Finishing School and Modeling Agency provided hundreds of young Las Vegas graduates a path to the fashion capitals of the world, died July 1 in Salt Lake City. She was 88.

Her family said the cause of death was complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Services were private.

From 1949 to 1960, Lenz owned the Nevada Academy of Art Technology, where she taught retail courses. She operated the Lenz school from 1960 to 1979, when she sold it.

“She only had one year of college, but my mom was a remarkably successful businesswoman,” her daughter said.

One of Lenz’s proudest business achievements was establishing the first fashion merchandising school in Las Vegas. She had to go to the Legislature to have a category created that allowed her school to become accredited.

Lenz was the author of “The Complete Book of Fashion Modeling,” which she published in 1969. She published the updated version in 1982.

Born Brunetta Kells on Oct. 22, 1921, in Colorado Springs, Colo., Lenz’s family moved to Long Beach, Calif., in the 1930s where she graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School.

During World War II, Lenz served as a dental assistant in Guam, treating U.S. soldiers serving in the Pacific. After the war, she moved to Las Vegas with her husband, Richard. She lived in their home on Thelma Lane for more than 40 years.

In addition to her daughter, Lenz is survived by a son, Richard Lenz; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

The family said donations can be made in Lenz’s memory to the City of Hope in California.