Duran Duran's 'Rio' Cover Model Identified After Four Decades

The illustration for the new wave staple was done by Patrick Nagel

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Jun 11, 2024

The cover of Duran Duran's 1982 sophomore LP Rio sports one of the most recognizable smiles in album art, and over four decades on from its release, the inspiration for the image has been found.

Music Times points out that the reveal was made by a pair of Instagram accounts dedicated to the work of Patrick Nagel, the American illustrator and artist who illustrated Rio's cover and also contributed work to Playboy, Architectural Digest, Rolling Stone, MGM and more.

Monica Moynihan, a Nagel historian and art broker who runs the Instagram account @patricknagelarts, explained how a fellow fan of the artist at @nagel_arts found the Rio cover's source image among a multi-page editorial spread for Angelo Tarlazzi in the February 1981 issue of Vogue France. Another fan, Sarah Bastos, is credited as identifying the smiling model as Marcie Hunt.

You can see the editorial spread and the Rio album cover illustration mocked up side by side below.

Moynihan writes that Barry Hahn, Nagel's technical art assistant, confirmed to her that specific shot of Hunt was indeed used by the artist for the Rio cover.

"We suspect the model and maybe the band Duran Duran had no idea Nagel was influenced and used this image to create the cover of their musical masterpiece, Rio," she writes. "He certainly changed many things, most specifically removing her glasses, but he obviously loved her smile. And that smile has been an iconic piece of Duran Duran history for decades."

Moynihan could be on to something when it comes to Duran Duran not knowing. The band re-shared her post on Instagram, simply stating, "WOW!"

As told in Anne Zaleski's 33 1/3 book about Duran Duran's Rio, Nagel was commissioned by the band after co-manager Paul Berrow saw his work while leafing through a copy of Playboy. The artist presented the band with two options: a woman with a flower in her hair sitting sideways (which would eventually be used for the cover of single "My Own Way") and the shot of the woman smiling. In the book, keyboardist Nick Rhodes recalls that the chosen smile shot was a unanimous choice among the group, sharing, "We all said instantly: 'Yes, that's it. That's the cover.'"

Nagel would pass away from a heart attack only two years after illustrating Rio's cover, his style going on to impact the visual aesthetic of the decade. Hunt left a comment on Instagram sharing that she had no idea it was her who inspired Rio's cover, and even played Duran Duran at her wedding.

In a similar illustration situation, it took the world half the time to identify the model on the cover of Converge's Jane Doe.

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