FEST Visits: Ellen Le Roy

representative fest image

”All in life is transient, only memories remain”

— Ellen le Roy

representative fest image

When you first meet Ellen Le Roy Lopes Cardozo (77) there’s no way to get around her beautiful bright blue eyes, distinctive face and great sense of style.

Her natural beauty has been noticed for decades. As designers asked her to wear their collection, some may say Ellen was an influencer avant la lettre.

After a nasty traffic accident two years ago, Ellen moved into a retirement home in the Pijp area in Amsterdam. Her studio apartment is filled with striking art, intriguing antiques and her treasured black leather sofa. “It is crowded, but I love my little home. I am surrounded by so many memories.”


Ellen loves to talk about her captivating past. Linking one subject to another - she is a continuous source of interesting stories: “I have been spoiled with love, my dear. I was lucky to marry the love of my life, Guillaume (artist Guillaume le Roy, red.)."

"We met at a Bal Masque back in the early sixties. I had made my own dress out of an old white sheet with two embroidered hands on it. I remember a Wizard entering the room, also dressed up in a sheet. He walked up to me and saying: ‘You are the girl that I am going to marry’. That’s how it all started.”

representative fest image

Influencer avant la lettre

Guillaume was a renowned artist making abstract art, while Ellen worked in fashion - as a model and sales representative. She used to walk runway shows for renowned fashion designers who soon became her friends. Her image was taken by artists like Erwin Olaf and appeared in magazines and museums.

“Because of my height I have never been signed by an agency, so modelling has never been my official job. I didn’t get paid to walk the runway, but I did get to keep some designer pieces. Besides my modelling jobs, I worked at a high-end fashion store. I have spent countless hours on my feet, surrounded by the most beautiful clothing. My boss gave me designer pieces to wear, I remember him saying: ‘Our collection looks so good on you, you are a walking advertisement for the store’.”

KARL LAGERFELD The phone rings - it turns out to be an editor of De Wereld Draait Door (famous Dutch talk show, red.) that wants to talk to Ellen about Karl Lagerfeld. She sighs: “Yes dear, I just heard the news. It’s so sad he passed away.” (...) “No dear, I am too old and too tired to come to the studio and talk about my memories of him.” (...) “No sweety, I am really sorry, but I am in an interview right now. I am really busy.” Ellen chats a bit about her memories on Karl before ending the call. “Sorry about that dear, please continue the interview.”

representative fest image

Wooden crates instead of furniture

Although her home clearly shows great taste, Ellen claims she never really cared much about interior design: “When I just got married, we lived in a studio apartment and the only furniture we had were some wooden crates.”

It was not until they moved into their canal house when Guillaume and Ellen got their first furniture: “We bought a set of second-hand chairs, with stained velvet cushions. They looked ok, but they were very uncomfortable. One day, we invited a physiotherapist and the first thing he said was: ‘You HAVE to get rid of those chairs, they are ruining your backs.’ So we did.”

This heavy Jewish candle holder was bought in Paris over 40 years ago. Ellen remembers: “I can still see Guillaume, our son and me driving around the Marais district in our small Citroën Deux Chevaux car. We stopped at an old antique shop and it was love at first sight when I saw this extraordinary candle holder - I just had to take it home. It is so heavy, and our car was so petite - I still think it is a miracle that we were able to drive it back home.”

That turned out to be the only time Ellen would ever buy a pair of new sofas: “Guillaume wasn’t interested in buying new furniture at all, so I went to the nicest furniture store in town and bought two black leather sofas: a large one for my husband and a small one for me. That’s 40 years ago now, but my little black sofa still looks good and it is comfortable. I love it.”

representative fest image

Surrounded by memories

After she lost her husband in 2008, Ellen continued to live in their canal house until she had to move into this retirement home: “Two years ago, I got knocked down by a motor scooter. After spending my time in the hospital, I wasn’t able to move at all so I couldn’t return home. My son and my dear daughter-in-law selected everything I could bring to this new place. They did a great job - I love my little home, surrounded by all these things that remind me of the past. All in life is transient, only memories remain.”

representative fest image

When Ellen moved into the retirement home she started collecting perfumes: “Old people have a specific scent... I would hate to smell like an old person. I always mix different fragrances to make sure I smell unique. I never buy them myself, they are all gifts.”