Nena von Schlebrügge

Birgitte Caroline "Nena" von Schlebrügge (born January 8, 1941) is a Swedish-American fashion model from the 1950s and 1960s. She is now the Managing Director of Menla Mountain Retreat.

Nena von Schlebrügge
Nena Thurman.jpg
Birgitte Caroline von Schlebrügge

(1941-01-08) January 8, 1941 (age 79)
Mexico City, Mexico
OccupationFashion model
(m. 1964; div. 1965)

(m. 1967)
Children4, including Uma Thurman


Schlebrügge's father belonged to the German nobility. Her maternal grandmother's parents were German and Danish.[1] Her mother had served as Axel Ebbe's model for Famntaget ("The Embrace"), a 1930s statue of a nude woman that overlooks the harbor of Smygehuk in Sweden.[2] On her father's side, she has an older half-sister, who was the paternal grandmother of German-Swedish football player Max von Schlebrügge.



In 1955, at the age of 14, Nena was discovered by Vogue photographer Norman Parkinson when he was on a tour in Stockholm, Sweden. In 1957, Nena moved to London, United Kingdom, to pursue a career in high-fashion modeling. She found immediate success and was invited to come to New York City by Eileen Ford of the Ford Modeling Agency to continue her modelling career.[3]

In the snow storm of March 1958, at the age of 17, she arrived in New York City on the Queen Mary. In New York City, she continued her career as a top model, working at Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. She was photographed by many fashion photographers, including Gleb Derujinsky.[4]


In 1967, she had a part in the Edie Sedgwick film Ciao! Manhattan. The film took four years to make; and drastic changes from the original story were made, causing the filmmakers to have to remove many scenes. including Nena's, shot in 1967. These deleted scenes can be found on the DVD version.[5]

Other activitiesEdit

From 1987 to 1989, Nena was the Program Director at the New York Open Center and, from 1991 to 2002, was the Managing Director of Tibet House US located in New York City.[6] Tibet House US was founded in 1986 by the Thurmans, Philip Glass, and Richard Gere, at the behest of the Dalai Lama.[7] Nena oversaw the construction of Tibet House US, the educational programming, and, with Philip Glass, initiated the annual benefit concert at Carnegie Hall, as well as the annual benefit auction at Christie's.[7] She was executive producer of The First 30 Years of Tibet House U.S. film, directed by John Halpern.[8]

Since 2001, Nena has been the Managing Director of the Tibet House US-owned Menla Mountain Retreat, where she has overseen the construction of a state-of-the-art Tibetan medicinal spa facility and business in the Catskill Mountains in Phoenicia, New York. She is also a psychotherapist.[6]

Personal lifeEdit

Nena married Timothy Leary in 1964 at the Hitchcock Estate (commonly known as "Millbrook"). D. A. Pennebaker documented the event in his short film You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You.[9] Charles Mingus played piano at the wedding ceremony. The marriage lasted a year before von Schlebrügge divorced Leary in 1965. In 1967, she married Indo-Tibetan Buddhist scholar and ex-monk Robert Thurman, whom she had met at Millbrook.[3] In the same year, Nena and Robert's first child, Ganden Thurman, was born. In 1970, Robert and Nena's second child, Uma Thurman, was born. They have two more sons: Dechen (b. 1973) and Mipam (b. 1978).[3] The children grew up in Woodstock, NY, where the Thurmans had bought nine acres of land with a small inheritance Nena had received. The Thurmans built their own house there.[3] In addition to their four children, the pair have seven grandchildren, including Maya Hawke.


  1. ^ "Well Known Swedish Americans". Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  2. ^ Kuprijanko, Alexander (20 July 2006). "Uma Thurmans mormor staty i Trelleborg" [Uma Thurman's grandmother's statue in Trelleborg]. Sydsvenskan (in Swedish).
  3. ^ a b c d Green, Penelope (20 May 2017). "50 Years of Marriage and Mindfulness With Nena and Robert Thurman". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Derujinsky, Andrea (2016). Capturing Fashion: Derujinsky. Paris: Flammarion. p. 213. ISBN 978-2-08020-273-4.
  5. ^ "Ciao Manhattan (1972)". IMDb. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Menla General Management Staff: Managing Director Nena v.S. Thurman". Tibet House US. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Hoban, Phoebe (15 March 1998). "Thurmans All Come Out to Play". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "The First 30 Years of Tibet House U.S." vimeo. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  9. ^ Pennebaker, D. A. "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You". Pennebaker Hegedus Films. Retrieved February 3, 2018.

External linksEdit