Nena von Schlebrügge

Birgitte Caroline "Nena" von Schlebrügge (born January 8, 1941) is a former Menla Mountain Retreat.


Nena von Schlebrügge is the daughter of a Swedish mother, Birgit Holmquist (1911–1973), and a German father, Colonel Baron Friedrich Karl Johannes von Schlebrügge (1886–1954), a German monarchist and cavalry officer in World War I who became a business man during the 1920s and 1930s in Berlin. During World War II, he was jailed by the National Socialists for refusing to rejoin the military and for protecting Jewish friends. Birgit Holmquist married him in jail and used her Swedish national privilege to get him out; the couple fled to Mexico, where Nena and her brother Bjorn were born.

Von Schlebrügge's maternal grandmother's parents were German and Danish. 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. 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, England, to pursue a career in high-fashion modelling. She found immediate success and was invited to New York City by Eileen Ford of the Ford Modeling Agency to continue her modelling career.

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 modelling career as a top model, working at Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.


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

Other activities

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, where she oversaw the construction of Tibet House, 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.

Since 2001 Nena has been the managing director of 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.

Personal life

She married Doctor Timothy Leary in 1964. D. A. Pennebaker documented the event in his short film You're Nobody Til Somebody Loves You. The marriage lasted only a year before von Schlebrügge divorced Leary in 1965. In 1967 she married Indo-Tibetan Buddhist scholar and ex-monk Robert Thurman. In the same year, Nena and Robert's first child, Ganden Thurman, was born.

The Thurmans lived in Massachusetts from 1973 to 1988, during which time Nena completed an M.Ed in creativity, and later did doctoral coursework in counseling psychology, ending at the "all-but-dissertation" level. In 1970, Robert and Nena's second child, Uma Thurman, was born. They have two more sons: Dechen (b. 1973) and Mipam (b. 1978).

External links

  • Tibet House
  • Menla Mountain Retreat
  • You're Nobody Til Somebody Loves You
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