Essays

Will the Supermodel Ever Return?

When you say “supermodel” the images of the queens of the 80s and 90s come to mind. You know who I mean; Naomi, Christy, Linda, Cindy, Kate, Claudia – the big ones. Maybe even the holy trinity. Nowadays the term is thrown around so often that it is beginning to lose the meaning. The whole “won’t get up for less than $10000 a day” mentality is no longer accepted.

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Gianni Versace with models

The original supermodels were famous outside of fashion. They were household names who lived lifestyles so glamorous that it seemed unreal. They were paid huge amounts of money for the work they did and their faces were everywhere. In particular, Christy Turlington had a Maybelline contract that paid her $800,000 for 12 days work a year, that’s the big bucks. The original supermodels oozed beauty and became world famous in their own rights. Often after modelling they branched out and had other careers.

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Modelling’s “Holy Trinity”

Kate Moss wasn’t one of the original supers as she really represented everything opposite of them. She was the skinny waif who started the heroin chic movement. It was the anti-glamour. Her look was raw and real and a million miles away from the ultra-high maintenance one that was so common before. Still Kate Moss became an icon and indisputably a supermodel in her own right. She is a name that is known all over the world in homes that have little regard for fashion. She became more of a celebrity.

The big names of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s have had time to become fully cemented as supermodels. However, as time has passed it becomes more and more difficult for models to become supermodels in this day and age. I’d say the newest super that we have had is Gisele and she’s been around for over a decade.

To be a legitimate supermodel, I’d say you need to be prominent in high fashion (shows and campaigns), have big money commercial contracts (a make up brand, Victoria’s Secret etc), have strong print work (many international Vogue covers, Elle, Harpers Bazaar etc) but also be known outside of fashion. The true supermodels are instantly recognised by people who don’t give a damn about Vogue magazine or Chanel or whatever. They have become household names purely because they are seen everywhere. More so, they are seen but they are unreachable. They are aspirational.

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I’d say social media killed the supermodel. The reasons:

  1. Now everyone is reachable. Anybody can become popular over the internet. Any girl can take a selfie and it can go viral. Does this make her a model? No. Many publications take it now that if a model has a lot of followers on social media platforms that she is now a supermodel. I have seen numerous places calling Cara Delevingne a supermodel even though she is far from one just because of her huge online presence.
  2. Another problem with social media is that we can see everything about a model, depending on what they choose to post. This ruins the perfect image. We realise that they are just like us, and really what is the fun in that.
  3. Overexposure. We see the same people everywhere, we get sick of them. As we see them literally every day on instagram, it is less exciting to see a new editorial or campaign. It means the models often don’t have the same longevity as they formerly did.

That is not to say that there aren’t any fine models since the turn of the millennium who deserve to be named supers. Take Karlie Kloss as an example. She has been prominent in the industry for many years now. Is an indisputable queen of high fashion, a Victoria’s Secret angel, in numerous editorials each year, particularly for American Vogue; she is consistent. Yet her reach outside of fashion is not huge. And that’s really the crux of the matter.

So maybe I will just have to deal with the infuriating amount of girls being labelled supermodels by magazines and newspapers when they are far from it. The true supers of this generation know who they are and are recognised by those who work in fashion and love fashion alike. It truly is just a label but it is mildly important.

Who would you say this generations’ supers are?

I’m going to say that since the year 2000, the truly deserving recipients of the title are:

  • Gisele Bundchen
  • Doutzen Kroes
  • Karlie Kloss
  • Natasha Poly

There are dozens more models who I really love and would kill to look like, but realistically, supermodels? Maybe not so . The outreach that the real supers have is immeasurable and immense. It is a true feat. As long as the hoards of anonymous and slightly forgettable girls continue to make their way through the market season upon season, we won’t find another real supermodel. And realistically, we can’t go back in time. The day and age of the supermodel is over.

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Let the real supers laugh all the way to the bank

 

 

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