by Camilla Morton
From the supermodel to the superbrand, the ever-changing status of the model has emerged with even more power in an era of big agents, big names, and big bucks. Models are now acknowledged as being more than just a pretty face; they are the commodity and know their worth, and more and more they call the shots. The girls that stand out are often bigger than the brand they’re promoting: Kate Moss is the ultimate muse; Gisele Bündchen embodies the dream. In an era obsessed with beauty and physical perfection, these models give brands luxury as much as sex appeal. Different girls emerge with different specialties of beauty. There are runway stars, the theatrical and editorial models, the commercial faces, and careers that have extended beyond the modeling launch pad.
Models have eclipsed actresses with their newfound celebrity. From 1989 to 1995, Cindy Crawford hosted MTV’s House of Style, and officially quit modeling in 2000 to concentrate on a career of lucrative celebrity endorsements. In 1992 the Fashion Café (financed by trio Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, and Elle Macpherson) opened to quench the insatiable appetite for all things fashion. In 1993 Kathy Ireland signed her first endorsement deal with Kmart. A decade later she launched another line with them that would sell in over 3,000 stores. Kathy, like many of her business-savvy contemporaries, used her head as well as her body to budget ahead in case jobs to appear in front of the camera dried up.
With the Internet and mobile phones, every advertising platform wanted its own face. And, as logic dictates, the more campaign opportunities to be had, the broader the range of girls that needed to be scouted—even if the big names still dominated the larger campaigns. After the perfection of the supermodels, the striking features of rebel girls like Sarah Stockbridge, Kristen McMenamy, Karen Elson, Nadja Auermann, or aristo faces such as Honor Fraser and Stella Tenant took center stage.
As the world’s meaning of beauty has become less and less restricted, women are also now allowed to age gracefully—beauty no longer has an expiration date. Indeed, Andie MacDowell and Jane Fonda are just two model faces that show this on billboards for L’Oréal. This is an era that wants brains and beauty—and for the faces to be ageless, international, and marketable for all seasons and products. In August 2006, Linda Evangelista was the first model to land the cover of Vogue—40 years old and pregnant—after a year of actresses, singers, and personalities. The supermodel reclaimed the glossies for models and the next super generation. Age was only an issue if you made it one, as actress Sophia Loren proved when she appeared in the 2007 Pirelli calendar at the ripe age of 72. Sophia, like Lauren Hutton, is proof that you can still sizzle—as well as sell—at any age. It was empowering and proof that this is a time where anything goes.
With age on the back burner, more importance was placed on branding. No one saw how to use this more successfully than Victoria’s Secret, which staged its first fashion show in 1995. The lingerie labels’ Angels became the new supermodels; superbrands—all smiles, curves, and toned, tanned limbs—who were keen to show they could also transcend the runway. Angels Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum spread their wings and went on to host the hit TV shows America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway, respectively, making them even greater household names than they achieved at the height of their modeling fame. Currently Karolina Kurkova, Adriana Lima, and Alessandra Ambrosio—who Tyra describes “the future of the modeling world”—are just some of the all-star lineup that stars in a show that is a ratings smash.
From TV shows to music (Naomi and Grace Jones), to first lady (Carla Bruni), to books (Sophie Dahl), to yoga (Christy Turlington), to film (Amber Valletta, Shalom Harlow, Cameron Diaz), no stone has been left unturned by the entrepreneur power models. In 2001 Halle Berry, another model turned actress, became the first African-American to win a Best Actress Academy Award, while Kate Moss brought her clothing line for Topshop to New York in 2009. The new age model ensures they create a career—and a brand—that extends way beyond the traditionally assumed shelf life.
As the world becomes more instantly connected, so, too, fashion reflects this. International girls come from both East and West; there are no rules as to who makes it onto the runways and magazine covers. Exotic and original beauties rule the newsstands, and in the new millennium every international glossy wants its own star. Russia crowned Natalia Semanova and Natalia Vodianova as their cover stars, while Brazil boasts bombshells Gisele Bündchen, Adriana Lima, and Caroline Trentini. Karolina Kurkova (Czech Republic), Carmen Kass (Estonia), and Daria Werbowy (Polish Canadian Ukrainian)—collectively their campaigns and covers prove that fashion has no nationality and that its only language is beauty. Doutzen Kroes graduated from runways to L’Oréal spokeswoman, while Agyness Deyn went from working in a fish-and-chips shop to fashion icon. As much as Lily Donaldson, Sasha Pivovarova, and Hilary Rhoda are photographed at parties today, they are also emblazoned across the top campaigns. They live the lifestyle, they sell the dream, and their smiles never have a day off. From Frankie and Missy Rayder to names like Jessica Stam, Coco Rocha, Lara Stone, Raquel Zimmermann, and Jourdan Dunn, these are the girls constantly seen on the covers and editorial pages.
As the recent Met Ball proved (cohosted by Kate Moss), from Gisele to Brooke Shields and all the girls in between, designers are spoiled for choice. Each season a new face is out there just waiting to be signed on exclusively, and to keep up with the hottest girls, all you need do is stay tuned to Modelinia.