Models are the faces of the fashion industry. People might think their job is just sitting around looking pretty, but it’s a tough industry. The worrying obsession with staying thin is well-known, and in recent years horror stories about the sexual harassment and abuse models face in everyday work have come to the surface. It takes a strong person to take on the harsh world of fashion and still deliver a gorgeous photo at any given moment.

So then, what separates a model from a supermodel? The site modelmanagement.com defines a supermodel as, “a well-paid high-fashion model that has worked on an international plain and who has an impressive portfolio working with the world’s leading fashion designers.” What is considered an “impressive portfolio” is still subjective, but a supermodel seems to be a model that has reached at least semi-celebrity status. In the competitive modeling field, these stars rise to the top. Let us bask in their glory, these are the most beautiful supermodels in the world.

Gigi Hadid
Jelena Noura “Gigi” Hadid has become the face of the next generation of supermodels. While Hadid did the traditional break into New York Fashion Week, her career was swiftly aided by her social media skills. She took crafting a brand to an art form and climbed the charts to become one of the most followed models in the world. Along with sister Bella and Kendall Jenner, Hadid helped ring in the era of the “social media model. “Not everyone was thrilled with this new direction. Actress and model Rebecca Romijn told Entertainment Tonight, “I know a lot of people — legitimate fashion people — can’t stand it. Hate it that these, you know, social media stars are now the supermodels in fashion. They are not true supermodels.” The harsh words haven’t stopped Hadid from stomping runway after runway. Hadid’s future appears to be nothing but bright. “I get to work with people who have loved what they do for 30, 40 and 50 years,” she told the British edition of Vogue. “That’s what I’m going to be like.”

Naomi Campbell
Monica Schipper
As one of the legendary “Super Six,” Naomi Campbell has more than earned her place in the modelling hierarchy. Campbell worked hard through the early 80s and 90s, pushing against the fashion world’s prejudice. She was the first black model on the cover of French Vogue and the following year was the first black model on the September issue of American Vogue, the most important issue of the year. “I wasn’t being booked for certain shows because of the colour of my skin,” she said in an autobiographical piece for The Guardian. “I understood what it meant to be black. You had to put in the extra effort. You had to be twice as good.” Thankfully, she had support. Campbell became part of the “Trinity” of the fashion world with Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington. Campbell told The Guardian that the girls would stick up for her, saying “if [certain designers] wanted to have them in their show, they had to book me, too.” Now, she’s gotten the recognition she deserves, as she received the Fashion Icon Award from the CFDA Awards in spring 2018.

Adriana Lima
The queen of Victoria’s Secret, Adriana Lima is one of the best-known models for the brand. She started walking for Victoria’s Secret in 1999 and performed her final walk in 2018, with a total of 20 catwalk shows. Plus, unlike some models mentioned above, this seasoned professional isn’t doubting the younger generation. “You know, [Kendall Jenner] works as hard as we do, so I give her credit for all the effort,” she told E! News.

Even after retiring from Victoria’s Secret, Lima’s career charged forward. She appeared with Jenner in the 2019 Miu Miu cruise campaign and was the face of the PUMA x Maybelline collaboration. Lima gushed to People, “I have been working a lot and am continuing to work on new projects and taking care of my two beautiful daughters. Life is just as busy as it has always been and I love it that way.”

Jourdan Dunn

Jourdan Dunn is a relative newcomer to the fashion scene, but she’s definitely one of the rising stars. At 17, Dunn walked for Polo Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs for the 2007 New York Fashion Week. From there, Dunn was off to the races. She has been on the cover of many of Vogue’s various publications and been featured in countless campaigns for companies such as Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Kate Spade, and more. To top it off, in 2014 she became the new face of Maybelline New York. It’s no wonder that she was one of the highest-paid models of that year. In her personal life, Dunn works to end sickle-cell anemia. Dunn’s son, Riley, was diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia at a young age, and Dunn has become one of the disease’s biggest ambassadors. She told Independent, “I took it for granted that I had a great career in front of me, but now I realise my opportunities – the fact that I can provide for my family and be an ambassador for sickle-cell disease and raise awareness.”

Robyn Lawley
Graham Denholm
It’s no secret that the modelling world is skinny-obsessed. Too many models are asked to lose weight by their agencies, and almost a third have experienced eating disorders. On that note, meet Robyn Lawley. Lawley would rather not be labelled as a “plus-size” model, but by having the gall to wear a size 12 (which is still two sizes smaller than the average American woman), some agencies might consider her just that. “Personally, I hate the term plus-size. It’s ridiculous and derogatory — it puts women down and it puts a label on them,” Lawley told Australia Cosmopolitan. “Women love seeing women they can relate to.” Lawley has brought attention to the beauty of these more “relatable” bodies by landing on cover of Vogue Italia, walking the Milan Fashion Week runway, and debuting campaigns for Mango, Ralph Lauren, and Lane Bryant. She was even given the honor of being the first “plus-size” (sorry, Lawley) model on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. MJ Day, the magazine’s assisting managing editor, told Time that Lawley had been on “her radar for years and is being highlighted as a model rather than as a ‘plus size’ model.”

Fei Fei Sun

Sun Feifei, commonly known as Fei Fei Sun, is one of the world’s leading asian models. She is credited as the first Asian woman to land a solo cover of Vogue Italia. The following year, 2014, she crossed the Atlantic and made her American Vogue debut on the September cover. She’s appeared in campaigns for top brands like Prada and Chanel to name just a couple, but this glamorous star had humble beginnings. In the China issue of Vogue Italia, Sun shared her story. She was born in a small town in Northern China. After her mother enrolled her in a modelling school to fix her posture, Sun became fascinated with the career and enrolled at Soochow University in its Fashion Design program. She gained prominence in the Chinese fashion world throughout the mid-2000s before settling in New York City. “I am grateful to all those who have helped me so far,” she told Vogue Italia. “But I haven’t yet reached the pinnacle of my career. I’m still moving ahead.”

Miranda Kerr

Plenty of models start their career in their teens, but Miranda Kerr might be one of the youngest ingénue in recent history. At 13 years old, Kerr won the DOLLY model search and landed her first cover page right then and there. Kerr found some success in Australia and then broke into the American market by working with Maybelline. A couple years later she became the first Australian Victoria’s Secret Angel. She continued to rack up those “firsts” by becoming the first pregnant model on the cover of the Australian edition of Vogue in 2011.

Kerr is no doubt beautiful, consistently ranking as one of the sexiest models. However, in 2010 Kerr got some embarrassing proof. An Australian banker was caught viewing explicit photos of Kerr in the background of a televised interview. The banker was in danger of losing his job, but Kerr came to the rescue. “I am told there is a petition to save his job, and of course I would sign it,” she told the BBC, speaking of an online Facebook petition fans had set up. Happily, or at least amusingly, the man kept his job. It was a win for public perverts everywhere.

Bhumika Arora

Bhumika Arora is a relative newcomer to the modelling scene compared to many others on this list, but now is the time to pay attention. Arora started later than most in her mid-20s and achieving her true breakout at the age of 27. That year she walked the Fashion Week runways for Paris, London, and Milan. Straightaway she caught the attention of Vogue, which was drawn to her “moody-eyed, sultry-lipped, and enviously angular” look. Arora’s Indian culture influences her style, and what jobs she’ll take. She will not go topless or wear sheer clothing. Arora told Elle, “It’s my decision and it’s to do with my culture. I do feel guilty for giving designers another thing to worry about when they’re trying to put together their shows, but I still can’t do it. People have been understanding.” Despite the culture clash, Arora is eager for more Indian girls to join the scene. As she told Vogue India, “Beauty is beauty, irrespective of race, colour and gender.”

Hailey Bieber

Hailey Bieber (née Baldwin) had a lot going on before she tied the knot and earned that notorious surname. As part of the famous Baldwin family — her father is Stephen Baldwin — she was no stranger to the limelight. She debuted on the runway by walking for British retailer Topshop in 2014. As one of the social media models palling around with Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, she quickly caught attention.  Bieber has ticked all the boxes for modern supermodel stardom. Vogue cover? Check. New York Fashion Week? Check. Working with huge brands? Double check. Then, of course, there’s the marriage to Justin Bieber. The two were married in fall 2018. The public’s eye is fixed on the couple, and not all of the attention is positive. Nevertheless, Bieber is charging ahead. She became the face of Levi’s jeans months after the marriage. Hopefully, the media can focus on her work and less on the man she’s with.

Ashley Graham

Ashley Graham is one of the most popular plus-size models. Graham had a steady career throughout the 2000s, but it was a controversy in 2010 that really launched her popularity. Graham starred in a Lane Bryant commercial that was banned by ABC. Considering that it showed no more skin than the average Victoria’s Secret ad, the ban was ludicrous. Graham accused ABC of not being able to “handle bigger on TV, bigger boobs on a normal-sized woman on TV,” in the New York Post. In 2015 Graham landed a swimsuit ad in Sports Illustrated, and the following year was on the cover of the magazine’s swimsuit issue. She’s even got the ear of top fashion publications like Australia Vogue. She told them, “I love hearing from fans, I love hearing just all the incredible different types of stories, I answer my DMs, it’s important to have a dialogue about not just body diversity, but loving who you are.”

Aamito Lagum

Aamito Lagum is the next top model you should have heard of. Lagum is the winner of the first season of Africa’s Next Top Model and is one of the most successful contestants of the entire franchise. Despite her long, lanky modelesque look, Lagum never thought she’d become a model when she was younger. “In my country, people who are tall and skinny are not celebrated that much,” she told Women’s Wear Daily. “They usually like a lady to be curvy. I didn’t feel unique… I didn’t feel womanly or feminine. I didn’t feel beautiful when I was growing up.”  After her win, Lagum signed with Boss Model Management and started booking gigs. Lagum debuted officially in 2015 where she walked for brands like Marc Jacobs, H&M, and Hermes. She’s appeared in various Vogue prints around the world, such as Italy and Japan. If you’re still not convinced, we dare you to take a look at her breath-taking editorials and not fall in love.

Liu Wen

The New York Times labelled Liu Wen as China’s “first bona fide supermodel” in 2012. Whether or not that’s true might be subjective, but Wen is certainly a holder of many firsts. She’s the first Chinese model to walk the Victoria’s Secret runway, to appear on an American Vogue cover, and to make the Forbes’ highest-paid models list. Oh, and she’s the first Asian woman to be a spokesmodel for cosmetic titan Estée Lauder.   When she departed the company in 2017, the brand gave this statement: “Liu Wen was an important member of the Estée Lauder brand as a global spokesmodel for over seven years. She helped us connect with a new generation of consumers not only in her home country of China, but all around the world.” Wen told Marie Claire, “Sometimes people ask me, [why it’s me who has managed to break the boundaries] and sometimes I don’t know!” Nevertheless, Wen’s work has paved the way for more Asian models to take the spotlight.

Cara Delevingne

Some might recognize her as the Enchantress from Suicide Squad, but Cara Delevingne’s stardom flourishes on the runway. She’s considered one of the “new supers” on the site models.com for good reason. Ignoring a little cameo on Vogue Italia, Delevingne was scouted by Burberry and began her rise to fame in 2012. In just one year she’d walked for dozens of brands at all the Fashion Weeks and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which is incredibly impressive for a seasoned model, let alone a fresh one. Though she might never top those early years in terms of volume, her work remains impressive.

In 2015 Delevingne quit modelling due to stress, she told The Times. “It didn’t make me grow at all as a human being,” Delevingne explained. “And I kind of forgot how young I was. I felt so old.” She returned in 2018, though, as she walked for Burberry again, showing off her bisexual pride. She’s continued to model, albeit not as actively as before.

Adwoa Aboah

Meet Adwoa Aboah: the 2017 Model of the Year, according to models.com, and the 2018 runner-up. Aboah has roots in Ghana but was raised in England by her parents, a fashion photographer agent mother and a location scout father. Yet even with those connections, a younger Aboah would have never thought she’d one day be on the cover of Vogue. “I was unsure of myself, and lost, a young girl who had no idea who she was,” she told the magazine as she discussed her embarrassment of her natural afro as a child.  Aboah founded the Gurls Talk organization in 2017 which focuses on facilitating female-driven dialogue. She was inspired by her own struggles with mental health and drugs. Aboah told Elle, “I’ve been lucky enough to have been given a platform through modeling, so now I can use it as an activist.” Aboah is a superstar on and off the catwalk.

Lara Stone

Lara Stone helped herald what Vogue calls the “Dutch Invasion.” Stone caught the world’s attention in early 2007 when she posed on the cover of Vogue Paris. Her unusual, artistic look set her apart from others on the scene. Cathy Horyn of The New York Times declared, “She walks like Lurch and you can’t tell from her stunned expression if she’s going to burst into tears or belt you in the chops. But we love her.” W magazine would name her “Fashion’s It Girl” and declare that she had one of the most wanted faces and bodies in the business. Even her unique tooth-gap became a fashion trend! At the height of her popularity, Stone signed a contract with Calvin Klein Inc. that made her the face of three of their brands, which was incredibly rare for the company. The success was not without its struggles, though. In 2009, Stone checked herself into rehab for alcoholism. “One day I woke up and thought, I can’t live like this anymore,” she told Harper’s Bazaar. Stone helped shape the fashion world of the mid-2000s, and continues to stomp the runway with her wobbly walk.

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What The Original Supermodels Look Like Today

These days when someone says supermodel, you probably think of young beauties like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner, or even Instagram stars like Alexis Ren. But before this new crop of models, there were the original supermodels — those who walked the high fashion runways and graced magazine cover, after magazine cover. Not many models become household names, and even less have careers that span decades. But these women defied the odds. Here’s what the original supermodels look like today.

Cindy Crawford

Models come and go, but if there’s one supermodel who has made a name for herself across generations, it’s Cindy Crawford. Beginning with her breakout Vogue cover in 1986, Crawford has done it all in her decades-long career, and it doesn’t look like she’s slowing down anytime soon. These days, she owns a skincare line and serves as a mentor for her two children, who’ve taken on the world of modeling themselves. “It’s been really fun for me to see my kids get their feet wet in the fabulous world of fashion,” Crawford shared with Vanity Fair in 2017.

Linda Evangelista
Supermodel Linda Evangelista revealed to Interview that her agents told her when she first started modeling in the ’80s to expect a career span of three years. Instead, she became one of the most well-known, sought after models in history, to the point that she famously claimed she wouldn’t “get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day.” Her work includes print and runway, and she even appeared in a couple George Michael music videos. Today, she’s a working mother, finding time to serve as the vice president, creative director, and spokesperson for topical wrinkle-erasing concentrate, Erasa.

Christy Turlington

First discovered in her teen years, supermodel Christy Turlington went on to work with huge names like Vogue, Calvin Klein, and Maybelline. Despite her success, she left the modeling world in 1994 to pursue her education.She told Interview that she felt exploited during her modeling career, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been busy!

In 2003, she married actor Edward Burns, with whom she has two kids. She also started Every Mother Counts, a nonprofit that provides maternal health to women across the world. Most recently, she’s gotten back into modeling, starring in a Calvin Klein fragrance campaign with her husband, and gracing the cover of Vogue Paris in April 2017.

Naomi Campbell

While you may recognize supermodel Naomi Campbell best from that infamous 2006 cell phone throwing incident, she first made a name for herself on the runways, in music videos, and even as the first black cover model for Vogue — but it wasn’t always easy.

“When I started out, I wasn’t being booked for certain shows because of the colour of my skin,” she wrote in the Guardian. Her career has never really slowed down. She’s since served as the executive producer for the reality show The Face, made guest appearances in shows like American Horror Story and Empire, and even interviewed Vladimir Putin.

Eva Herzigova

In 1994, Wonderbra featured Eva Herzigova in an ad that’s since been called “the most iconic…of all time.” She went on to model for huge names like Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated, and walked the runways for Prada and Louis Vuitton. Most recently, she nabbed a Dior campaign and has even dabbled in philanthropy, partnering with DKMS in 2010 to “create a worldwide DNA database to help find matches for bone marrow transplants.” In 2017, Herzigova got engaged to Gregorio Marsiaj, who is the father of her three kids.

Helena Christensen

Supermodel Helena Christensen’s breakout moment is undoubtedly her sultry appearance in Chris Isaak’s 1989 “Wicked Game” music video. From there, she went on to model for CoverGirl and Victoria’s Secret. Though she walked the runway alongside the best of the best, photographer Max Vadukul claims Christensen was different. “She doesn’t like to be in the limelight all the time,” he told The Guardian, who reports that Christensen retired at 31.

She’s since had a son with The Walking Dead actor Norman Reedus and co-founded NYLON magazine. But she hasn’t given up on the fashion world completely — she’s found happiness working as a photographer. “I don’t ever once talk about stopping for lunch as a photographer,” she told My Domaine  in 2015. “But as a model I want to stop for lunch like an hour into the shoot.”

Yasmin Le Bon
Getty Images
Signed to Agency Models at age 18, Yasmin Le Bon quickly became the “highest paid model in the world.” Just a few years later at age 21, she married Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon and was destined to spend most of her life in the spotlight. It wasn’t always easy, though. In 2015, she revealed to Red that she’s a “melancholy person,” and has dealt with depression throughout her life.

However, she hasn’t let it hold her back. Today, she continues modeling (Daily Mail reported in 2016 that she modeled for Giorgio Armani) and cheers on her three daughters, two of whom have entered the fashion industry themselves.

Claudia Schiffer
Getty Images
Discovered at age 17 and chosen by Karl Lagerfeld himself to be a Chanel model, Claudia Schiffer has worked with some of the greatest in the fashion world (like Richard Avedon, Gianni Versace, and Mario Testino, just to name a few).

But in 1996, Schiffer was shocked to learn Lagerfeld no longer wanted her as the face of Chanel. Luckily, that didn’t slow her down. She continued modeling and even dabbled in some acting, appearing in films like Zoolander and Love Actually. In 2002, she married director Matthew Vaughn with whom she has three kids.

Elle Macpherson

Sure, most supermodels have bodies the rest of us would kill for. But Elle Macpherson’s was so fabulous that in 1989 TIME literally nicknamed her “The Body,” thanks in large part to her record five Sports Illustrated covers. Macpherson’s proven that her brain is just as lucrative as her famed body, leveraging her nickname into a successful brand. Today, she owns two Australia-based businesses: a lingerie collection and a wellness line.

Stephanie Seymour

An original Victoria’s Secret model, Vogue cover girl, and former girlfriend of Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose (a relationship she told Harper’s Bazaar was “clearly a mistake”), Stephanie Seymour is no stranger to the spotlight. She made waves again in 2016 when she was arrested for driving under the influence. Later that year, she went after today’s popular models, like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner, saying that they weren’t supermodels, but rather, “bitches of the moment.”

Tatjana Patitz

First discovered at the age of 17, Tatjana Patitz quickly made a name for herself in the modeling world. But even though she was one of the highly sought-after original five supermodels photographed for British Vogue in the early 90s, her name isn’t as recognizable as the other models who shared that cover — in part because she didn’t always feel like she belonged in that world.

“I always thought that wasn’t who I was; it was what I did,” she told the Guardian in 2009. However, it seems things have changed as of late. In 2017, she’s graced the covers and pages of multiple high-fashion magazines and is in the midst of a beauty contract with L’Oreal.

Janice Dickinson

Some might argue with Janice Dickinson’s legacy as a supermodel, but she claimed in 2006 that she was the first to coin the term “supermodel” so for that, she earns a place on this list. Dickinson has had a life full of ups and downs. Though she spent some time struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, Dickinson eventually recovered. Many people today recognize her as an outspoken America’s Next Top Model judge or Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew cast member. In 2016, Dickinson revealed she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “It’s still quite shocking,” she told Daily Mail. “But I am not gonna let that define me, the fear.”

 

 

A second chapter
The modeling world has seen a resurgence of the original supermodels. Whether they’re walking the runways again, or acting as the face of cosmetics brands, they’ve proven that age is nothing but a number when it comes to beauty. “There’s pressure on women to do the undoable, which is not age,” Crawford told New Beauty in 2016. “But it’s about looking great for however old you are, regardless of what that number is.”

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