- Regardless of how they started, the world’s most famous supermodels have all been working hard from a young age to make it to the runway.
- Gigi Hadid began modelling for Baby Guess at the age of 2, while Candice Swanepoel was discovered at a flea market in her hometown and dropped out of school to pursue a career in modelling.
- Imaan Hammam made her runway debut for the Givenchy show when she was only 16 years old.
- Photos of the world’s most famous models walking their first runways show just how far they have come.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The fashion industry has a reputation for being cutthroat, but a select number of models are able to make it to the top.
With September’s New York Fashion Week getting the green light from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, models will soon head to the Big Apple to make their debuts, each no doubt hoping this is their moment to break through. Fashion Week is a place every supermodel once found themselves, from Karlie Kloss to Naomi Campbell, before the world knew their face.
Insider took a look back at the first runway shows of some of the biggest names in the modelling world to see just how far they have come.
In 1985, a 20-year-old Linda Evangelista was not the internationally known supermodel she is today.
At age 15, Evangelista was discovered by a scout and encouraged to move from her native Canada to New York City. After making the move, she signed with Elite Model Management, which sent her to Paris. In 1985, she walked the runway (pictured) wearing French designer Sonia Rykiel’s 1986 spring-summer collection.
She appeared on the cover of the French edition of Vogue in 1987 before chopping off her hair into a short pixie cut – setting her apart from other models of the time.
After becoming the face of Versace and Revlon, Evangelista joined the exclusive list of “supermodels” in the ’90s, alongside icons such as Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford. And Evangelista knew her worth – she once famously told Vogue she “[doesn’t] get out of bed for less than $US10,000 a day.”
Now Evangelista only makes rare runway appearances, like this Dior couture show in 2008.
Evangelista, 55, is now creative director and vice president of Erasa, an anti-ageing skin care brand.
She is still considered one of the greatest models of all time by the industry, and has been called “the supermodel’s supermodel.”
Heidi Klum walked her first Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 1997, several years after winning a modelling contest.
Klum began modelling in 1993 after winning a contest in her home country of Germany. The prize was a $US300,000 contract with New York City’s Metropolitan Models.
In 1997, she was one of the first group of Victoria’s Secret Angels (pictured) and appeared in the first of many shows to come. In 2002, she was named the Head Angel.
Klum went on to host “Project Runway” for 16 seasons and is now back with a new fashion show.
Klum left Victoria’s Secret in 2010 – but she’s been busy.
She started hosting “Project Runway” in 2004 and earned an Emmy in 2013. She’s pictured in 2017 at the Project Runway fashion show during New York Fashion Week.
Klum announced she’d be leaving the show in 2018, but promised to return with a new project.
Klum kept her promise, and has once again joined forces with Tim Gunn to find the next big designer in Amazon’s “Making the Cut.”
Naomi Campbell rose to fame after strutting the runway in 1987 for Yves Saint Laurent.
When another girl dropped out to model for “Elle,” a 16-year-old Naomi Campbell stepped in. A year later, Campbell walked in Yves Saint Laurent’s 1987 autumn-winter show, her first runway show as a model. Yves Saint Laurent was known to be a friend and mentor to the model, and even advocated for more black models to be featured on magazine covers, threatening to withdraw his advertising if he did not see any change.
Now 50 years old, Naomi Campbell continues to model, defying the notion that a model’s career has to end in their 20s.
Three decades into her modelling career and showing no signs of stopping, Campbell is proving a model’s career can continue well into her 40s, as she just recently posed in a Versace campaign. She is pictured walking during Paris Fashion Week last year.
She also modelled for a Calvin Klein campaign for the first time this past summer and is involved in Heidi Klum’s new show, “Making the Cut.”
In whatever spare time she has, Campbell continues to post on her YouTube channel and keeps up with her 9.5 millionInstagram followers.
Gisele Bündchen made a splash at an Alexander McQueen show in London in 1997.
The Brazilian model, who had been scouted at a fast-food restaurant, got her big break at the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 1998 show in 1997.
Just three years later, Bündchen – named “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” by Rolling Stone magazine – signed a $US25 million deal with Victoria’s Secret.
Bündchen was the highest-earning supermodel for 15 years, but now focuses her attention on the environment and charity work.
Between 2002 and 2017, Bündchen was the top-earning supermodel in the world. In 2007, she parted ways with Victoria’s Secret because she felt “less and less at ease” being photographed wearing just a bikini on the catwalk.
Today she’s still modelling, but she’s also an outspoken environmentalist and has served as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program.
Adriana Lima is pictured walking the runway in Sao Paulo in 2000 — the year she became a Victoria’s Angel.
Lima was just 15 when she won Ford’s “Supermodel of Brazil” competition. She later moved to New York City, where she signed with Elite Model Management.
She first modelled for Victoria’s Secret in a white bodysuit with a ruffled polka-dot trim in 1999 and officially became an Angel the following year.
While no longer modelling for Victoria’s Secret, Lima continues to walk other runways, like this Maybelline show during Berlin’s Fashion Week in 2019.
After nearly two decades with the company, she walked her last Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 2018. She was photographed looking tearful on the runway when the show was filmed in New York City.
Victoria’s Secret was just one of Lima’s lucrative partnerships. She’s also had contracts with Marc Jacobs and Desigual, among others, and has appeared in Super Bowl ads for companies including Kia. Forbes named her the second highest-earning model in the world in 2015.
Today the 39-year-old supermodel continues to model for brands including Maybelline New York, Puma, and watch company Chopard.
Miranda Kerr, pictured at Australian Fashion Week in 2004, also rose to prominence after becoming a Victoria’s Secret Angel.
Kerr, who was born in Sydney, started modelling when she was 13 – her first success was winning a competition held by Dolly magazine.
She moved to New York City when she was 21 and scored covers of Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and Australian Vogue. But her breakthrough was when she signed an exclusive contract with Maybelline New York, according to the Business of Fashion.
She replaced Gisele Bündchen as a Victoria’s Secret Angel in 2007, becoming the first ever Australian to join the coveted group.
Miranda Kerr, pictured in 2017, now owns her own skincare business.
Her modelling career has continued to flourish: She walked for brands including Prada and Balenciaga, and shot multiple covers for Vogue international editions. Off the runway, she’s working on creative projects, like her skincare range, Kora Organics, which she launched in 2006.
Kerr now has three children and is married to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel.
Tyra Banks worked tirelessly to get her name out there, and in 1992, she dropped out of school to grace 25 different runways during Paris Fashion Week.
Tyra Banks’ mother was a photographer, which helped jump-start Banks’ career at 15, when her mother took a couple of photos to put together a portfolio.
Banks had trouble signing with an agency, but in 1990 she signed with Elite Model Management.
Just two years later, a French modelling scout offered Banks the opportunity to come to Paris and walk in 25 shows. Welcoming this opportunity, Banks left Loyola Marymount University, walked every show, landed a cover of the Spanish edition of “Vogue,” and was labelled the “new Naomi Campbell.”
Today Banks is best known for her work on “America’s Next Top Model.”
Now most of us know Banks as the host and executive producer of “America’s Next Top Model,” which she worked on from 2003-2015, and then picked back up again in 2017.
She also hosted “The Tyra Banks Show” from 2005-2010, and won two Emmy Awards during that time.
More recently, in 2015, she launched a website to sell her makeup collection, Tyra Beauty.She went on to be a guest lecturer at Stanford University during the 2017 school year, teaching a course in personal branding. After teaching, she went on to host “America’s Got Talent” from 2017-2018.
Karlie Kloss, then a teenager, walked dozens of shows at New York Fashion Week in 2008.
Kloss, who was born in Chicago and grew up in St. Louis, moved to New York City as a teenager, and at New York Fashion Week in 2008, appeared in dozens of shows, including for Marc Jacobs and Carolina Herrera.
Named a Victoria’s Secret Angel between 2013 and 2015, there’s not a cover or catwalk Kloss hasn’t been on – and in 2018, she was the second highest earning model, according to Forbes.
Today, modelling is far from the only string to her bow.
Now 28, Kloss founded “Kode with Klossy,” a free coding camp for teenage girls to learn computer science skills. She also vlogs on her YouTube channel, Klossy, and last year, she took over Heidi Klum as the host of “Project Runway.” In turn, she’s parlayed her online popularity into lucrative advertising deals with companies such as Adidias and Estee Lauder.
Andreja Pejic walked both the men’s and women’s show for Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris in 2011.
Born in Bosnia and Herzegovina and raised in Australia, Andreja Pejić was discovered while working at McDonald’s as a teenager. Assigned a male gender at birth, Pejic was initially famous for her androgynous look, appearing on runways and magazines – including Paris Vogue – in womenswear and bridal wear.
In 2014, she announced that she had gender reassignment surgery and identified as a woman.
Pejic, pictured in 2019, continues to break down barriers as a model.
Pejic, now 28, became the first trans model to book a major cosmetic campaign when she modelled for Make Up Forever in 2015, and was also the first trans model to be profiled by Vogue. Last year, she signed a deal with Bond underwear to front the campaign for its latest line. She’s also taken up acting, including a role in 2018’s “The Girl in the Spider Web.”
After making her runway debut at London Fashion Week in 2011, Cara Delevingne was considered the hottest model to come out of Britain since Kate Moss.
When she was just a child, Delevingne got her start modelling in Cadbury chocolate commercials, and even appeared in Italian Vogue when she was 10. But she really made a name for herself when she scored campaigns for Burberry and H&M in 2011.
She walked for Burberry at London Fashion Week in 2011, and the following year, British Vogue dubbed her the “star face” of the season.
Within the next few years, she was pictured on the covers of Vogue in seven countries, and was named Model of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 2012 and 2014.
Still modelling today, Delevingne has a string of movie credits under her belt, too.
Delevingne, pictured walking for Chanel at Paris Fashion Week in March 2019, has had roles in movies including “Paper Towns,” “Pan,” “Suicide Squad,” and “Anna Karenina.”
She is also raising awareness about climate change with her #MyEcoResolution campaign.
Kendall Jenner was already a household name when she walked her first show in 2011, age 15.
Jenner, who had been on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” since she was 11, was just 14 when she signed with Wilhelmina Models in 2010. The following year, at New York Fashion Week, she modelled pieces from the Sherri Hill Spring 2012 Collection.
“I will never forget that day … because I knew then that modelling was what I wanted to do with my life,” she later said.
In 2016, she made the cover of Vogue.
Jenner, pictured in 2019, is now one of the most in-demand models in the world.
In 2018, she was the highest-paid model in the world, according to Forbes. She banked $US22.5 million between June 2017 and June 2018, according to the ranking. Her fashion off the red carpet also regularly makes headlines, and the Business of Fashion says the 24-year-old is one of the key people shaping the fashion industry.
Ashley Graham, pictured walking the runway in 2016, is both a supermodel and a role model.
Graham has been modelling since she was 13, when she was scouted in a mall in Lincoln, Nebraska. At 17, she graduated from high school and moved to New York City to focus on her modelling career.
She appeared in magazines including Vogue, Glamour, and Harper’s Bazaar, and worked as a commercial model for brands including Macy’s, Target, and Nordstrom.
In 2016, she made headlines as the first plus-size model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue.
Throughout her career, she has walked for designers including Michael Kors, Dolce and Gabbana, Christian Siriano, and H&M. During NYFW in 2015, Graham (pictured) wore her lingerie designs for Addition Elle.
Graham, pictured during New York Fashion Week in 2018, continues to work as a model and a designer.
Today she continues to be a body-positive icon, refusing to allow photographers to Photoshop her.
Earlier this year, she revealed a range of plus-size wedding dresses she designed in partnership with bridal brand Pronovias. She also hosts the reality TV show, “American Beauty Star.”
Twiggy rose to fame after a fashion photographer saw an image of her iconic short haircut in 1966.
Lesley Hornby was known as Twiggy in the fashion world due to her slim figure and androgynous look. After a fashion photographer spotted the 16-year-old’s photo hanging on a salon wall, Twiggy was interviewed and deemed “The Face of ’66,” and voted British Woman of the Year. From there, Twiggy went on to model for a variety of magazines at a young age.
Her image grew to eventually define the fashion industry for most of the late 20th century, as she launched her career at a unique time when hemlines were getting shorter and women began embracing unisex fashion.
It is believed that one of Twiggy’s first appearances on the runway was in 1967 in Osaka, Japan (pictured).
More recently, Twiggy has designed a fashion line inspired by her style and even recorded an album.
Twiggy, now 70, has cycled through a variety of different careers, including Broadway shows and fashion design. In 2017, she designed a fashion line for Marks and Spencer, featuring iconic “Twiggy-style” dresses and skirts. She has also gone on to record an album called “Romantically Yours.”
In 2019, Twiggy was officially named a dame for “her services to fashion, the arts, and charity.”
Chanel Iman turned heads when she walked her first runway in 2007 at New York Fashion Week.
At 16 years old, Iman flew to New York and won third place in Ford’s Supermodel of the World contest, effectively launching her modelling career. A year later, Iman returned to New York to make her runway debut during New York Fashion Week, walking for big names such as Proenza Schouler and Badgley Mischka.
Iman’s mother is Korean African American and her father is African American, making Iman a unique addition to the modelling world.
While Iman has begun to settle down with her new family, she still continues to strut the runway and appear in music videos.
Chanel Iman, now 29, became a Victoria’s Secret Angel in 2010, has grazed the covers of Vogue, and worked Ralph Lauren campaigns for over 10 years.
More recently, Iman has dabbled in TV, movies, and music, guest judging an episode of “America’s Next Top Model” and landing a role in “Dope.” She also appeared alongside Beyonce for her music video “Yonce” and the Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel my Face.”
In 2003, Candice Swanepoel was scouted at a flea market in South Africa, and three years later she walked her first runway show for Tommy Hilfiger.
At only 15 years old, Swanepoel was scouted at the Durban flea market in South Africa, where she is originally from. At the time, she was practicing ballet and attending a boarding school with no intention of becoming a model.
Three years later, in 2006, Swanepoel walked her first runway for Tommy Hilfinger. A year later, she signed a contract with Victoria’s Secret. She walked the runway for the lingerie brand countless times and promoted the brand through their campaigns and advertisements. Swanepoel was also the first South African model to join the VS team.
Today Swanepoel continues to model for high-fashion brands while also working on her own luxury swimwear line.
While continuing to work for Victoria’s Secret, Swanepoel also went on to pursue more high fashion jobs. She appeared on the cover of Italian Vogue, cementing herself as one of the top models of the time.
Imaan Hammam opened the Givenchy show at only 16 years old.
When she was 13, Imaan Hammam was discovered at the Amsterdam Central Station, close to where she grew up. Shortly after being discovered, she signed with multiple agencies and launched her career. She made her runway debut at the Givenchy Spring/Summer 2014 show, where she had the honour of opening the show at only 16 years old.
Hammam, a role model for other aspiring models of Arab descent, graces the covers of Vogue all over the world.
After her debut on the runway, Hammam was featured in eight different issues of Vogue, and was even mentioned by Anna Wintour in her editor’s note in American Vogue.
In 2016, Hammam beat out Bella Hadid to win Couturesque Magazine’s Model of the Year competition. She also has worked on campaigns with Céline, Coach, and retailers including TopShop and H&M.
In 2007, aged 22, Lily Aldridge walked her first runway during New York Fashion Week.
Lily Aldridge began modelling at 16 years old after she landed a job working for Abercrombie and Fitch. Her entire family was involved in arts and fashion – her father a famous artist known to design album covers for the Rolling Stones and her mother a playmate with Playboy in 1976.
After working for a variety of designers and clothing companies, Aldridge made her runway debut at the age of 22 for Yigal Azrouel’s Fall 2007 show during New York Fashion Week. Aldridge was still so unknown that the caption of her photo read “a model walks the runway” and had no mention of her name.
Aldridge retired from Victoria’s Secret in 2018 and has now moved away from the runway, focusing on her family and her new perfume line.
Aldridge, pictured in 2018, eventually began working with Victoria’s Secret and was crowned an Angel in 2010. She worked with the brand from 2010 until 2018, when she announced her retirement. Between modelling for Victoria’s Secret, Aldridge also worked on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
While Gigi Hadid started modelling when she was 2, she didn’t walk the runway until she was 18.
Gigi Hadid, the daughter of model Yolanda Hadid and real estate developer Mohamed Hadid, began her modelling career at just 2 years old, working for Baby Guess. Besides her baby modelling, Hadid lead a fairly normal childhood, although modelling was always in the back of her mind.
After graduating high school, Hadid moved to New York City in 2013 to attend the New School and sign with IMG Models.
One year later, Hadid suspended her studies completely and walked in the Desigual fashion show during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2014 season.
Now one of the world’s biggest supermodels, Hadid walked in Paris Fashion Week and is expecting her first child soon.
After leaving the New School and committing to modelling, Hadid’s career blew up. Hadid and her younger sister Bella starred in Fendi and Moschino campaigns, and Hadid even partnered with Tommy Hilfiger to create the Tommy Hilfiger and Gigi Hadid ready-to-wear collection.
Hadid proved herself to be professional and an expert runway walker during Spring New York Fashion Week 2019, when her heel broke and she had to walk barefoot. Hadid recently strutted down the runway at Paris Fashion Week in early 2020.
Hadid is expecting her first child with her boyfriend, Zayn Malik.
Her sister, Bella Hadid, followed in her footsteps, also landing her first runway show at 18 years old.
A year after her sister Gigi signed to IMG, Bella signed in 2014. She also followed her sister to New York, starting school at Parsons School of Design in fall 2014, aiming to study photography. Hadid also walked her first runway show for Desigual and left school to pursue a full-time career in modelling.
Her decision to leave school proved to be worth it when just two years after signing, she was voted “Model of the Year” by Models.com.
Bella Hadid continues to model during fashion weeks across the world. She is pictured walking the runway in Paris earlier this year.
Bella Hadid is constantly photographed for magazine covers and walks in Fashion Weeks all around the world, including Paris and Australia, and she even found time to star in Tyler Ford’s film,“Private.”
Hadid is known for experimenting with street style and rocking unconventional trends, and she started 2020 no differently. She strutted down the runways at Paris Fashion Week, walking for designers such as Off-White, Jacquemus, Balenciaga, and Versace.
At only 19, Joan Smalls launched her modelling career after representing Tory Burch on the runway in 2007.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Joan Smalls signed with Elite Model Management in New York at only 19 years old.
Later that year, Joan Smalls would make her first high fashion runway debut for Tory Burch. Prior to walking the runway, Smalls was mostly modelling in catalogues for department stores including Nordstrom.
Today Smalls continues to work runway shows as well as design clothing and makeup lines.
Smalls transferred to IMG in 2009 and was cast to model for Givenchy. Givenchy solidified Smalls’ name in the fashion world, and by 2010 she was working with Victoria’s Secret and on international editions of Vogue.
In 2015, Smalls began to get involved with designing clothing lines. First, she created a denim collection for True Religion. After jeans, she designed a swimwear line called “Smart & Sexy” in partnership with Ariela & Associates. Moving towards makeup, Smalls worked with Estée Lauder to create 12 unique shades of lipstick.
- Read more:
- 35 photos that show how models have changed over the years
- 10 models who are breaking barriers in the fashion industry
- 28 photos show the unglamorous side of New York Fashion Week
- Here’s what it takes to plan a New York Fashion Week show in 5 days, from creating the runway soundtrack to casting models and testing hairstyles
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