- The term “supermodel” was coined in the ’80s to describe the newest generation of models that had taken over the world.
- Supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford reigned supreme until the 2000s.
- It’s been decades since these famous faces first entered our lives but, spoiler alert, they still look great today.
For the last two decades of the 20th century, a group of women essentially controlled the fashion industry. Their presence could make or break a runway show, and their exploits plastered covers of tabloids, from their relationships to their all-night parties.
From Cindy Crawford to Tyra Banks, these 13 women were inescapable for the better part of the ’80s and ’90s – and we loved them for it.
To celebrate Cindy Crawford’s 54th birthday, here is a look back at the 13 biggest supermodels of the ’80s and ’90s at the height of their fame, and what they’re up to today.
In 1996, Tyra Banks became the first black woman to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.
Banks began modelling as a teen in the late ’80s. In her first season at Paris Fashion Week, she walked a record 25 shows, and was even christened the “new Naomi Campbell.”
Her modelling career hit a high when she appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue back-to-back in 1996 and 1997.
Today, Banks is best known for her role as the host and head judge of “America’s Next Top Model.”
Banks, 46, has come a long way since she first appeared on the scene. In 2003, “America’s Next Top Model” premiered, giving us an endless supply of iconic quotes, GIFs, and memes. The show wrapped up its 24th season in April 2018.
The media mogul came out of retirement and reclaimed the coveted spot of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover model in 2019 to the delight of many fans online.
Claudia Schiffer was discovered at a nightclub in the late ’80s.
Schiffer was convinced by a modelling scout in 1987 to try modelling (clearly it worked out). She became the face of Chanel and Guess, and appeared on numerous magazine covers. In fact, Schiffer holds the Guinness world record for model with the most magazine covers. She’s appeared on more than 1,000.
Since then, Schiffer has partnered with numerous brands and has had three children.
Schiffer, now 49, might best be known to younger people as the model who frequently gets name-dropped in “Love Actually,” only to appear at the very end of the film.
She married her husband, British producer/writer/director Matthew Vaughn, in 2002. They have three children.
Christy Turlington has been called the “greatest model of all time.”
Turlington is best known for her collaboration with cosmetics brand Maybelline, which began in 1992.
She was first discovered at the age of 14, but her big break wasn’t until four years later, at 18, when she appeared in the music video for Duran Duran’s “Notorious” and on the cover of Vogue. She also signed a seven-figure contract with Calvin Klein at 20 years old in 1989, and worked with them until 2007.
Famed casting agent James Scully told The Cut in 2008 that Turlington is “the greatest model of all time,” and “the biggest crush [he’d] ever had on a girl.”
Turlington is now focused on her nonprofit, Every Mother Counts, which she founded in 2010.
The 51-year-old has pivoted away from modelling to focus more on her behind-the-scenes work. After experiencing difficulties with the birth of her daughter in 2003, Turlington attended the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and earned her Masters in Public Health.
Turlington is married to actor Edward Burns, and they have two kids.
Naomi Campbell was one of five original models to earn the title “supermodel.”
Campbell broke down barriers with her extreme success in the modelling industry – she was the first black model to appear on the cover of TIME magazine, French Vogue and Russian Vogue, and the first black British model to appear on the cover of British Vogue.
Campbell continues to dominate the runway and work with designers like Valentino during Paris Fashion Week.
We’d be remiss to talk about Naomi Campbell without mentioning the infamous cell phone throwing incident of 2007, for which she pleaded guilty to reckless assault.
But Campbell, 49, has bounced back. She’s apparently ageless – she essentially looks the same as she did 20 years ago – and continues to model. Campbell closed out the 2019 Valentino show after a 14-year hiatus from working with the designer.
Linda Evangelista was scouted after she entered a modelling contest as a teenager.
After the contest, she was signed by one of the biggest modelling agencies in the world, Elite Model Management, in 1981. Within three years, she had graced the cover of Vogue, married a photographer, and sparked a new hairstyle trend with her signature cropped look.
Clearly, Evangelista knew her worth – she once infamously told Vogue that she “[doesn’t] get out of bed for less than $US10,000 a day.”
Still as stunning as ever, Evangelista continues to model and is the creative director and vice president of Erasa, a skincare brand.
Evangelista, 54, is still revered as one of the greatest models of all time by those within the industry, and has been called “the supermodel’s supermodel.”
In addition to modelling, she has gotten involved with Erasa, an anti-ageing skin care brand.
In October 2006, Evangelista gave birth to her son, making headlines around the world for refusing to name the father publicly. Five years later, in 2011, she identified the child’s father for the first time – François-Henri Pinault, who’d married Salma Hayek in 2009.
Kate Moss ushered in a new era of supermodels in the mid-1990s.
The controversial term “heroin chic” can be traced back to Moss, who was discovered when she was just 14 years old. Moss quickly became a fashion It Girl, and signed a deal with Calvin Klein in 1992. She’s been accused of promoting anorexia, due to her waif-ish frame and contentious quotes like “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
Moss was a tabloid fixture throughout the decade and beyond due to her public relationships with Johnny Depp and British musician Pete Doherty.
Moss is still very well respected in the fashion industry and around the world.
The 46-year-old is still modelling, but has also branched out into the production side of fashion. Moss had a long-standing collaborative relationship with British retailer Topshop, designed a line of bags for Longchamp, and has lent her name to multiple perfumes.
In her (rare) spare time, she’s also a contributing fashion editor for British Vogue, alongside Naomi Campbell.
Moss has one daughter, Lila, who was born in 2002 and is also following in her mother’s model footsteps.
Cindy Crawford was the valedictorian of her high school before pursuing a modelling career.
Crawford’s signature beauty mark was originally perceived as a flaw, but it has since become part of her look – it was part of what differentiated her when she landed a Vogue cover in 1986.
Crawford dropped out of college to pursue modelling full-time. She was the “first modern fashion model” to pose nude for Playboy in 1988, and signed a multi-million dollar contract with cosmetics company Revlon the next year.
She also hosted “House of Style” from 1989 to 1997.
Crawford began stepping away from modelling recently and passed the torch to her daughter, Kaia Gerber.
Crawford has suggested she is retiring from modelling in recent years, after over three decades in the business. She married businessman Rande Gerber in 1998, and they had two children, Presley and Kaia, in 1999 and 2001, respectively.
Kaia is a dead ringer for her mother, and is well on her way to becoming a modelling juggernaut herself.
Christie Brinkley has been famous since the ’70s.
Brinkley first rose to prominence in the ’70s, when she booked multiple Sports Illustrated covers – she was on the cover of the Swimsuit issue for three years in a row from 1979 t0 1981 – and according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, she “represented a new generation of celebrity models who were photographed more often in sportswear than in couture fashions.”
She signed a contract with Cover Girl in 1976, and remained with the cosmetics brand until the mid-1990s.
Brinkley was on the Swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated again in 2017.
Elle Macpherson has been on the cover of the Swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated a record five times.
She originally began modelling in order to pay for law school, but clearly modelling was more lucrative. TIME magazine nicknamed her “The Body,” which she has embraced.
Macpherson has dabbled in acting, designing, and wellness.
Macpherson, 55, used her nickname “The Body” and branded much of what she’s involved with using it. She has a women’s apparel and intimates line called Elle Macpherson Body and has done a set of workout videos called “Elle Macpherson – The Body.”
Throughout the years, she’s also appeared on “Friends,” starred in “Batman & Robin,” and hosted “Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model.”
Kathy Ireland was discovered when she was 16, and within four years she was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Ireland was discovered at 16 during finishing school, and by 20, she was in Sports Illustrated. When she made it to the cover in 1989, it became the best-selling issue of all time, and was eventually named the best cover.
“We joke that there’s still the Kathy Ireland standard,” says MJ Day, senior editor of SI’s Swimsuit issue. “She’s kind of the complete package.”
Now, she’s the richest model in the world thanks to her $US2 billion retail empire.
Ireland, 56, began pivoting away from modelling in the ’90s when she founded Kathy Ireland Worldwide in 1993. What began as a sock line at Kmart has evolved into “apparel, area rugs, wedding dresses, ceiling fans, carpeting, wigs, futons, jewellery, and office furniture” sold around the world. Her brand is estimated to be worth $US2 billion.
She’s also starred in multiple fitness videos, written books, and has three children with her husband Greg Olsen.
Heidi Klum began modelling in 1993 after winning a contest.
Klum won a contest in her home country of Germany, the prize of which was a $US300,000 contract with New York City’s Metropolitan Models. She shortly moved to the States and began her career.
Her career hit a new high when she appeared on the 1998 cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue. That same year Klum entered into of her most important professional relationships – she was one of the first group of Victoria’s Secret Angels.
In 2002, she was named the Head Angel, and appeared in the show for years.
Klum is now best-known as the longtime host of “Project Runway.”
The 46-year-old is an indisputable A-lister. Starting in 2004, she began hosting “Project Runway,” which earned her an Emmy in 2013. She did not return for season 17, and it remains to be seen how the show will fare without her or mentor Tim Gunn. Instead, the duo will head up a new show on Amazon Prime Video called “Making the Cut.”
Klum has four children, three with her ex-husband Seal, and one from a prior relationship that Seal later adopted.
Rounding out the Magnificent Seven is Helena Christensen.
Christensen is the final model in the Magnificent Seven, a group of supermodels of the ’90s. The group’s name was coined by New York Times’ Frank DeCaro, and includes Christensen, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and Elle Macpherson.
She’s been on over 600 magazine covers, was an original Victoria’s Secret Angel, and famously appeared on a Times Square billboard completely nude, save for a “strategically placed banana leaf.”
Christensen still models.
Christensen, 51, has been on various magazine covers over the past few years, including Italian Vogue and French Elle.
She also gets behind the camera frequently – she’s released multiple photography series. “I’ve been taking photographs longer than I’ve been modelling,” Christensen told Vogue.
The model has one son, Mingus, with former boyfriend Norman Reedus.
Brooke Shields began modelling as a baby.
Shields started modelling when she was still a child. By 11 months old, she had been in her first ad for Ivory Soap.
Throughout her childhood, Shields appeared in controversial advertisements for Calvin Klein, considered by some to be provocative. The ads were instrumental in Calvin Klein becoming a premiere fashion line.
Throughout the ’80s, Shields appeared on the covers of multiple magazines because she embodied ‘The ’80s Look,” according to TIME.
Shields is more focused on acting now.
The 54-year-old has appeared on multiple iconic TV shows throughout the years, including “Friends,” “Suddenly Susan,” “Jane the Virgin,” and others.
Shields is also an outspoken advocate for women with postpartum depression – her openness about her usage of antidepressants sparked a feud with noted Scientologist Tom Cruise (the religion condemns pharmaceuticals of any kind).
She has two daughters with her husband Chris Henchy.
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