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What is a Supermodel?

A supermodel transcends the fashion world, embodying an era's beauty ideals while influencing culture and style. They're icons, often with the power to elevate brands and causes with a single pose. Their allure isn't just physical; it's their ability to captivate and inspire. What truly sets them apart? Join us as we explore the allure of supermodels.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A supermodel is a highly elite fashion model who has attained celebrity status. As a general rule, only women become supermodels, although there are a few very high powered male models in the fashion industry. Supermodels are generally famous enough to be considered household names, with most people at least knowing that someone like Heidi Klum is a supermodel, even if they can't tell you which labels she works for.

The term “supermodel” appears to have been coined in the 1940s, but it really took off in the 1980s, when the fashion industry exploded and several women took advantage of this flourishing to become major names. Twiggy, Christie Brinkley, Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Gisele Bündchen, and Elle Macpherson are commonly considered to be supermodels, along with several other famous models.

Because of their high profiles, supermodels can command significant wages for brief periods of work.
Because of their high profiles, supermodels can command significant wages for brief periods of work.

As a general rule, a woman is considered to be a supermodel when she commands a high salary with a large number of perks, and when she has a widespread reputation in the fashion industry. Supermodels tend to work only for the top labels in the industry, and they often receive hefty endorsement contracts, thanks to their fame. Supermodels are also famous enough to be featured on magazine covers, and some may branch out into film; many also have their own lines of branded fashion products.

Many people feel that supermodels represent an unrealistic attractiveness standard.
Many people feel that supermodels represent an unrealistic attractiveness standard.

In addition to being famous, supermodels are also famously perceived as being extremely high maintenance. Many are well aware of their status and earning power, and they are not afraid to push for very high-paying contracts and schedules which suit their needs. It is also necessary to be pushy and strong to get ahead in the fashion industry, and these traits can make a supermodel seem like an extremely aggressive women.

Supermodels attain celebrity status.
Supermodels attain celebrity status.

In the 1990s, the era of the supermodel appeared to be waning. Many fashion designers were turning to unknown models to promote their clothing, out of fear that supermodels would distract viewers from their designs; the typically high pay needed to retain a supermodel may also have become an issue for some designers. Supermodels also began to vie with actresses and singers for celebrity.

Numerous criticisms of supermodels and modeling culture have been made. Many people feel that supermodels represent a highly unrealistic beauty standard, and that more natural looking models would be better role models, especially for young women. Haute couture and the fashion industry are also regularly criticized for their notorious high prices and elitism, with some people suggesting that high fashion is out of place in an egalitarian society.

Frequently Asked Questions

What defines a supermodel, and how do they differ from regular models?

A supermodel is distinguished by their widespread fame and iconic status within the fashion industry and popular culture. Unlike regular models who may work primarily within the fashion industry, supermodels transcend the runway, often becoming household names. They secure high-profile advertising campaigns, endorsements, and sometimes branch into acting or other media. Supermodels typically command higher paychecks and exert significant influence over fashion trends and the industry at large.

Who are considered the original supermodels, and what impact did they have on the fashion industry?

The original supermodels, a term popularized in the 1990s, include names like Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, and Claudia Schiffer. These women revolutionized the fashion industry by becoming recognizable figures across the globe, elevating the status of models to that of celebrities. They were instrumental in creating the era of the 'model as a brand', leading to today's influencer culture. Their impact is still felt in the industry's marketing strategies and the continued importance of model-led branding.

How has the concept of a supermodel evolved with the advent of social media?

With the rise of social media, the concept of a supermodel has evolved to include a strong online presence and influence. Models like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, often referred to as 'Instagirls', have leveraged platforms like Instagram to build their personal brands and engage directly with fans. This shift has democratized the industry to some extent, allowing models to cultivate their own followings and secure deals based on their social media reach as well as their traditional modeling work.

What role do supermodels play in shaping beauty standards and body image perceptions?

Supermodels play a significant role in shaping beauty standards and body image perceptions due to their high visibility and influence. They often set trends in fashion and beauty, which can impact public perceptions of what is considered attractive or desirable. However, this influence has also led to criticism regarding the promotion of unrealistic and unhealthy body images. In response, there has been a growing movement within the industry to embrace more diverse and inclusive representations of beauty.

Can supermodels have a lasting impact on cultural movements or societal issues?

Yes, supermodels can have a lasting impact on cultural movements and societal issues. Many use their platforms to advocate for causes such as environmental sustainability, human rights, and body positivity. For instance, supermodel Gisele Bündchen has been recognized for her environmental activism, while Ashley Graham has become an icon in the body positivity movement. Their influence can help raise awareness and drive conversations, leading to greater visibility for important issues and sometimes even policy changes.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon934316

Please, Janice Dickinson looks like a wax dummy - the real supermodels have come and gone: Kate, Naomi, Linda, Christy, Elle, Cindy, Giselle, Adriana - now we have the likes of Cara Delavigne. However, the supermodels of the 80s and 90s can still hold their own and have proved their longevity.

breakofday

What would Janice Dickinson have to say about not being included on the short list of supermodels here?!

Let's see, the average model dress size is usually never larger than a 4, with many actually wearing a size 0! We won't argue with the whole "size 0 should just be a flat sheet of fabric" scenario though. The average woman wears a size 12 or 14...so yeah I'd say that qualifies as unrealistic.

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    • Because of their high profiles, supermodels can command significant wages for brief periods of work.
      By: konradbak
      Because of their high profiles, supermodels can command significant wages for brief periods of work.
    • Many people feel that supermodels represent an unrealistic attractiveness standard.
      By: microworks
      Many people feel that supermodels represent an unrealistic attractiveness standard.
    • Supermodels attain celebrity status.
      By: .shock
      Supermodels attain celebrity status.