The fashion industry is a dynamic one that has been evolving ever since the beginning of time. It might be hard to believe, but there was a time when the idea of modeling as a profession was considered absurd. Women like Pattie Boyd and Twiggy who modeled in the 1960s were not as influential as the present-day models. It wasn’t until the 1970s that models started having a semblance of the brand impact and influence that they currently have today. Go on a journey through history to discover who was the biggest supermodel in the most vibrant decades of fashion.
1. 1980: Brooke Shields
Brooke Shields started as a child actor who became famous for the role of a child prostitute in the 1978 movie, Pretty Baby. In 1980, she featured in an audacious Calvin Klein advertisement where she said “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” At a time, she was the youngest model to cover Vogue.
Shields was also a talented actress who starred in several movies and TV series. In 1983, she took a break to attend Princeton University where she graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Romance Languages.
2. 1981: Christie Brinkley
Cheryl Tiegs might have been the first to appear on two covers of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues, but Christie did better. She appeared on the cover in an unprecedented three consecutive times and for 25 years was the face of Cover Girl.
Just like Cheryl, she was a California girl with natural beauty who didn't really consider modeling as a career before she was discovered in 1973. Apart from modeling, she also featured in movies, TV shows, and music videos.
3. 1982: Cindy Crawford
Crawford was born in DeKalb, Illinois and started modeling while in high school. At 17, she came second in Elite Model Management 's Look of the Year contest and later decided to pursue modeling even though that meant dropping out of Northwestern University where she was studying chemical engineering.
She was an instant success as a model and graced over 500 magazine covers by 1998. She was also an iconic runway model and walked the runways for Chanel, Versace, Dior, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors among others. She was known for her big hair and unique facial mole.
4. 1983: Elle Macpherson
Nicknamed “The Body”, Macpherson's incredible figure attracted many famous magazines to her. She moved to New York from Australia in 1982 and by 1983 has already covered Elle, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire.
Elle magazine featured her in every issue for six consecutive years and she also appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue for five unprecedented times. She is also an actress, entrepreneur, television host and producer.
5. 1984: Paulina Porizkova
At 18, The Swedish-American model was the first woman from Central Europe to cover the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She was also the first woman after Christie Brinkley to appear on the cover of two consecutive issues.
By the early 1980s, she has already established herself as a top model in Europe, especially Paris. However, she didn't gain prominence in the American modeling industry until an aspiring makeup artist used her as a canvas and sent the photos to Elite Modeling Agency.
6. 1985: Carol Alt
Alt major career break came when she covered Harper's Bazaar in 1979. It wasn't however until 1982 that she attained global prominence after featuring as the cover for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
During the 1980s, she featured in almost 500 magazine covers thereby becoming one of the most famous supermodels of that era. She was referred to as “The Face” by Life Magazine and during her prime appeared in several advertisement campaigns for products such as Diet Pepsi and Givenchy.
7. 1986: Kim Alexis
Alexis attained global prominence when she replaced Lauren Hutton as the face of Revlon Ultimate II Line in 1983. She was a regular feature in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in the 1980s.
She also acted in a few TV shows and movies, most notably Holy Man where she starred along Eddie Murphy.
8. 1987: Yasmin Le Bon
This British born model was of the highest-paid during the 1980s. She started modeling while still in school and covered the first American and British issues of Elle. She also featured on the cover of other magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and Cosmopolitan.
In 1987, she became the face of Guess? This mother of three has represented prestigious fashion brands such as Banana Republic, Dior, Versace, Chanel, and Calvin Klein.
9. 1988: Karen Alexander
Alexander's story is that of persistence and never giving up in the face of rejection. The Afro-American model was rejected by several modeling agencies who gave reasons such as being un-photogenic or uncommercial enough, but she didn't give up.
The now-defunct Legend agency finally signed her and she went on to establish herself as one of the top models of the 1980s. She covered Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Glamour, etc. She represented Tiffany & Co., Chanel and Cover Girl in advertising campaigns.
10. 1989: Kathy Ireland
Ireland is one of the wealthiest models alive. She started modeling as a teenager in 1979 and peaked a decade later with The 1989 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue which she covered. To date, this issue is the most sold issue and it was named the Greatest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover of All Time at the 50th anniversary of the magazine.
She founded a Kathy Ireland World Wide, a brand marketing agency in 1993 and business was so profitable that by 2015, Forbes estimated her to be worth $420 million dollars.
11. 1990: Linda Evangelista
She started modeling in 1984 with Elite Model Management. Following the advice of photographer Peter Lindbergh, she cut her hair short in a hairstyle called the Linda. This move was successful as it inspired many women around the world to copy the haircut.
She was nicknamed the Chameleon due to her ability to seamlessly change her appearance. In 2008, she was voted as "The Greatest Supermodel of All Time" by the viewers of the television show Fashion File.
12. 1991: Christy Turlington
This model was famous for her perfectly symmetrical face and pillow lipped smile which made Grace Coddington of American Vogue magazine to describe her as "the most beautiful woman in the world.
She was one of the highest-earning models of her time and in 1991, earned $800,000 during a 12-day campaign with Maybelline. She represented Calvin Klein Eternity campaign twice in 1989 and 2014 and was a regular cover feature. She also runs a nonprofit organization called Every Mother Counts, which focuses on making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother.
13. 1992: Kate Moss
She started modeling at 14 and was considered to be anti-model. This was due to her stature which was considered to be too short and too thin when compared with previous models. Despite this, she was able to cement her status as a supermodel and a great influencer of fashion.
Her collaborations with Calvin Klein did great for her career and she played a significant role in the " heroin chic " and size zero fashion trends. She is one of the most influential models of her time and has featured in campaigns by top designers such as Chanel, Balenciaga, Burberry, Versace, Yves Saint-Laurent, Dior, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, Alexander McQueen, etc.
14. 1993: Naomi Campbell
Naomi Campbell is part of the six supermodels regarded as the Big Six in the fashion industry. Her first public appearance was in Bob Marley's video for “Is This Love”. She was seven at that time. By the time she was 16, she has covered the British version of Elle and was already gaining recognition.
She faced a lot of racial discrimination but due to support from her model friends such as Lucas Evangelista and Christy Turlington as well as design icon Yves Saint-Lauren, she was able to break these barriers. She was the first black woman to cover French Vogue and also in 1987, the first to do the same for British Vogue since 1966. She featured in few movies and also ventures into music, even releasing an album. She is an activist against racial discrimination and also involved in many charitable causes.
15. 1994: Claudia Schiffer
Schiffer rose to prominence in the early 1990s. The German beauty wanted to become a lawyer like her father but was discovered in Düsseldorf by the head of Metropolitan Model Agency who signed her as a model.
She appeared on the cover of Elle as well as Vogue and featured in advertising campaigns for Guess? Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Prada, and other designers. She has appeared on over 1000 magazine covers and holds the Guinness World Record for the model with most covers.
16. 1995: Amber Valletta
With 16 American Vogue magazine covers to her name, Amber established herself as a supermodel. She walked the runway and appeared in adverts for Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Valentino, Gucci, Versace, and Calvin Klein.
Apart from modeling, she is also an actress who featured in several movies including What Lies Beneath, Transporter 2, Man About Town, The Spy Next Door, etc. She also appeared on television shows such as Revenge and Blood & Oil.
17. 1996: Tyra Banks
Tyra Banks was the first African-American woman to be featured on the covers of GQ and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She appeared on covers of top magazines like Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and Vanity Fair. She had a very successful career both on and off the runway. In 1997, she became the first African-American model to become a Victoria’s Secrets Angel.
She was also an actress and appeared in the fourth season of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air among other movies and TV shows. She was also a producer and a television host and in 2008, won the Daytime Emmy Award for her work and production on The Tyra Banks Show. She is an entrepreneur with her cosmetic line, an author and a guest lecturer at Stanford University.
18. 1997: Helena Christensen
She started her career by winning Miss Universe Denmark in 1986 and later represented Denmark at the Miss Universe before finally moving to Paris to pursue modeling full-time. She attained fame in the 1990s after featuring in the music video for Wicked Game and appeared on the cover of Vogue, W, Elle, etc.
She has over 650 magazine covers to her name and was one of Victoria's Secrets Angels. She is also a photographer and in 1999, she was the creative director of Nylon. She is an activist for many charitable causes such as climate change and breast cancer.
19. 1998: Rebecca Romjin
While she's popular for her character in the X-Men franchise, Romjin is actually a supermodel who achieved prominence in the 1990s. She started her career in 1991 and covered Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Allure, Glamour, GQ, Esquire, and Sports Illustrated.
She has also featured in advertising campaigns for top designers in the world and walked the runways with the likes of Evangelista, Crawford, and Turnlignton. She is also an actress with popular movies such as X-Men and Star Trek: Discovery to her name.
20. 1999: Heidi Klum
As the first German woman to become Victoria's Secrets Angel, Klum has earned the right to be regarded as a supermodel. She marked the transition from '90s supermodels to '00 super career women.
She covered the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 1998 and appeared in several commercials for Volkswagen and McDonalds. A top earner in her heydays, Heidi Klum was also an actress and made occasional appearances in movies and television shows such as How I Met Your Mother, Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada, etc. She is also a television producer and author.