Before the 80s and 90s, the biggest name in the modeling world had been Twiggy and models were neither high earners nor "Super." They were in fact glorified coat hangers. The 80s saw the rise of the Supermodel with Carol Alt, Kim Alexis and Paulina Porizkova, but the 90s saw Supermodels explode onto the scene, becoming celebrities in their own right, referred to simply by their first names.
"I see your picture everywhere . . . . a millionaire dollar derriere . . . . Supermodel"
– 1992, Supermodel (You Better Work), Ru Paul > see video
Welcome the Supermodel fashion fad of the 90’s (and yes they did warrant a capital “S”). Although the term was used in print from the 1940s and officially coined in the 80’s with America’s Next Top Model judge Janice Dickinson regularly claiming to have been the original Supermodel, the 1990’s saw the fashion cattle market flooded with curvy divas who commanded mammoth fees and became more like celebrities than fashion models, each with an actor or rock star on their arm (Cindy had Richard Greer, Paulina had (and still has Ric Ocasek, lead singer of The Cars)).
Supermodels were now heard as well as seen with quotes such as Linda Evangelista’s “we won’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day,” causing magazine editors to rub their hands in glee as Supermodel after Supermodel began to grace the front pages of the glossies. Not bad work if you can get it. Supermodels were seen as more interesting and glamorous than celebrities and the top six Supermodels were in high demand. These were the curvy Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and the not-as-curvy but curvier than she is now Kate Moss. Just behind the big six were the just as gorgeous but slightly less famous Nadja Auermann and Helena Christianson (of the very sexy Wicked Game video). There were even a few male Supermodels, most notably Marcus Schenkenberg.
So how did the average 1990’s man and woman relate to the Supermodels? Well, for the men it was a no-brainer. Posters on walls, numerous copies of Sports Illustrated and the odd fantasy that one of them would give up on aging rockers and decide to go for a quite affable accountant from Birmingham instead. For the women? Well none of us really looked even remotely like a Supermodel (my own 5 ft 1 inch frame was about as far as you could get) but we all appreciated the new nineties fashion they brought about of curves, hips and boobs instead of being skinny twig like creatures. Oh yes and we all had at least one of the Supermodel’s exercise videos (yep – good old VHS not super duper Blu-Ray THX surround sound DVDs). And, who can forget watching "Style with Elsa Clinch" on CNN.
Eventually the era of the Supermodel waned and models once more became less ubiquitous with a few names flashing briefly into the limelight before disappearing again. The term Supermodel is now used less with the most famous models now being termed as Top Models instead.
Slideshow of of Linda Evangelista.
See the many looks (& hairdos) of this fashion icon chameleon.