The Death of the Supermodel


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
15 Sunday 15th May 2011

Three of the supers, shot by Roxanne Lowit

The glory days for big name models came in when all that 1980s opulence was really taking off. Before the crunch that brought us Thatcher and heroin chic, supermodels were like gangly cliques of the coolest girls in school blown up onto an international stage. Linda Evangelista's quoted-to-death remark that a super "wouldn't get out of bed for less than $10,000" sums up their power and position pretty well.

Pop stars capitalised on the movement too, and so came the flurry of sepia-toned videos with scantily-clad supermodels making cameos. The only reason most people ever sit through the music video for 'Wicked Game' is to try catch a glimpse of Helena Christensen's nipple as she frolicks on that beach. Don't even pretend otherwise. Naomi Campbell also groped Michael Jackson pretty intensely in 'Keep It In The Closet' and George Michael tops them all by casting the Big Five (Campbell, Turlington, Crawford, Evangelista & Tatjana Patitz) for 'Freedom! '90'.

The new batch of relatively unknown models

Fast forward two decades, and we find ourselves in some kind of barren model wasteland. The androgynous near-adolescents fronting rare campaigns and lookbook shoots are worlds apart from the Amazonian 1990s goddess template. They're being pushed out by singers, actresses and so-called It Girls at a blinding pace.

Eva Mendes for CK

Eva Mendes for Calvin Klein

In the last year, half of Vogue UK's cover stars were non-model entertainers: one was actually Cheryl Cole. To compare, in 18 issues from 1994 to 1996 the only non-model who made a Vogue UK cover was Helena Bonham-Carter. Whether it's Natalie Portman as the new face of Dior fragrance, Blake Lively for Chanel or Madonna for just about everything else (D&G, Louis Vouitton, Versace) it looks like the coffin lid on the supermodel's been slammed pretty tight.

The three Brazilian angels
Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio & Gisele (L-R): Brazil's 'New Trinity''

The latest batch of Victoria's Secret angels are the closest we get to a model super-group now, and with increasing numbers of models on the scene for brief careers things look unlikely to change. Brazilian and Eastern European models who may not interview as well in English and are becoming easily replaceable just can't keep the supermodel monopoly on the industry. Naomi said it herself: "Kate Moss is obviously a supermodel but, after Gisele, I don't think there's been one." And there we have it.

Alexander Wang gang

The 2010 Alexander Wang Gang, as fronted by new alt-models Erin Wasson & Alice Dellal

Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at and we will respond asap.


  • Guest: ricky
    Tue 17 - May - 2011, 22:52
    To model aint enough.. you actually have to be a 'role' model these days. (Thumbs up)