“As a model you used to have to work to become famous. Now you have to be famous to get work.” Sasha, our beloved editor over here at All My Friends are Models, spent hours in her apartment marinating over this quote said to her by her friend Abbey Lee Kershaw. Still rustling with her own feelings on the quote, she came to me and asked me what I thought. It was quite revolutionary to me, and really got me thinking about the contemporary state of modeling. I remember as I was educating myself on fashion history I looked back at magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and saw the likes of Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista gracing the covers and advertisements. Those were women who started at the bottom and worked their way up to supermodel status becoming some of the most highly paid and coveted models in the world.
If I had a nickel for every time I have recently heard that the era of the supermodel was over I could probably retire tomorrow, but, when I take a look at the state of modeling nowadays I have to ask myself, “Where are the supermodels?” Don’t get me wrong, there is an incredibly talented and stunningly beautiful new generation of models out there that I truly admire, including Cara Delevingne, Gigi Hadid, and Kendall Jenner, but, they fit that mold of Abbey’s quote that now you have to be famous to get work.
Kendall Jenner who has walked the runways from everyone to Diane von Furstenburg to Chanel at this point is the daughter of iconic Olympian Athlete Bruce Jenner, Gigi Hadid became a name among fans of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and Cara Delevingne is the goddaughter of Golden-Globe winning actress Joan Collins and Condé Nast Executive Nicholas Coleridge. When you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth it’s not too much of a challenge to rise to stardom. With modeling already being a contest of the genetic lottery, it seems like the days of being lucky enough to have good genes giving you that perfect model height and the right face for the camera landing you a job are over.
You have to hit jackpot with the genetic lottery and pray that you are related to someone famous or extremely well connected, or some network will find your family interesting enough for a reality series. But, while there are those girls who may come from a prized lineage, there are still plenty of models out there who have worked for their own. What about girls like Jourdan Dunn, Joan Smalls, and Chanel Iman who pounded the pavement to be on the catwalk for Chanel and on the covers of Elle and advertising campaigns of Burberry? There are definitely girls out there who have put in their share of work to get noticed and became the superstar models they are of today, but all these girls do fall into one category without question: they are all “it girls.”
I must say that I disagree with Abbey, although she does have a point. Already being famous does help designers, editors, and stylists notice you, but, there are still plenty of other girls getting work, and not work to scoff at either. But, the era of the supermodel is over. Now to really be a top model you have to not only conquer the runways and ad campaigns, but you also have to conquer the press, get people to never stop talking about you, constantly be in the public eye, be connected with celebrities, and above all else have more instagram followers than some countries have citizens. If there is any proof to back up my statement I can go through the 2014 Vogue magazine archives and point to their biggest issue of the year: their September issue.
Instead of just their usual one big name star on the cover who can either boast some recent, upcoming, or long string of success Vogue took it back to the days when there were models on the cover. Emphasis on the plural, because their cover was a 3 page fold out dedicated to the “it girls” of that year including everyone from Joan Smalls, to Cara Delevingne, to Fei Fei Sun, and Imaan Hammam. These were the models known for their instagram presence, being some of the most googled models on the internet, and the most talked about names by the biggest designers. Karl Lagerfeld even referred to Cara Delevingne last year as “the new Kate Moss.” When you have earned the praise of a designer so major you know you have made it. So, on the state of modeling today I have to say, while it is unfortunate that the era of the supermodel might be over, there is still plenty of hope for those girls who don’t have show business parents or a contract for a reality series anytime soon, but, I caution that you invest some energy into your instagram account because “it girls” are the trend for the moment.