The Supermodels (with a capital S) of the '90s were pretty much as close to superheroes as we've come. These girls were celebrities in their own right, hosting TV shows, owning restaurants (Who can forget Fashion Cafe?), appearing in music videos—like the legendary "Freedom '90" by George Michael—and killing it on the catwalk. While we have Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner to obsess over now, these modern-day supermodels can credit much of their careers and their celebrity to the Big 6. Nearly three decades later, their impact on fashion and beauty can still be felt, and a few of them are even parents to supermodels of their own. Not to mention, some are still dominating the modeling scene themselves. Here's the women who ruled the runway in the '90s and will be our forever inspo.
No supermodel, or “anti-supermodel,” took the ‘90s by storm like Kate Moss. With her boyish, waifish figure and striking features, she was a far cry from the other cover girls of the time. The Croydon beauty was discovered at 14-years-old at JFK Airport by Sarah Doukas, the founder of Storm model agency, and found instant success covering every fashion magazine and booking international campaigns—none more famous than her controversial Calvin Klein underwear ads, which she starred in at just 18
Naomi Campbell was discovered at age 15 while studying ballet at the the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London. Her pyramid cheekbones, towering physique, and entrancing almond-shaped eyes were unparalleled. She would go on to walk for every famous international fashion house, as well as lead “The Big Six,” a group of supermodels with a very unapologetic attitude.
After doing some modeling in her early teens, Linda Evangelista was scouted at a Miss Teen Niagara contest. She moved to New York in 1984 and had steady modeling work, but it wasn't until she took photographer Peter Lindbergh’s advice and cut her hair into a bob that she became a sensation. She went on to become one of the most famous faces of the ‘90s . Her famous confession that she doesn't "wake up for less than $10,000 a day” will immortalize her forever.
Stephanie Seymour became just as famous for her wild ways—and high profile relationships (she dated Axl Rose)—as she was for her “perfect body,” as Richard Avedon called it. During her career, she posed for most of the major fashion magazines, as well as Sports Illustrated and Playboy. She also appeared in two Guns N' Roses music videos, for "Don't Cry" and "November Rain.”
Helena Christensen’s career began when she accidentally won the Miss Copenhagen competition (she thought it was a charity fashion show). She went on to represent her native country in the Miss Universe competition, and eventually began appearing in major fashion magazines, as well as campaigns for Chanel Versace, Prada, and Victoria’s Secret. Her topless appearance in the music video for Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” came to be known as one of the sexiest of all time.
In 1987, 17-year-old Claudia Schiffer’s life changed forever when she met a model scout at a Dusselfdorf disco who convinced her to move to Paris. She found instant success in the City of Lights, and was chosen by Karl Lagerfeld to become the face of Chanel. Since then, she’s covered over 500 magazines and continues to star in campaigns for Chanel, YSL, Dolce & Gabbana, and more.
Christy Turlington was discovered at 14 while horseback riding, and the rest is fashion history. Speaking of history, Turlington also pursued degrees in comparative religion and Eastern philosophy. In the ‘90s, she was part of the supermodel “trinity' (which also included Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista) as one of the most popular cover girls. The Metropolitan Museum of Art declared her the “Face of the 20th Century,” and not without good reason—she’s fronted campaigns for Calvin Klein, Maybelline, Giorgio Armani, and many more.
In high school, Tyra Banks landed a contract with Elite Model Management and appeared in Seventeen magazine within the year. After graduating, she planned on going to college, but bowed out in favor of being sent to Paris. She took the catwalks by storm, booking 25 shows her first season. As her career flourished, she allowed herself to gain weight and became fiercely proud of her curvier frame. Since then, she’s created and hosted America's Next Top Model and spoken out about issues from race to body image.
There’s no one in the world quite like Kristen McMenamy—who else can brag that Karl Lagerfeld walked them down the aisle? As for her unconventional, androgynous beauty, she wasn’t immediately swept up by agencies. Early on, Eileen Ford told her she’d need plastic surgery to find success. Against the odds, she wound up modeling for the likes of Chanel, Versace, and more, as well as working with some of the most storied fashion photographers of the time such as Richard Avedon, Juergen Teller, and Steven Meisel.
Eva Herzigová’s career began when she won a modeling contest in Prague at 16. She was known as the Marilyn Monroe of the ‘90s and appeared in Sports Illustrated, as well as high profile campaigns for H&M, Guess, and Agent Provocateur. She is most famous for her Wonderbra “Hello Boys” campaign, which she did in 1994. She went on to play Picasso's wife Olga Khokhlova in the movie Modigliani and starred in an underground film for French director Gaspar Noé.
By the '90, Cindy Crawford was pretty much a household name, but it was that iconic British Vogue cover that transitioned her into supermodel-dom. An appearance with then-husband Richard Gere at the 1991 Oscars in a stunning red Versace gown and an iconic Pepsi commercial at the Super Bowl the following year confirmed her place. She hosted of MTV's House of Style, but nowadays Crawford leaves most of the modeling to her daughter, Kaia Gerber—a supermodel in her own right. But that hasn't kept Crawford from returning to the runway on occasion, most memorably closing the Versace 2018 spring/summer fashion show with several other '90s supermodels.
Harlow was discovered at a concert for The Cure and began modeling straight out of high school, eventually appearing on numerous magazine covers, editorials, and in runway shows for designers like Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Marc Jacobs, and Versace. She later moved into a brief film career, popping up in films like Vanilla Sky, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and The Jury. She maintained her modeling career well into the '00s, and in 2007, she was named one of the World's 15 Top-Earning Supermodels by Forbes, earning an estimated of $2 million. She keeps a low profile nowadays, but a video of her dancing at a photoshoot for Versace went viral in 2018. She also made a huge splash when she walked Versace's first show in New York City for their Pre-Fall 2019 collection after seven years away from the catwalk.
Mulder was one of the first Guess girls, as well as an original Victoria's Secret model. She graced the cover of Vogue nine times (including the 100th anniversary issue) and was known for her classic, timeless beauty—her nickname was "The Blonde with Class." In 2000, Mulder retired from the modeling industry, and has spoken out about its dangers and her struggle with mental illness. She left fashion, and now focuses on her music career.
Bruni began her modeling career at 19 and eventually became one of the '90s highest-paid fashion models, working for designers and fashion houses such as Guess, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Paco Rabanne, Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, Yves Saint-Laurent, Chanel, and Versace. In 1997, 10 years after her career began, Bruni retired from modeling to pursue a career in music, and has released six albums. In 2008, she married then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy after a brief romance, and has become involved in the political sphere.
Less of a household name than her fellow '90s supermodels, Patitz joined Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, and Naomi Campbell for that legendary British Vogue cover. She was also in the George Michael music video for "Freedom '90," and was considered an original member of "The Big Six." Patitz appeared on over 200 magazine covers during her career, including seven covers of American Vogue and 13 covers of British Vogue, and has modeled in campaigns from Chanel to Ralph Lauren. She now lives on a ranch with her son, is passionate about animals, and occasionally still models—from time to time.
This Pakistani-German model from Quebec was discovered while working at a McDonald's. She had a quick rise to supermodel-fame and became one of the top models of the '90s, walking for designers liked Chanel, Dior and LaCroix, She ultimately retired from modeling in '97, but paved the way for a lot of South Asian models.
This German supermodel was discovered at a cafe in Berlin and had a lot of success in her modeling career. She's worked with iconic photographers such as Helmut Newton and Peter Lindbergh and walked the runways for Chanel and Dior. This past September, she walked in the Balenciaga Spring 2020 show. The girl's still got it.
Peele was 5 foot 10 by the time she was 12 years old and basically born to model. She graced the covers of countless magazines and walked the runways for Comme des Garcons, John Galliano, and Prada. In 2017, her and her daughter, Cairo, were on the Lifetime show Growing Up Supermodel, which documented how her daughter wanted to follow in her mother's footsteps.
Lindvall was discovered at age 14, but her career really took off when she was 18. She starred in campaigns for Jil Sander with David Sims and Gucci with Mario Testino, both in Fall '97. She's walked the runways for the likes of Miu Miu and Prada; these days, she adds mom and yogi to her resumé
Amber Valletta enrolled in modeling school at age 15 and once she was scouted at age 17, her career took off. She walked for designers like Dior, Hermes and Prada, and was even the model who wore Jlo's iconic Versace dress down the runway. She appeared on countless magazine covers but left modeling to pursue acting in 2000. She was successful in the crossover and starred in films such as Revenge and Hitch. These days, she's back to her modeling roots and even walked in the recent Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney Fall 2020 shows.
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Katie Attardo is the Accessories Editor at Marie Claire, covering all things fashion and jewelry-related.
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