The term "supermodel" rose in popularity in the '80s and '90s, giving us icons like Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Naomi Campbell. Today, "supermodel" describes the rare breed of model who has achieved worldwide success and becomes a personality outside of the modeling world. The 2000s, while it gave us some terrible fashion trends, did birth a new generation of these supermodels, particularly ones with savvy entrepreneurial and philanthropic qualities. One look at Liya Kebede or Natalia Vodianova and you'll see what I mean.
Like the ladies before them, the supermodels of the 2000s have changed and are changing the history of fashion. Get a quick low-down of the top 15, ahead.
Bündchen made her runway debut at New York Fashion Week in 1996 and the rest was history. The Brazilian model hit the peak of her career as a Victoria's Secret Angel from 2000 to 2007, pioneered the "horse walk" (when a model picks her knees up high and kicks her feet out in front), and has landed high-fashion campaigns with everyone from Chanel and Givenchy to Versace and Salvatore Ferragamo. In total, Bündchen has appeared on 139 Vogue covers (11 of them from the US) and is still one of the top-earning models in the world, landing in fifth place on Forbes 2018 list of highest-paid models. These days, the star has stepped away from the catwalk a bit to focus on her family and other businesses, but don't call it retirement (she'll come after you).
Ethiopian-born model Liya Kebede rose to fame in 2002 when she appeared on the cover of Vogue Paris. In 2003, she was the first black model to ever be awarded an Estée Lauder contract. The model has appeared in campaign for brands from Gap and Victoria's Secret to Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton. Though Kebede still models for the likes of Tom Ford, the 41-year-old has been busy pursing a more philanthropic career, working with the World Health Organization’s Maternal, Newborn and Child health division. She even started a clothing line called Lemlem, which helps women artisans keep traditional Ethiopian weaving techniques alive. In her spare time, you'll find Kebede engaging with her 203k Instagram followers.
The model was discovered while selling fruits in her native home of Russia to help make money for her family. Vodianova moved to Paris by the age of 17 and from there, became one of the world’s most in-demand models. She has walked in more than 200 runway shows for both American and European designers. She's also known for landing an eight-season, seven-figure contract with Calvin Klein. In 2004, Vodianova made her first appearance on the cover of American Vogue alongside Gisele Bündchen and Daria Werbowy as one of the "Models of the Moment," shot by Steven Meisel. She then later appeared on a solo cover for the July 2007 issue. Following the philanthropic route of most celebs, Vodianova founded the Naked Heart Foundation, an organization that helps children in urban Russia and gives support to families raising kids with special needs.
Joining the ranks of Gisele Bündchen and Natalia Vodianova, Werbowy joined the modeling scene in 2003. During her first season for Fall/Winter 2003, she landed two of the world’s most coveted modeling jobs: She became the face for Prada's fall/winter campaign and appeared on the cover of Vogue Italia. She also holds the record for opening and closing the most shows in one season in 2009. In 2008, Werbowy received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame, becoming the second model to earn a star after Linda Evangelista. After so much success, these days the model is choosing to live a quieter life in Cork, Ireland, spending only a few months a year in New York.
Dubbed that era's Kate Moss, Ward was 15 when she was scouted at a local mall in Perth, Australia. In 2003, IMG flew her to meet Miuccia Prada at the designer’s request, where she made her Prada runway debut that season and was immediately photographed by Steven Meisel for her first major campaign (also Prada). From there, she modeled for just about everyone, and at 16 was one of the youngest models to ever appear on the cover of American Vogue. At 19, she was reportedly making $20,000 per show and making $3 million a year. After the spring 2008 shows, Ward didn't walk down a runway again for five years, taking time to herself. (Her then-boyfriend Heath Ledger had passed away in 2008.) Ward's comeback to modeling happened in 2013, where she re-signed with IMG and her face was quickly plastered around NYC for the buzzy brand Eckhaus Latta. Her most recent runway shows include spring 2019 Proenza Schouler and Alexander McQueen.
Rocha got her start in 2004 when she signed with Supreme agency in New York City. Two years later, she met with fashion photographer Steven Meisel, who cast her in an editorial with fellow model Gemma Ward and Amanda Moore. That cover kickstarted her career and landed her a February 2006 cover of Vogue Italia. She is best known for her relationship with Longchamp and has walked in runway shows for the likes of John Galliano and Miu Miu. In addition to modeling, her personality has landed her TV deals like being a judge on The Face and a guest judge on Australia's Next Top Model.
Kerr rose to fame in 2007 thanks to her career as a Victoria's Secret model where she became the first Australian VS Angel. From there, the star signed deals with brands like Clinique and David Jones. She found time to write a self-esteem book called Treasure Yourself in 2009 and that same year launched her now famous organic skincare brand KORA Organics. In 2010, she walked for Balenciaga, which gave her high-fashion runway creds. A season later, she walked for Prada alongside fellow Angels Doutzen Kroes and Alessandra Ambrosio. The model is perhaps also famously known for dating/marrying Orlando Bloom (they have a son together) before divorcing in 2013. In 2017, Kerr married Snapchat founder co-founder/CEO Evan Spiegel and they're now expecting their second child together.
Iman started modeling at the age of 12 and has had a lucrative career walking the runways of Burberry, Tom Ford, Gucci, Balenciaga, Max Mara, and more. She's appeared in campaigns for the likes of Ralph Lauren and has walked in the Victoria's Secret Fashion show prior to becoming an Angel in 2010. She's one the of luck ones who have managed to cross over spaces from not only modeling but appearing on screen. She was a guest judge on cycle 13 of American's Next Top Model cycle and appeared on an episode of Lip Sync Battle, as part of Olivia Munn's performance of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." Her personality and career has garnered her a large fan base—she has 1.3 million Instagram followers. The model is still currently signed with IMG and when she isn't modeling or attending red carpet events, she's hanging out with her daughter Cali Clay Shepard.
Kloss is a supermodel, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. She has worked with a variety of modeling agencies since she was 14 and is currently signed by IMG. Her fashion creds include being John Galliano's muse and the face of many brands from Donna Karan and Lacoste to Lanvin and Louis Vuitton. Apart from her modeling success, Kloss is an avid computer programmer. She launched a scholarship Kode with Klossy for young girls interested in computer science and software engineering in 2015. She also is the host of Project Runway while still modeling for brands like Adidas. Her spouse is Joshua Kushner, brother of Jared Kushner (Donald Trump's son-in-law).
China's biggest supermodel is arguably Liu Wen. She won a modeling contest when she was 17 and in 2008 was scouted for her first international fashion show for Burberry. For the Fall 2019 RTW season, the model appeared in a total of 74 shows from New York to Paris, the highest number of shows for a model in that season. She also set the record for the most shows ever walked by an Asian model in a single season. Adding to her list of firsts, she also became the first Chinese model to grace the cover of American Vogue in 2017 alongside Gigi Hadid and Ashley Graham. To top it off, she was the first Asian to ever make Forbes' list of highest-paid supermodels. You can still catch the 31-year-old walking in shows like Givenchy and Schiaparelli, so watch out for her come 2020.
Before Cara Delevingne, there was Agyness Deyn. Her short hair and edgy look provided a freshness to the model crew. She got her big cover break in 2007 when she was featured on Vogue alongside models like Jessica Stam and Coco Rocha for "The World's Next Top Models," issue. She has walked the runways for famous fashion houses such as Chanel, Hermés, Dior, Lanvin, Moschino, and Versace. And, landed beauty campaigns with Burberry and Shiseido. In October 2012, the model announced her retirement from the industry, citing that she wants to focus on new ventures like acting. Her latest film role includes playing Dr. Freya in Netflix's 2018 The Titan.
Landing in good company with Gemma Ward and Lily Donaldson, Jessica Stam was part of the new crop of models called "doll face." The Canadian native was discovered at a Tim Hortons and later won the Los Angeles Model Look contest in 2002. She quickly became Steven Meisel's muse, which further bolstered her model creds in the fashion industry. She has appeared in campaigns for Anna Sui and Armani. In addition, she has walked in every show from Christian Lacroix and Dior to Givenchy and Jean Paul Gaultier. Marc Jacobs even named a bag after her called "The Stam," which was one of his most popular styles in 2005. These days, Stam is still modeling while raising her daughter who was born in 2017.
The most distinguishing feature about Stone is her gap tooth. The model rose to fame in 2007 after she had a big Bardot-like spread in March’s Vogue Paris. She has opened shows for the likes of Fendi, Balmain, Isabel Marant, and Stella McCartney. She has also been a "semi-exclusive" for Prada, meaning she could not walk any other shows during fashion month before Prada. When she was 26 (she is now 34), she landed an exclusive deal with Calvin Klein, becoming the face of all three of its brands—a rare move back then. In 2010 Stone won British Fashion Awards's Model of the Year and to this day still appears on the runways at fashion week. (Here she is at Escada's spring 2019 show.)
The Russian model's breakout year can be traced back to 2004 where she walked in 54 fashion shows from NYC to Milan and Paris. Special career highlights include having three fashion magazines dedicate entire issues to her (e.g. Vogue Russia in July 2008 and Vogue Espana in November 2011) and signing a contract with L'Oreal Paris to be a beauty ambassador in 2012. Continuing to still stay relevant in the modeling world, Poly appeared alongside Gigi Hadid and Raquel Zimmermann for Versace's spring 2016 campaign, shot by Steven Klein. You can follow her public and personal lives on Instagram, where she has amassed 949k followers. The model posts a mix of fashion shots and ones of her daughter. Poly is currently expecting her second child.
Devon Aoki (the sister to famed musician Steve Aoki) was discovered at a concert in New York when she was just 13 years old and despite her 5'4 height, became an in-demand model by the time she was 16. That year she even replaced Naomi Campbell as the face of Versace and has subsequently been featured in ad campaigns for everyone, from Chanel and Saint Laurent to Oscar de la Renta and Celine. Her latest runway walk was for Jeremy Scott's NYFW show in 2018. In addition to her modeling career, you can catch Aoki on-screen in movies like 2 Fast to Furious and Sin City. The model is currently married with three kids: James Hunter, Alessandra Linville, and Eleanor Talitha. Her daughter Alessandra appeared in Guess Kids' spring 2018 ad campaign, no doubt on her way to following her mom's model footsteps.
Marina Liao is the former fashion news editor at MarieClaire.com, where she covers celebrity style (from Meghan Markle to Katie Holmes), fashion trends, and shopping advice, plus conducts original interviews with industry insiders.
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