While today’s generation has Adut Akech Bior, Jourdan Dunn, Winnie Harlow, Bela Hadid, and Duckie Thot to name but a few, the supermodels of the 90’s were their own breed. These iconic models were celebrities in their own right, not only killing it on the catwalk but also hosting TV shows, writing books, starting fashion lines and fronting every relevant magazine cover.
The girls were focused and had more to offer than just endless legs and impossibly high cheekbones. Till this day, their impact on fashion and beauty can still be greatly felt. Here are some of the women who ruled the runway in the ’90s, paving the way for modern-day supermodels.
Kimora Lee Simmons
Kimora Lee Simmons is one of most famous faces in fashion. The now Mogul, Model and Mom is born of African American, Korean and Japanese heritage and almost standing 6 feet tall by age 10, she was often teased because of her height. Because of her unique features, she began a successful career as a model when she was 14 years old, working under exclusive contract with Chanel. Simmons helped inspire Karl Lagerfeld’s (may his iconic soul rest in peace) vision and call for racial inclusion, and paved the way for other mixed-race models in the fashion world. Lagerfeld deemed her the “Face of the 21st Century”She gained attention in the fashion world when she closed Lagerfeld’s haute couture show in 1989 as the “bride” – the concluding bridal look signature to every Chanel show under Lagerfeld’s tenure.Simmons later modeled for Fendi, Valentino, YSL and Dior to name a few.
Then, in 1998, she married hip-hop media mogul Russell Simmons and entered the fashion design business. Expanding her husband’s Phat Farm men’s clothing line, Simmons became the creative genius behind Baby Phat. Simmons has created a brand-worthy name for herself that has overflowed into jewelry, cosmetics, and shoes. She also has a successful career in film and television.
Of the retired supermodels, very few were as influential as Yasmeen Ghauri. This Pakistani-German model from Quebec was discovered age 17, while working at a McDonald’s in Montreal. “Discovered” by the artistic director of Platine Coiffure, Edward Zaccharia back in 1989, the aristocratic beaut went on to model for the likes of Dior, Versace, Chanel, Givenchy and becoming known for her mix of Eastern and Western looks, just one year later.
A 1991 story New York Times article on fashion models described her as “the coffee-skinned Yasmeen Ghauri, whose hard-to-get gaze was belied by the ball-bearing swivel of her hips.” She was a regular in Victoria’s Secret catalogs in the 1990s, and showed up in the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. She is featured in Unzipped, the 1995 documentary about designer Isaac Mizrahi. According to New York magazine, she ultimately retired from modeling in ’97, but paved the way for a lot of South Asian models.
When you think of the world’s most iconic black super models, Tyra Banks pops up (after Naomi Campbell of course, sorry). This super model turned super mogul was “discovered” at the tender age of 15. While In high school, she landed herself a contract with Elite Model Management and appeared in Seventeen magazine within the year. She then went on and took the catwalks by storm, booking 25 shows her first season! In 1996, she became the first black woman on the cover GQ and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, posing with Valeria Mazza. In 1997, she graced the SI Swimsuit issue solo ― another iconic moment in her career.
As her career flourished, she ventured into reality competition, creating and hosting the TV masterpiece – America’s Next Top Model. Banks also hosted her own talk show, The Tyra Banks Show, from 2005 to 2011, as well as America’s Got Talent in 2017 and 2018. To add to the list, Banks is also a published author; she released her book, Perfect Is Boring, written with her mother.
The ever so graceful Naomi Campbell was recruited at age 15 by Beth Boldt, head of Synchro model agency while she was shopping in Covent Garden. It was her towering physique and high cheekbones that made her the first black woman to appear on the cover of French ‘Vogue’ en route to iconic status in the modeling industry. Before she was 16, she had already appeared on the cover of Elle and she was a frequent face on high end magazine covers. She would go on to walk for every famous international fashion house, and by the late ‘80s go on to lead the trio known as the “Trinity” alongside Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista, who became the most recognizable and in-demand models of their generation.
Naomi Campbell paved the walked so all the other black girls in the fashion industry could run, as she faced and defeated people’s prejudices. Till this day, she is still one of the most well known and successful models of all time. While maintaining her supermodel status Naomi also shot her shot at acting, writing and even singing.
This legendary American fashion model and television personality first gained fame in the 1980s and was among the first “supermodels.” After finishing high school Crawford moved to New York City from Chicago and in 1986 and signed with the Elite. She was featured on countless glossy magazine covers. 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. Crawford has walked the runways for Chanel, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Christian Dior, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, and Valentino.
The Canadian born model’s career took off when French Hairstylist Julien d’Y’s suggested that she cut her hair into a short gamine cut – the hairstyle eventually became known as “The Linda Cut”. At the age of 16, Linda signed with Elite modeling agency and moved to New York City. Described as the “chameleon” of the fashion industry, and part of “The Trio” her almost perfect facial features made her a beacon for beauty campaigns worldwide. She went on to model for Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Prada, Valentino, Versace, Louis Vuitton and many more luxury fashion houses.
In 2008, casting agent James Scully said Turlington was “the greatest model of all time”. He added, “You could combine every model to this day into one person, and they wouldn’t come close (sorry, girls).” Iconic!