Fading face of supermodels
Celebrities have taken over covers of major fashion magazines, writes
THERE was a time when models really were super. Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson, Christie Brinkley, Claudia Schiffer and Nikki Taylor were household names, plastered on magazine covers, dominating advertisements.
Now that every model is called a supermodel, the list of recognisable names is much smaller and mostly retired. Giselle. Heidi Klum. Anyone else?
‘‘The covers have been taken over by the celebrities and all of the make-up and hair ads have been taken over by celebrities,’’ model Kim Alexis says. ‘‘And we want our jobs back.’’
The new American documentary About Face: Supermodels Then and Now documents the rise of these models from the ’40s through the ’80s, when Alexis said ‘‘You would see me on the cover of Glamour and Vogue and Mademoiselle and also doing a Cover Girl and a Maybelline ad all in the same magazine.’’
The documentary premieres in the US on Monday and shares the models’ personal career and beauty stories.
Director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders came up with the idea for the documentary at a party for supermodels from the 1970s and ’80s.
‘‘I walked into a party that my friend was giving and I looked around the room and saw these gorgeous women and thought, ‘Geez, that’s a photo or something. No one’s shot them in a while – it would be an interesting group shot’. And as I got to know them I thought, ‘Oh, this is obviously a film’.’’
About Face also introduces viewers to a time when modelling wasn’t glamorous, says Greenfield, like when Carmen Dell’Orefice began modelling in the 1940s. She started as a teen and is still modelling today at 81 years old.
‘‘Carmen talked about how (modelling) was really not a profession you’d ever want your child to go into, and that changed and by that time models became celebrities and then parents thought, ‘Oh, this is a good profession for my daughter’. ‘‘That’s a big change in 50 years.’’ The film also shows how even models worry about signs of ageing such as wrinkles and changes to their figure.
Karen Bjornson, who began modelling in the 1970s, admits in the documentary that she had an eye lift before walking in a 2002 Ralph Rucci runway show.
Race was also once an issue in the industry.
China Machado, who also began modelling in the 1950s, is half Chinese, half Portuguese.
She first found success as a house model in Europe where she would model clothing from fashion collections such as Givenchy for prospective buyers.
It wasn’t until she began modelling in the US that her ethnicity became an issue.
‘‘ Harper’s Bazaar publisher didn’t want to publish my pictures because they thought subscribers in the South would all cancel.’’
Ironically she ended as their fashion editor from 1962 to 1972.
Beverly Johnson, who made history as the first black model to appear on the cover of American Vogue in 1974, believes the documentary will pull back the veil on the modelling industry in a way that hasn’t been done before.
Coming soon. 8.30pm, One
PG. 1973. Closing chapter on the five-film apeepic in which the apes and the humans battle for survival. Who knew there were so many instalments in this series? And how much was director John Huston paid to appear briefly as the Law Giver? Perhaps the worst of the series. Roddy McDowell, Claude Akins.