At one time a model was important for transmitting the changes in women's lives, not just the changes in fashion. Women in society envied them, desired to look like them, attempted to exude their confidence, and tried to mirror their success.
A supermodel had a powerful persona; she represented the look of the time and was held on a pedestal that few would ever reach.
These beauties took their roles seriously and were the most glamorous people in society. Supermodels dominated the runways, covers of magazines, commercials, and billboards. The heyday of supermodels belonged to the likes of Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista
, Cindy Crawford, and Claudia Schiffer.
Top models reached levels of fame that made them household names. The glory days of the supermodel, from the late 1980s to mid-1990s, was a time in which these women commanded paychecks of $10, 000 per day to be dressed head to toe in haute couture.
The elite corps of young women, who turned looking beautiful in clothing into a multi-billion dollar business, were entertaining and theatrical. They put on a show and made the fashion industry relevant and captivating. Models were known for more than just being a pretty face; they had charm and a playful disposition. They were looked at as champions of the fashion industry; building themselves as brands rather than being a product.
In sharp contrast are the models of today, young women selected as a mere substitute to a clothes hanger. The appearance of fashion models in recent times has lost the x-factor that made supermodels of the past cultural icons.
With every great art movement there is a counter evolution, and in the case of the fashion industry it was moving away from glamour and sophistication to grunge and minimalism. Street style was being encouraged; looking like the girl next door or across the street was considered more desirable than striving to fill the size 9 Manolo Blahniks of supermodels.
The perfection and status that supermodels evoked began to eclipse the designers, making the clothes secondary to the larger-than-life models. The transformation on the runway called for less styled and blank faced women. There was no longer a need for models that stood out on the runway, fashion shows were now based more on the products rather than the women.
In such a celebrity-hungry era, supermodels no longer made the cut, causing a shift in how magazines and advertisers have chosen to reach consumers. In the late 1990s, editors found that featuring actresses and pop stars on the covers of magazine and in print campaigns, was more appealing to consumers.
Appearing on the cover of Vogue was at one time a stamp of approval in the modeling world. In recent years, editions of Vogue has featured fewer supermodels, instead showcasing Hollywood's leading actresses. Cosmetic companies are also not relying solely on supermodels for its campaigns. A brand like Covergirl is trending towards using actresses like Ellen DeGeneres and Queen Latifah as marketing tools.
Power, beauty, and influence enabled top models to attain international fame and fortune, posing for editions of Vogue around the world and walking the runways of the world's most sought after designers. The defining point in a model's career, where she demanded large fees and everyone's attention, has become nonexistent. The power of a model′s name recognition with the public has diminished. The supermodel has been stripped of her personality and glamour, in favor of the model who would not overpower the clothing. The current trend that contemporary models are faced with is anonymity. Many models are left working only a few months of the year, or being hired for a handful of photo shoots, ultimately being forgotten about.