Models 1991/2021


THIRTY years ago, Gianni Versace unleashed his Fall 1991 Ready-to-Wear collection with Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington closing the show. With Tatjana Patitz, the four graced the cover of British Vogue’s January 1990 issue, which led to them appearing in the David Fincher-directed George Michael music video “Freedom ’90.” But it was only the four who sashayed down the runway, arm in arm and wearing cocktail dresses, for the climactic finale as they lip-synched to the George Michael song.

“If there was a collection that crystallized the supermodel moment, this was it,” US Vogue decreed. Fashion journalist Tim Blanks canonized it as “a fashion moment of biblical proportions.” Stephanie Seymour, Helena Christensen, Claudia Schiffer, Carla Bruni, Karen Mulder, Yasmeen Ghauri and even our very own Anna Bayle were part of this seminal show. But it was the four Supers, who were speculated to be paid $25,000 to $50,000, who raised the fees for models to the stratosphere.

Over the years, the original supermodels became humanitarians, parlaying their global fame into advancing causes dear to them. Cindy focuses on childhood leukemia because her three-year-old brother Jeff died from it when she was 10. She supports the pediatric oncology program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is an honorary board member of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

US Vogue, September 2021: (from left) Kaia Gerber in Tom Ford, Anok Yai in Ralph Lauren Collection, Precious Lee in Carolina Herrera, Bella Hadid in Christopher John Rogers, Sherry Shi in Proenza Schouler, Ariel Nicholson in Christopher John Rogers, Yumi Nu in Mara Hoffman and Lola Leon in Michael Kors Collection.

Christy had difficulty giving birth to her son with actor Edward Burns. In 2010, she founded Every Mother Counts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. She is also an antismoking activist, her father having died of lung cancer. Linda advocates for HIV/AIDS research and awareness, breast cancer research and awareness, as well as being a staunch supporter of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and LGBT causes.

Naomi is the most vocal and active. As early as 1991, she has decried racial bias to The Independent, “I may be considered one of the top models in the world, but in no way do I make the same money as any of them.”

In 2013, with Iman and Bethann Hardison, they formed an advocacy group, called Diversity Coalition, which called out the governing bodies of global fashion weeks and big designers who hardly hired models of color.

She is also the founder of Fashion for Relief, which raises funds to benefit survivors of hurricanes, earthquakes and terrorism.

The cover girls of the 2021 September issue of US Vogue proves that vigorous activism is alive and well, especially in an insidious and problematic industry like fashion. They are raising their voices for representation, a safer working environment, body positivity, or using social media for social justice.

While the OG supermodels were as diverse as they come—Cindy is All-American with European ancestry, Linda is Italian-Canadian, Christy’s mom is El Salvadoran while Naomi is Afro-Jamaican/British—the current crop is inclusive. Kaia Gerber is Cindy’s kid. South Sudanese Anok Yai was born in Egypt. Precious Lee is one of the few plus-size Black women to be on the cover of Vogue while Yumi Nu is the first plus-size Asian-American. Bella Hadid is Dutch-Palestinian. Sherry Shi was born to Chinese immigrants. Ariel Nicholson is proudly trans. Lola Leon is Madonna’s equally nonconformist daughter.

The cover feature is a good read. For a better understanding of what the younger models are fighting for, there’s an accompanying video on Vogue’s YouTube channel. “I feel like in this industry, [it] is very competitive and very ambitious. So if you show the slightest bit of being weak, you can get taken down very easily,” Anok says.

“It gets irritating when people have this one idea of what one Asian woman should be like when really there’s so much more. There’s so many types of Asian beauties in general,” Sherry asserts.

“Representation I feel like it’s the bare minimum. And I feel like a lot of people act like representation is like the ultimate goal, right? Like everyone wants to be seen and heard and represented. But I feel like representation is a bit more complicated than that, there’s room for potential tokenization, because I was always openly trans and I made gender always a huge part of the conversation. And I still do. It’s something that I very much care about. But I don’t want it to be the only thing to define me,” Ariel affirms.

“The work that I’m doing now is going to, in the future, provide more space for people after me. I take so much pride in showing up, anywhere I am, to represent [plus-size women of color] to the best of my abilities,” Precious emphasizes.


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