The Return of the Supermodel

Photograph: Disney/ABC Television Group via Flickr

How many times have you heard someone calling some new upcoming model a supermodel – that one word that rings success, power, and unrivalled beauty? And was there ever a time that you questioned whether they deserve that name, a name that perhaps only the likes of Kate Moss were blessed to be called? In answer to these questions, all we can say is this – the dawn of the supermodel is once again upon us. investigates.

Photograph: Eva Rinaldi via Flickr

Let us use Gigi Hadid and her most recent interview with Topshop as a springboard here. “I’ve heard from a lot of people in the industry that the supermodel is coming back, which is really exciting for me. For a long time you would see a girl for one season and then you’d never really hear about her again. Now models are getting to create a fan-base that keeps them around.”

It is this fan-base that promises the supermodel name for girls like Gigi. The supermodel has become less about modelling and more about the day-to-day life of a model. Their faces grace every magazine with headlines like “Kendall Jenner talks about her modelling career and what it’s like to be a Kardashian” and we really want to know what their everyday life consists of – what skin products do they use, who are they dating? It’s become a hobby for a large chunk of our society. Faces like Cara Delevingne, Kendall, the Hadid sisters and Suki Waterhouse have taken their seats at the ‘Who wants to become a supermodel?’ show, and we think that there’s more than one winner.

But can these girls really match up to the supermodel legends of the 90s that still prosper in our hearts and minds? Naomi Campbell, Claudia and Cindy were born into a generation far removed from this digital one. Social media was not a way towards promoting modelling campaigns and therefore targeting a desired audience was much more of a task than it is today. Is success more achievable nowadays through the easy route of snap, filter, and publish? This social media influx has brought a whole new generation of wealthy and prosperous girls into the limelight and onto the catwalk.

Photograph: Disney/ABC Television Group via Flickr

There are no bitter feelings towards the girls who have the raw talent, the beauty, and the charm to land contracts with some of the biggest names in the fashion industry. We have fallen head over heels with their ease and friendliness, as well as their #squadgoals, and this is mostly thanks to sites like Instagram which allow these girls to show a more approachable side of themselves. Let us refer back to Gigi’s interview where she said “That’s what people want to follow – they want to see us hanging out outside of the studio… The whole ‘squad goals’ thing is a big part of our generation.” Look a little bit into Gigi’s words and it all makes sense. The social media stratosphere has allowed the Hadid girls to retain their name in the modelling industry, while also giving publicity to others. Gigi and Bella are friends with Kendall, and Kendall is close friends with Hailey Baldwin. Everywhere we look we are bombarded with images of the girls hanging out together by the swimming pool, in the shops, in the car… Next thing that happens is that the Hadid sisters and the Jenner sisters become the new faces for the Balenciaga campaign, and Hailey is floating up towards stardom. Coincidence? We think not!

In 1943, Clyde Matthew Dessner spoke about the ‘super-model’ in So You Want to Be a Model? saying: “She will be a super-model, but the girl in her will be like the girl in you —quite ordinary, but ambitious and eager for personal development.” This idea of personal development is integral to the labelling of the supermodel. While the 90s supermodel was essentially a superwoman in the modelling industry, the 21st century supermodel is super on social media.

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