The term "supermodel" refers to a well renumerated and sought after élite fashion model who becomes well known globally as a fashion personality.
A supermodel often has a background in haute couture (high end fashion) and commercial modeling.
To learn more, these are books on or by supermodels (click on images):
The term "supermodel" became popular in the 1980s and 1990s. Supermodels usually work for top international fashion designers and labels.
They have multi-million dollar contracts, endorsements and campaigns (usually cosmetic contracts offer the best money as well as Victoria's Secret contracts).
Supermodels have branded themselves as household names and some models capitalize on their fame by starting their own business ventures e.g. Elle Macpherson's line of lingerie called Elle Macpherson Intimates.
By being on the covers of various major fashion magazines, models gain supermodel status by being recognised and becoming a familiar face that people can relate to.
Claudia Schiffer once said, "In order to become a supermodel one must be on all the covers all over the world at the same time so that people can recognise the girls."
First-name recognition of a model is usually an indicator that the model has become a "supermodel."
Origins of term and first supermodel
According to the book "Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women" by Michael Gross, the first time the term "supermodel" was used was in the 1940s by an agent named Clyde Matthew Dessner in a 1943 book he wrote about modeling. However, Judith Cass used the term before Dessner in October 1942 in her article in the Chicago Tribune, which titled "Super Models are Signed for Fashion Show".
The term "supermodel" had been used several times in the media in the late 1960s and mid-1970s. In May 1967 The Salisbury Daily Times called Twiggy a supermodel; the February 1968 article of Glamour magazine listed 19 "supermodels"; the Chicago Daily Defender wrote "New York Designer Turns Super Model" in January 1970; The Washington Post and Mansfield News Journal used the term in 1971; and in 1974 both the Chicago Tribune and The Advocate also used the term "supermodel" in their articles. American Vogue used the term "supermodel" on the cover page to describe Margaux Hemingway in the September 1, 1975 edition.
In 1979, model Janice Dickinson claimed to have coined the term "supermodel" as a merger of Superman and model. Dickinson also claims to be the first supermodel.
Lisa Fonssagrives seems to be one of the first "supermodels" and is widely considered as such. She was in most of the major fashion and general interest magazines from the 1930s to the 1950s, including Town & Country, Life, Vogue, the original Vanity Fair, and Time. Her image on over 200 Vogue covers and her name recognition led to the future significance of Vogue in shaping future supermodels.
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