The fashion industry changed drastically in the 20th century. While women were always used to model and sell products, being a model didn’t become the impactful profession it is today until the latter half. While women like Twiggy and Pattie Boyd were considered models in the 1960s, they didn’t have the star power, brand impact, and legendary careers that models would find beginning in the 1970s.
Read on and take a trip down memory lane to see which model reigned supreme the year you were born. Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid would be nowhere today without these original supermodels.
1970: Lauren Hutton
Hutton began her path towards world fashion domination in the late 1960s, but it was the turn of the decade that made her rise to supermodel levels. Hutton’s big break came in 1968 when famous photographer Richard Avedon photographed her for Chanel. By 1975, she had booked over 25 fashion covers.
Hutton was so influential because she was an “imperfect model.” She had a gap in her front teeth that many agents suggested covering up but she refused and instead built her image around it.
1971: Jean Shrimpton
This British beauty was labeled by Time Magazine in 1971 as a “supermodel” which made her one of the first to officially hold the title. She became known in the late 1960s for making the miniskirt a worldwide hit, but reached the peak of her fame in the early ’70s.
What made Shrimpton so unique as a supermodel was that she was rather indifferent to her success. In 2011, she was quoted as saying “I never liked being photographed. I just happened to be good at it.”
1972: Marisa Berenson
Berenson was one of the few supermodels of the 1970s who dabbled in both fashion and acting. In the late 1960s, she was one of the highest paid models in the world. Berenson landed the 1970 Vogue cover and was dubbed the “girl of the Seventies” by Yves Saint-Laurent.
1972 was a landmark year for the brunette beauty because she starred in Cabaret which earned her Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominations.
1973: Rene Russo
Russo never had aspirations of becoming a model, but in 1972, she was spotted at a Rolling Stones concert by an agent from International Creative Management. At the agent’s persistence, Russo signed a modeling contract with Ford Modeling Agency and landed her first cover in 1973.
Despite the hesitation, Russo quickly rose to the top of the modeling business. She stayed on top for nearly a decade until she decided to switch gears and try acting instead.
1974: Beverly Johnson
Johnson made supermodel history in 1974 for being the first African-American model to appear on the cover of American Vogue. Johnson paved the way for future models of color like Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell.
Her contribution to the modeling world didn’t come easy though. Since the 1970s, she’s shared about her struggles with anorexia and bulimia, and was one of the women who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault.
1975: Jerry Hall
This blonde beauty left her quiet home in Texas at the young age of 16 with dreams of becoming a model. She booked a one-way ticket to France which proved to be worth it. Hall made her big break in modeling in 1975 when she appeared as a mermaid on the cover of Roxy Music’s album, Siren.
Within two years, Hall appeared on over 40 magazine covers and would eventually marry Mick Jagger. Not too bad for a girl from Texas.
The statuesque Somalian model was still at university when famous photographer Peter Beard discovered her. At his insistence, she moved to the United States and began a modeling career. It was in 1976 that she landed her first major gig on the cover of Vogue.
Her rise to the top in 1976 turned her into one of the most sought-after fashion models. Yves Saint-Laurent even once described Iman as his “dream woman.”
1977: Janice Dickinson
Dickinson had been well-known in the European model circuit since the early 1970s. She was turned down in America because blonde hair, blue-eyed models were all the rage. After gaining fame in Europe, she returned to New York City in 1977 and achieved “supermodel” status.
At this point, Dickinson was earning nearly $2,000 per day, which was almost four times the standard rate for models. She actually calls herself the “world’s first supermodel” because of the name recognition she had by the early ’80s.
1978: Cheryl Tiegs
This sun-kissed beauty had modeling aspirations since she was a young girl. Tiegs started out modeling at 16 years old for $25 a day at her local department store. She rose quickly to fame because the late ’70s saw a shift in modeling where editors were looking for a “healthy physique” inspired by California.
Tiegs had a steady career but increased her fame tenfold in 1978 when she appeared in a fishnet swimsuit on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
1979: Gia Carangi
At the height of her fame, Carangi was so popular that many people knew of her as “Gia” the same way we talk about Oprah or Madonna. Her rise to fame was supersonic. She moved to New York City when she was 17 years old in 1978, and by 1979 she was making $100,000 a year with Wilhelmina.
Unfortunately, her quick rise to fame wasn’t stable, and by the early ’80s, Gia had turned to drugs and nightclubs. She sadly died too early thanks to AIDS-related complications.
1980: Brooke Shields
Shields had already risen to fame in 1978 earlier for playing a child prostitute in the film Pretty Baby. That controversy was nothing in comparison to what came in 1980. Shields starred in a Calvin Klein advertisement where she said “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”
Shields was only 14 years old at the time and people were shocked to hear of a young teen not wearing underwear. The shock turned to success though because that same year, Sheilds became the youngest model to ever appear on the cover of Vogue.
1981: Christie Brinkley
Brinkley’s rise to modeling fame came off the coattails of other models like Cheryl Tiegs. Brinkley was also a blonde, tanned surfer girl from California with natural beauty. She was discovered in 1973, but it wasn’t until 1981 that she had secured her spot at the top of the industry.
Brinkley was the first model to appear on three consecutive Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue covers in 1979, 1980, and 1981. By her final cover, she had landed a 25-year deal with Cover Girl and of course, had the Billie Joel song “Uptown Girl” written about it.
1982: Cindy Crawford
One of the most iconic models of all-time was studying chemical engineering at Northwestern University when she dropped out suddenly to pursue modeling. It worked in her favor because in 1982, Crawford won Elite Model Management’s “Look of the Year.”
Her big hair, unique facial mole, and all-American girl look sent her straight to the top. Crawford was the queen of the runway for more than a decade. Her athletic physique would prove to be a sharp contrast to the later models of the ’90s.
1983: Elle Macpherson
This Australian beauty was so well known for her incredible physique that she eventually gained the nickname “The Body.” In 1982, Macpherson traveled to New York City to pursue modeling and caught the eye of major magazines like Elle, Marie Claire, and Cosmopolitan.
Her top-model status came thanks to Elle magazine, which featured her in every issue for six straight years. Macpherson also appeared on five covers of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, which is the longstanding record.
1984: Paulina Porizkova
This Czech-born Swedish supermodel broke barriers in the 1980s for being the first woman from Central Europe to be on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Her family had fled the former Czechoslovakia when the Soviets invaded and she never looked back.
Porizkova had been well known in the Paris modeling circuit in the early 1980s, but it wasn’t until an aspiring makeup artist used her as a canvas and sent the photos to Elite Modeling Agency. Rather than noticing the makeup, the agency noticed Porizkova.
Later: meet the supermodel who has a twin sister!
1985: Carol Alt
This New York City-born model was enrolled in college on an army scholarship when she was discovered by a photographer. She was then introduced to the founder of Elite Model Management and offered a contract on the spot. Alt became a household name in 1982 after appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
By 1985, Alt had landed numerous ad campaigns with Diet Pepsi, Cover Girl, Noxzema, Hanes, and Givenchy. Her fame in beauty covers gave her the nickname “The Face.”
1986: Kim Alexis
Alexis began modeling when she was only 18 after being discovered by an agent for Elite Model Management. Her rise to fame came in the early ’80s when she notoriously replaced ’70s supermodel Lauren Hutton as the face of Revlon’s Ultimate II Line.
1986 was one of the few years in the 1980s that Alexis didn’t appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Alexis was photographed for the magazine from 1982-85, and again in 1987 and 1988.
1987: Yasmin Le Bon
Le Bon became one of the highest earning models during the 1980s when she represented numerous high-fashion brands. In 1987, Le Bon was hired to be the face of Guess?. From there, she went on to represent Calvin Klein, Versace, Chanel, Banana Republic, and Ann Taylor.
While other models in the ’80s had begun to brand themselves with advertising campaigns, Le Bon took it to a new level with retail fashion.
1988: Karen Alexander
This African-American beauty was working in a nursing home when she was 13 when she decided to try her hand at modeling. She was inspired by other models of color like Iman and Johnson. Her cousin took some amateur photos of her, and for more than two years she was denied by agencies.
She was finally signed by Legends Agency in the late ’80s. By 1988, Alexander had landed campaigns for Cover Girl, Tiffany & Co., and Chanel.
1989: Kathy Ireland
Ireland was scouted by Elite Model Management when she was only 16 back in 1979, but the peak of her career came one decade later. The 1989 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue featuring Ireland on the cover was the most-sold issue to date.
The cover is still iconic in Sports Illustrated history because for their 50th Anniversary event, they named Ireland’s cover “The Greatest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Of All Time.”
1990: Linda Evangelista
Nicknamed “The Chameleon” this Canadian model’s career began in 1984, but seamlessly transformed over the years and adapted to the dirty, grungy ’90s. In 1988, Linda made waves by having her hair cut short and inspiring a generation of women to lop off their locks.
The Chameleon nickname came after she was able to seamlessly dye her hair any color and still make it work. Evangelista also famously said the quote “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.”
1991: Christy Turlington
Turlington is another model who used her unique features to make a name for herself. Her pillow-lipped smile was complimented by what professionals call a “perfectly symmetrical face.” By 1991, she was one of the top earners in the industry after making $800,000 during a 12-day campaign with Maybeline.
She also booked gigs thanks to the reputation that she was one of the nicest and professional people in the fashion industry.
1992: Kate Moss
Back in the early ’90s, Moss was just a teenager from London, England, who was considered too short and thin to be a model. Her 1992 Calvin Klein campaign alongside Marky Mark sealed her fame.
At the time, Moss was considered the anti-supermodel in comparison to women like Cindy Crawford and Brooke Shields. Her ultra-thin physique went on to brand the “heroin chic” look and she was considered to be a figure of “dirty realism.”
1993: Naomi Campbell
One of the most recognizable supermodels from the ’90s may have been inspired by previous African-American models, but she had a tough rise to the top. In the late ’80s, Campbell faced numerous racial discriminations, but thanks to white models as allies, she began to book more and more gigs.
In 1993, Campbell appeared twice on the cover of American Vogue. That same year she famously fell on the Vivienne Westwood catwalk in foot-high platform shoes, but she was so popular that the fall didn’t hurt her career.
1994: Claudia Schiffer
This blonde Bavarian beauty grew up wanting to be a lawyer, but things changed in 1987 when she was discovered by the head of the Metropolitan Model Agency. From there, Schiffer moved to the United States and became a top model in the early ’90s.
In her early days, she was largely compared to Brigitte Bardot, but by 1994 she had discovered her own image. Karl Lagerfeld selected Schiffer as the face of Chanel and Vogue named her one of their “Modern Muses.”
1995: Amber Valletta
Valletta knew she wanted to be in the entertainment, but never had her sights set on modeling. Instead, it was her mother that enrolled her in classes and got Valletta signed at age 15.
The mid-1990s proved a perfect time for Valletta to use modeling to break into other parts of the business. She appeared 13 times on the cover of American Vogue and rocked the runways for a decade until she finally made her acting debut in 2000.
1996: Tyra Banks
While Banks had a very successful career throughout the early ’90s on the runways of Europe, 1996 proved to be a pivotal year for her. February 1996 marked the year that Banks became the first African-American model to be featured on the cover of GQ.
Thanks to this monumental achievement, Banks became a household name in America and landed more lucrative work. She was awarded “Supermodel of the Year” in 1997, and that same year became the first African-American model to become a Victoria’s Secret Angel.
1997: Helena Christensen
Christensen got her foot in the fashion industry’s door when she won the Miss Copenhagen competition. She then went on to compete in the Miss Universe competition where she was noticed by modeling agents.
The Danish model had appeared on over 650 magazine covers and became one of Victoria’s Secret’s famous Angels. Christensen took the idea of being a supermodel to the next level when she founded the magazine Nylon and became a clothing designer.
Coming up is a supermodel who inspired a Barbie doll
1998: Rebecca Romjin
Aside from being famously married to ’90s hunk John Stamos, Romjin established herself as a supermodel in the latter half of the decade by walking the runways with fellow models like Crawford, Evangelista, and Turlington.
Romjin was named the host of MTV’s House of Style in 1998, and it was there she found her love of television. People today might more readily recognize Romjin for her role as Mystique in the X-Men franchise.
1999: Heidi Klum
Klum perfectly encapsulates the transition from ’90s supermodels to ’00s super career women. This German model got her start modeling in the late ’90s and made her mark at the turn of the millennium when she appeared on the cover of the 1999 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Klum was also the first German model to be named a Victoria’s Secret Angel and would go on to be an actress, producer, author, fashion designer, and television personality.
The next supermodel has a twin sister!
2000: Gisele Bündchen
In 2000, a model who’s now a household name was top in her field: the stunning Gisele Bündchen. Hailing from Brazil, Ms. Bündchen rose to fame in the late 2000s and is credited by some as ushering in the “heroin chic” era of modeling.
She’s now married to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and is still one of the highest-paid models in the world. In fact, Forbes named her as the 89th Most Powerful Woman in the World in 2014. Fun fact: Bündchen has a twin sister, Patricia!
2001: Natalia Vodianova
With the nickname Supernova, Russian model Natalia Vodianova has been wowing the world with her gorgeous looks. She first rose to international stardom with an eight-season, seven-figure contract with Calvin Klein, and by 2012 had earned $8.6 million in one year.
Vodianova is almost as well known for her philanthropic work as her modeling career. She’s been named one of Vogue India’s Women of The Year, a Harper’s Bazaar Inspiration of the Year, and a Glamour Woman of the Year. Mattel created a Russian Barbie with her name in 2016.
2002: Liya Kebede
Ethiopian-born Liya Kebede is not just a supermodel. She’s also an actress, designer, and maternal health advocate who’s served as the WHO’s Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health for more than a decade.
Kebede was discovered when she was a student and she moved to France after graduation. She quickly rose through the ranks and was the top supermodel in the world in 2002, with an issue of Paris Vogue dedicated to her that year. She was named as the eleventh-highest-paid top model in the world by Forbes in 2007.
2003: Daria Werbowy
One of the current faces of the French cosmetics company Lancôme, Daria Werbowy won a national modeling contest in Toronto when she was 14 years old. Within just a few years of signing with Elite Model Management, Werbowy became a top name in the industry.
With dual Ukrainian-Canadian citizenship, she is the second Canadian model to have a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame, after Linda Evangelista. Werbowy now lives in lives in Cork, Ireland, and is an avid sailor.
2004: Heidi Klum
She never ages! In 2004, international star Heidi Klum was once again the top supermodel. That was the year she became the host, judge and executive producer of the hit reality TV show Project Runway.
Klum and the show won a Peabody Award in 2008, and she’s continued to have a successful career in the ensuing years. She’s also an artist and author, having co-written a biography/advice book called Heidi Klum’s Body of Knowledge.
2005: Doutzen Kroes
A Netherlands native, Doutzen Kroes began her modeling career in 2003 and was almost immediately sent to New York City, where she was signed by Victoria’s Secret. In 2008 she became one of the lingerie company’s Angels.
Kroes is one of the highest-paid models in the world, consistently earning more than $5 million per year since 2008. She uses her fame and wealth to work for charities supporting such causes as HIV/AIDS prevention and wildlife issues.
2006: Coco Rocha
In 2002, Coco Rocha was discovered by an agent at an Irish dance competition. She didn’t know anything about fashion at the time but within four years was selected to open the Christian Lacroix couture show in Paris.
Rocha, a Canadian, has been featured on the cover of dozens of top style magazines and has been the face of many elite fashion houses. She’s also a dancer and has occasionally danced down the runway during fashion shows.
2007: Agyness Deyn
Actress, singer, and model Agyness Deyn broke onto the scene after becoming friends with fashion designer Henry Holland. The two were out shopping in London when she was spotted by an agent. In the years since, Vogue Paris has named her one of the top 30 models of the 2000s.
Besides being the spokesmodel for many different fashion brands, Deyn has also appeared in films such as Clash of the Titans, Pusher, and Patient Zero. She also sang for Rihanna’s music video “We Found Love.”
2008: Karlie Kloss
Chicago native Karlie Kloss appeared in Scene Magazine when she was 14 years old. She modeled for Abercrombie Kids before signing with NEXT Model Management and walking 31 runways during New York Fashion Week in 2008. She later became a Victoria’s Secret Angel.
Kloss has also appeared live with Taylor Swift during several concerts and has also appeared in a few of the pop singer’s music videos. Models.com said that that the multi-talented Kloss “represents the gold standard of modeling—a girl with the look, the poise, and the drive to take things to the next level.”
2009: Bar Refaeli
Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli currently has a net worth estimated to be more than $20 million. She began modeling when she was just a baby, and became the top model of 2009 when she appeared on the cover of that year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
In 2013 she was the highest paid model in Israel, which put her far ahead of fellow Israeli models Gal Gadot, Shlomit Malka, and Esti Ginzburg.