Thursday, January 20, 2011

Top 10 Supermodels of All Time

Where have all the leggy supermodels gone? The original handful may have stepped aside to make room for the younger, emerging crop, but statuesque perfection is still a hot commodity.

So to those who say the era of the supermodel died with the Clinton administration, I have two words: Gisele Bundchen. If this chick isn't carrying the torch and running with the baton, nobody is. But without Cindy, there may not have been a Gisele. And without Carol Alt and Christie Brinkley, there may not have been a Cindy. You get the idea.

And just so you know, we're acutely aware of the constraints inherent in the format we chose to rank them. Certainly Heidi Klum's bottom-narrow, top-heavy, Victoria's Secret-friendly form deserves a shoutout. So does Linda Evangelista's unlikely rise from small-town Canadian girl to ubiquitous supermodel known for her everchanging haircolor. Had Letterman's contribution to the entertainment lexicon been a Top 12 list, they would have been shoo-ins.

Each model sensation featured in the list that follows has opened a door, and didn't merely walk through one. And although words can never do their uncanny perfection justice, it was incumbent upon me to try.

Number 10
With looks so good it's stupid, Elle MacPherson's rise to aesthetic prominence was a lock. Standing at an impressive six feet, Elle, also known as "The Body," conquered all the glossies -- Elle, Sports Illustrated , etc. -- before turning her attention to working out her admirers in a series of exercise tapes. She's had several turns in Hollywood films, most notably Sirens and Batman & Robin . Her love life is no stranger to sequels, either. She's been linked to several high-profile men, and is now engaged to Swiss financier Arpade "Arki" Busson, whom she had her second child with in February 2003.

Number 9
One of the original five supermodels (alongside Cindy, Claudia, Naomi, and Linda), hers is a face you know. It's impeccable. It's everywhere. It's inescapable. And men worldwide are cool with that. Christy Turlington has been the face of Calvin Klein's ever-expanding arsenal of fragrances since 1987. That's 16 years of supermodel status, an achievement that speaks volumes about her timeless beauty. That now-ubiquitous face has graced the cover of countless magazines and Turlington has earned a reputation as a consummate professional. As told to Vogue : "I know how to make every part of my body appear different than it actually is. I can make my eyes and my lips appear bigger by putting my chin down... You can manipulate everything by photography." Manipulated or not, those lips deserve an article of their own.

Number 8
No discussion of supermodels would be complete without the mention of Naomi Campbell. This sultry British import practically breathed life into the term (along with a couple of other stunners who made the grade). But she's not just a pretty face. Campbell broke ground as the first black woman to ever appear on the cover of Time magazine and British and French Vogue . She's also had a number one single in Japan with "La, La, La Love Song," steamed up the small screen in pre-controversy Michael Jackson's "In The Closet" video and turned in a strong performance in Spike Lee's Girl 6 . Not too shabby.

Number 7
And on the seventh day, God created Kate.There was a reason she was discovered "by accident" while walking in JFK Airport in 1988 -- Kate Moss has a very distinctive beauty. She has amazing almond-shaped eyes and her chiseled face exudes an air of mystery. What also makes Kate's look so original is her gap-toothed smile (which is rarely exposed). Although she doesn't typify our idea of a "beautiful woman," her net worth speaks volumes about her beauty.
Although Kate Moss' body can give that skeleton in our high school biology class a run for its money, she has a gorgeous face and an incredible walk.She's famous, rich and extremely successful. Thanks to the Calvin Klein ads of the early '90s, her exposure has been tremendous. Kate Moss can be credited for the "waif" comeback that Twiggy popularized in the '60s, by making skinny and frail the body image that women aspired to achieve. But controversy never hurt anyone's career, and Kate's extreme popularity made it seem that being underweight was the standard of beauty.

Number 6
This former Guess? pinup performed her best trick when she made her engagement to magician David Copperfield disappear. All the boys really dug that one. German-born Claudia Schiffer's silhouette has been splashed across over 500 magazine covers. Aren't you happy Claudia forwent practicing law in favor of a top-drawer modeling career? She exudes innocence and sex appeal in the same breath -- blonde hair, deep blue eyes, a dynamite physique -- a quality, we suspect, that led to a four-year contract with Revlon worth $6 million. All of this, in addition to the calendar and television spots, has secured Claudia's well-deserved place as a card-carrying member of the top-five-supermodels-in-the-world club.

Number 5
Dubbed "The Face" for obvious reasons, Carol Alt has had a sustained, if not fulfilling career as a megamodel. Unfortunately, it's been slowed by age and the fickleness of the biz. But that doesn't undo Carol's tremendous achievements. A true renaissance model, way ahead of the curve and slightly ahead of her time, Carol was a dominant force in fashion before supermodels roamed the earth. Like Claudia Schiffer, she gave up on law school when she was plucked from obscurity at Hofstra University. The rest -- covers, exercise videos, American and European films, posters and calendars -- is supermodel history. Not to mention, her face helped launch a glossy institution. Now 43, Carol likes to stay active and is something of a fan of professional hockey; she divorced former NHL player Ron Greschner and is now married to New York Islanders star Alexei Yashin. A hockey fan to boot.

Number 4
Of all of Kathy Ireland's achievements as a model -- and there have been many -- her most notable is probably her repeated at bats on the cover of the famed Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Three at last count. She was also named the magazine's 25th anniversary swimsuit model and has been a staple of the publication for over twelve years. Like many of her peers, she's gracefully pulled off a successful crossover into small television and film roles. With legendary blue eyes, a killer smile and a banging body, it's not hard to see why. She even has a little Martha Stewart in her, hatching her own line of clothing and home design products.

Number 3
The first career supermodel as we understand it, Brinkley has graced the cover of over 500 magazines. She embodies a classic American beauty; her flowing blonde hair, flawless pale complexion and piercing blue eyes are as simple as apple pie, yet complex enough that one can never figure out how it all came together so perfectly. Let's get this out of the way immediately: Brinkley was married to rock 'n' roll legend Billy Joel for some time, even appearing in his "Uptown Girl" video. Of course, Christie will always be remembered for giving Chevy Chase something to speed about in two National Lampoon Vacation movies. Her extraordinary supermodel career now entering its twilight, Christie is more apt to appear in Redbook than Vogue , but is still very much in demand. She's doing the infomercial rounds and has taken up worthwhile causes like the fight against breast cancer.

Number 2
If Brazil has become ground zero for new model talent, Gisele Bundchen is its first lady. Everything about her is perfect, symmetrically and otherwise. Gisele is like a breath of fresh air for anyone who's grown tired of that drawn, emaciated look. On the contrary, Gisele's figure is wholly feminine: shapely and proportional, not tomboyish. Since appearing on the scene a short time ago (1999, to be exact), she has exploded as a top choice of photographers, glossies and, of course, fashion houses. Polo and Dolce & Gabbana quickly came knocking, signing Gisele to peddle their wares. All the others have since fallen in line. Between endorsements and shoots, you might say Gisele is adequately compensated for being the next big thing. Her estimated earning power is in the neighborhood of $5 million. Now she can chow down in style, even though rumor has it she has a thing for Big Macs.

Number 1

Cindy Crawford isn't a supermodel, she's an enterprise. This Midwesterner's star began to rise in the mid-'80s, as she parlayed a ridiculous body and one very prominent mole into a career that included hundreds of magazine covers, a Play..boy layout and, of course, a myriad of catwalk saunters. But Cindy's world domination did not end there. Endorsements for makeup lines and soft drinks, appearances in Hollywood films and a short-lived turn as a restaurateur followed. In 1995, Forbes magazine named Crawford the world's highest-paid model. Not bad for an Illinois farm girl. Since conquering fashion and dominating popular culture, Cindy has turned her attention to raising her children alongside her nightlife impresario husband, Rande Gerber. Her appearances may be limited these days, but nobody can deny that the '90s were all Cindy's.

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