The 20 Most Influential Models of All-Time
Updated: Sep 11, 2020
The best models push through the photographs to connect with people. They're beautiful (sometimes in a quirky way), relatable yet aspirational, and have the face for both high fashion and commercial modeling. The epitome of luxury in fashion is unattainability -- physical looks that are unique and relatively unattainable (whether traditionally "beautiful" or not). We've gathered together 20 models who match just that, and are the most influential of all time!
To be clear, the list is not exactly the most famous or highest paid, but it's about their impact on the fashion industry. Did your favorite make the list?
20) Agyness Den
In 2007, Vogue named her as one of the world's next biggest supermodels - a title the edgy, punk-rock model has definitely earned. She has starred in campaigns for Armani, Mulberry, Reebok, Hugo Boss, and Burberry, among many, many others. Den was also praised for her personal style: hats, suspenders, bleached cropped hair, and neon accessories. She brought back the popularization of edgy, punk models for a short period of time, during a time when supermodels weren't as popular as the previous era (Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks, Giselle).
19-18) Kendall Jenner and GiGi Hadid
The 'supermodel' image was fast declining in the late 2000s/early 2010s, and actresses and TV-personalities were taking over the magazines. Well-connected models like Jenner and Hadid were on the rise in the mid 2010s, and have officially brought back the supermodel status. While they are way higher-tier than "Instagram Models," they have definitely used their social media to help promote their career. They are some of the highest paid models in the world right now.
17) Tyra Banks
A pioneer in many ways, Tyra Banks has broken barriers, records, and taken the name supermodel to new heights! She is one of few supermodels who has turned her supermodel success into a brand, and been very successful in other areas of the entertainment industry. From the high fashion runways at the tender age of 17, she grew into supermodel status as the first black model on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and GQ, and became a Victoria's Secret angel.
She also had her own talk show for a number of years as well as started the hit reality competition series America's Next Top Model, that has launched the careers of celebrities like Nyle Dimarco, Leila Goldkuhl, Eva Marcille, and Winnie Harlow.
16-14) Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Claudia Schiffer
This crew, while all had a somewhat different style and made their own marks on the fashion industry, was known for their elegant and extraordinary runway walks, diva attitudes and strong friendship with each other. Evangelista even famously claimed "We don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day." The divas of the mid 80's to 90's.
13) Naomi Campbell
Best friends with trio of models above. Ever since she began modeling at age 15, she has stomped countless runways and graced the cover of infinite magazines. At age 18, she was the first black model on the cover of French Vogue and TIME magazines. Not only is she one of the most recognized supermodels in the world, but she has also branched out into acting throughout her career. Also known for her diva attitude, she is one people hate to love and love to hate, but she has earned her diva attitude!
12-11) Elle Macpherson and Cindy Crawford
These two are paired together because they had similar influences on the industry. Although Macpherson came just a few years before of Crawford, they were praised for a strong, healthy but still sexy look. Macpherson was nicknamed 'The Body' for her iconic shape and five times on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Cindy Crawford was also praised for her iconic mole, which she rocks flawlessly.
10) Kate Moss
She changed the world of fashion due to her larger-than-life fame. Because of her iconic bohemian style and waif look, she became the muse for several legendary designers like Alexander McQueen in the early 90's. One of the first supermodels to become embedded into popular culture and full celebrity status.
9) Gisele Bundchen
A hot young, Brazilian amazonian woman popped up in the late 90's to take over the fashion world! One of the most iconic Victoria's Secret runway models of all time, she is credited with ending the era of 'heroin chic' that was so fashionable throughout the late 80's into the 90's. She portrayed a healthy, athletic (but still thin), sexy look. She is one few top models who has truly achieved a successful high fashion (Dior) and commercial (Victoria's Secret) career. She can do it all!
8) Heidi Klum
Heidi Klum, the first German Victoria's Secret model, is influential for being one of the first supermodels to capitalize as much as possible on her fame and beauty. Endless product lines in fashion and beauty, and being the host of Project Runway for many, many seasons, for which she gained 2 Emmy noms. She is the ultimate household name.
7) Lauren Hutton
Like a few other models on this list, she was praised by designers for her flaw -- the gap in her teeth. Her confidence made it beautiful. Although a bit out of trend now, many modern top models have received beauty/cosmetic contracts because of their teeth gaps, and those cosmetic contracts are what make you a household name! Without Hutton, a model like Georgia May Jagger (the former face of Rimmel London) wouldn't exist.
Few people outside of the fashion industry have heard of Dovima, but at the height of her fame in the 1950's, she showed an elegance in her photos that was lacking in previous decades, and collaborated with famous photographers like Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. "Dovima with Elephants," taken in 1955 by Richard Avedon, remains an industry legend. It has everything the future of fashion photography would seek to encompass: beauty, grace, elegance, drama, and controversy.
Before we name the top five, let's mark some special honorees that didn't quite make our list.
Known as one of the world's first supermodels (or THE first as she likes to say), this supermodel coined the term back in the 70's and 80's after dominating the fashion industry with countless magazine covers and runway gigs. Dickinson has graced a vogue cover 37 times and 7 times for Elle Magazine. An incredible feat. She also opened her own modeling agency in 2005. Although not incredibly influential in terms of changing the fashion game like others on our list, she was the muse for nearly a dozen designers.
Ashley Graham and Kate Upton
Although different body-types, they both broke the 'skinny' mold of the modeling industry with their dynamic Sports Illustrated covers. Graham, a plus-size model, and Upton, a curvy model, both helped push body inclusivity further in the industry and gained immense commercial success and attention.
The Brazilian-born transgender model has opened new doors for the entire industry. In 2010, long before the fashion world started having serious conversations about gender stereotypes, she became the face of Givenchy. Since then, she has continued to participate in runway shows and ad campaigns. In 2014, she fronted Redken's ads, becoming the first transgender model to represent a global brand.
Although not quite yet the supermodel status of Kendall and GiGi, she has made a name for herself because of her skin condition, Vitiligo, and her confidence to own it. Getting her start on Tyra Banks' America's Next Top Model, she is now a spokesperson for Vitiligo and models for top brands like Desigual, and for top photographers. Add a makeup collab with Kim Kardashian and a recent Sports Illustrated swimsuit photoshoot, and you have a supermodel in the making. This is only the beginning for her!
Now, let's get to our top five!
5) Beverly Johnson
A pioneer, she was the first black woman to grace the covers of American Vogue (1974) and French Elle (1975). Johnson has appeared in countless TV commercials, print ads for popular brands, and even acted in movies. She has also had her jewelry, wig, and skincare lines. Her supermodel status, however, transcended race. After being in the industry for just four years, she became the highest paid woman in the industry at that time
4) Grace Jones
Popularizing a real androgynous look, this African-American beauty was at her peak in the 1970's. Her bold look was more well received in high-end markets like Paris, where uniqueness is seen as luxurious, because it is unattainable. She also became muse to legendary photographer Jean Paul Goude. Grace Jones is the epitome of a unique beauty.
Described as Yves Saint Laurent's dream girl (who even created a whole collection inspired by her!), and muse to Halston, Gianni Versace, Calvin Klein, and Donna Karan, Iman rose to the top of the modeling scene in the mid-'70s. With her long neck, copper skin, and exotic features, she became an instant success and introduced the industry to a more diverse standard of beauty. She was also a favorite model for Vogue and Harpers Bazaar. Iman definitely broke barriers, and helped popularize African women in the industry. She is also known for pioneering her own very successful cosmetic line.
Her waif look and pixie cut, with her large eyes and long eyelashes, forever changed the fashion industry and made her the face of the 1960's. Before Twiggy, most models were already wealthy socialites weren't necessarily very skinny. She became one of the first working-class models. She also was one of the first androgynous looking models. Twiggy is considered the original model.
At 6ft. 3inches, this Prussian-born model popularized the amazonian woman look back in the 1960's that is so coveted in the fashion industry now. Not only that, but she also was the first to create real art in fashion photographs, incorporating contortionist-like poses with 'crazy' hair. This is the epitome of fashion today, especially in real high fashion and couture.
Do you agree with our ranking? Let us know on social media! (@KBPopCulture)