5 Steps to Supermodel Stardom

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Picture Gisele Bündchen commanding the catwalk, Tyra Banks teaching the world to smize, or Andreja Pejic giving gender norm-transcending glamor. These icons show that top-tier models aren’t just pretty faces; they’re legends etched into the fabric of beauty and fashion history. If you dream of joining their elite ranks, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a blueprint for becoming a supermodel—plus a breakdown of what separates the super from the standard.


What is a supermodel?

A supermodel is a model who has become a household name due to their reputation and impact. Three main elements separate supermodels from their traditional counterparts: influence, impact, and personality. While models play crucial roles in fashion, advertising, and perpetuating trends, a supermodel stands out not just for looking the part, but also for having a recognizable personal brand. They set trends, influence public perception, and turn fashion campaigns into cultural moments. Supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Gisele Bündchen have infiltrated the Hollywood A-list not just for their beauty, but also for what they represent beyond the runway and the page. 

Male models historically have struggled to achieve supermodel status due to industry disparities, but some consider highly-paid male models like Tyson Beckford, Alton Mason, and Sean O’Pry to be supermodels.

Who was the first supermodel?

The title of “first supermodel” is hotly contested, but many agree that the term emerged in the late 1970s and early ‘80s in reference to industry leaders Janice Dickinson and Lisa Fonssagrives. These pioneers set the stage for the supermodels of the 1990s: icons like Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, and Naomi Campbell, who collectively set a new standard of visibility and personal brands. 

Today’s supermodel icons

If you want to succeed in this notoriously competitive industry in this day and age, you have to be multifaceted. Current supermodels leverage social media to amplify their presence, demonstrating the evolving nature of their influence. Today’s supermodels aren’t just working the runway; they’re also entrepreneurs, actors, and social media moguls. They include: 

  • Adut Akech
  • Cara Delevigne 
  • Kaia Gerber
  • Bella & Gigi Hadid
  • Kendall Jenner
  • Adriana Lima
  • Alton Mason

How to become a supermodel

Supermodel at the beach

Anna Om/Shutterstock

Beyond the normative path to becoming a model, achieving supermodel status is a matter of transforming your image into one that’s highly recognizable and marketable on a global scale.

  1. Cultivate your brand. Your journey begins with self-discovery and crafting your image. Aspiring supermodels must cultivate a look that is both unique and versatile so they can adapt to the various needs of designers and brands. This could mean developing a signature look that makes you instantly recognizable, or creating a specific style that you use to market yourself online and in real life.
  2. Develop your portfolio. It’s essential that you develop a robust modeling portfolio that showcases your range, versatility, experiences, and skill set. Without one, you’ll have difficulty making new connections and getting work.
  3. Land an agent. Agencies guide models through the complexities of the industry, helping them secure high-profile work that can lead to supermodel status. Signing with a reputable modeling agency will get you the support and connections needed to manage fame and grow in your career.
  4. Expand your image. A supermodel’s career is not made on the runway alone. Public relations and exposure also play a crucial role in building a model's brand. Strive to make appearances with fashion icons (like designers and other models), develop connections with industry linchpins, and grow your presence on social media to keep getting new opportunities and growing your status.
  5. Continuously evolve. The fashion industry is in constant flux, and supermodels must evolve with it. You must be ahead of trends, adaptable, and always seeking to refine your craft. The fashion industry is known for its high turnover, but supermodels often defy this trend with careers that last decades. The key to long-term success is reinventing yourself when your shtick gets stale, diversifying your portfolios, and staying relevant to the public and the industry.

What do I need to become a supermodel?

Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen on the runway at the Versace show


What are the physical requirements to become a supermodel?

As a standard, most supermodels have tall, thin body measurements. And just how tall are supermodels? Female fashion models tend to be at least 5’9” tall, and male models are 6’ to 6’5” tall. Models typically have waists smaller than their chests, and female models are expected to have waists smaller than both their chests and hips.     

Past supermodels were expected to perfectly fit the standard mold, but times have changed, with fashion accommodating a wider variety of body shapes and sizes. “We’ve been bringing a lot of well-deserving people and communities to the limelight.... Right now, the industry is opening up to that, and we’re seeing really great results with a lot of companies that have been around for a very long time,” model Jillian Mercado said of the industry’s push for diversity.

What are other requirements to become a supermodel?

Being a supermodel is more than just having the right look. Interpersonal skills, professionalism, and branding abilities are as important as a model’s physical attributes. Supermodels must be adept at navigating the public sphere, from social media to interviews and beyond. Models like Adwoa Aboah and Paloma Elsesser even use their platforms to become voices for change, applying their influence to raise awareness and funds for various social, environmental, and health-related issues.

How much do supermodels make? 

The allure of the supermodel lifestyle is not just the fame and the fashion; it's also the potential for staggering financial gain. Icons of the industry like Gisele Bündchen and Kendall Jenner earn tens of millions of dollars as supermodels. Supermodel income comes from runway earnings, brand deals, entrepreneurship, and social media monetization. 

While figures vary and contracts are often shrouded in confidentiality, supermodels can earn thousands of dollars for walking a single show. And if you make a good impression with fashion industry magnates, you might score an exclusive brand deal. Whether it's a fragrance, luxury watch, makeup brand, or car, these endorsements will fill your pockets and solidify your brand identity in the market. With each campaign, you’ll become more recognizable, and more brands will reach out to you for collaboration.

Entrepreneurship has also become a hallmark of modern supermodeling. Many of the most successful supermodels have leveraged their name recognition into business ventures. Tyra Banks branched into producing, while Cindy Crawford developed a successful line of beauty products. Ventures like these will substantially increase your earnings and provide you with a steady income stream long after you retire from the runway.

Furthermore, social media has transformed the supermodel financial landscape. The modern supermodel is not only a face in advertisements but also a personality that people connect with through platforms like Instagram and TikTok. A supermodel with a strong social media following can monetize their online presence through sponsored posts and collaborations. Digital influence is a huge factor in marketability and, by extension, earning capacity.