I grew up in the supermodel golden era when the ‘fab five’ or ‘big six’ of ‘Gianni girls’ or whatever they were nicknamed ruled the magazines. Naturally, I was obsessed. I kept a model book – sort of diary where I cut and pasted all my favorite supermodel pics. Christy Turlington ruled my model book. I loved her. Still do. I’m glad to see her on the current Vogue cover looking as fresh as ever after over twenty years in the business.

So when Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women was published in 1995, I was super excited and I think I read it cover-to-cover in one day. It’s really the only book that goes into the depth of modeling history way back when couture was modelled only by rich and thin society women. It wasn’t such a ‘rags-to-riches’ profession as it is now. They did it just for fun and considered themselves to be art patrons. Many have come claiming that they were the world’s first supermodel. Well, it wasn’t Twiggy, Janice Dickinson, or Cindy Crawford or whoever else made the claim. The term ‘supermodel’ was first used to describe a model (and later actress) Anita Colby after appearing on fifteen magazine covers in a single month! By 1945, she was making $100/hour while most other models were modeling ‘for fun’. However, by fashion insiders Lisa Fonssagrives is considered to be the original supermodel and has appeared in Vogue more times than any other model for three decades straight. After Lisa came Carmen Dell’Orefice, Jean Patchet and Suzy Parker in the 50s and Jean Shrimpton, Veruschka, Twiggy and Donyale Luna in the 60s. So it’s between these two for the first supermodel:
Anita Colby

Lisa Fonssagrives

These are selected Vogue covers by some of the first supermodels. I love the old cover design before it got all clutter-y with all the text. I love the photographs and doesn’t the fashion seem so much better than now? I am seriously coveting Veruschka’s wrap.

Lisa Fonssagrives 1940

Carmen Dell’Orefice 1947

Jean Patchet 1950

Jean Patchet 1951

Suzy Parker 1960

Jean Shrimpton 1962

Jean Shrimpton 1963

Celia Hammond 1966

Veruschka 1966

Donyale Luna 1966
(she was the first black model to grace the cover of any Vogue)

Twiggy 1967