What is a Supermodel?

There’s often a lot of confusion about the difference between a supermodel and a regular model. Here, we break it down and explain not only the differences, but how to achieve each status.

What is a Supermodel?

Simply put, a supermodel is a model who has achieved the top levels of fame and fortune. They are household names, regularly seen in the news and on social media. These are the model’s who aspiring models tend to look up to, as their lives appear very glamorous and well-paid. 

Supermodels work in high fashion. They are usually picked to do editorials and are in demand for fashion shows around the world. Many become close with top fashion designers and photographers. Supermodels are typically catwalk/runway models, and as such have a tall (5’10”) build and slim figure. 

Supermodel on the catwalk

Top Supermodels

– Kate Moss

– Naomi Campbell

– Claudia Schiffer

– Christy Turlington

– Jourdan Dunn

– Cindy Crawford

– Helena Christensen

– Karlie Kloss

– Tyra Banks

– Christie Brinkley

– Adriana Lima

– Gigi Hadid

– Kaia Gerber

– Bella Hadid

– Kendall Jenner

– Linda Evangelista

– Gisele Bundchen

– Heidi Klum

– Twiggy

What is the Difference Between a Model and a Supermodel?

As mentioned above, a supermodel is deemed ‘super’ once they surpass a certain level of fame and fortune. But what other defining factors are there?

Supermodels most commonly work in high fashion – unfortunately, it’s still uncommon to see supermodels who don’t meet the aesthetic criteria required by this demanding modelling niche. Supermodels are nearly always tall (Kate Moss is a rare exception) – 5’10” is the average for women, and 5’11” for men – and they are typically very slim with little body fat and hourglass figures. While there are many successful plus-size models in the industry, there is a lot of debate about whether they can be deemed supermodels. 

Supermodels must also fit into a UK clothing size 6-8. Their bust-waist-hips measurements need to be around 34″-24″-34″ – anything above this is deemed plus-size in high-fashion. 

Meeting the Supermodel Criteria

Even if you meet the strict criteria demanded from high-fashion, that doesn’t mean you’ll have an easy time finding success. It’s an extremely competitive industry and many models do not see the same type of success as supermodels. 

This is for several reasons. Many supermodels come from famous parentage, meaning their names are already in the media. This gives them a big step up above the competition because they are in demand without having done much prior work. 

There are some models who do find success without a famous background. These models are usually spotted by agency scouts while out and about, meaning they are hand-picked from thousands of others (it also means they were in the right place at the right time.) 

Becoming a supermodel relies more on luck than it does hard work – though hard work is also a big factor. 

Just because you meet the criteria also doesn’t mean you will photograph well. Being photogenic is incredibly important, as is having a good walk for the runway. Without these two vital skills, your looks will only get you so far. 

You don’t need to meet conventional beauty standards to be a top model; in fact, many modelling agencies look specifically for unusual or unique people. 

How to Become a Supermodel

The road to being a supermodel is remarkably similar to that of a typical model. However, there is a lot more luck involved.

There are several things you need to achieve to be a fashion model:

Getting Signed to a Modelling Agency

​If you want to be a top model, you’ll need to be signed to a great modelling agency. In theory, this is relatively simple; you simply need to apply and get accepted. In practice, however, this can be deceptively tricky to accomplish. That’s because there is a lot of competition to get signed to top agencies. You’ll need to stand out from thousands of other applicants – no small feat. 

The good news is you can apply to as many agencies as you want, as many times as you want. The bad news is it can take months to hear back from a single agency – often, you won’t hear back at all. It’s important not to lose confidence here, as rejection is a typical part of the business – you’ll have to get used to being determined if you want to see success. 

If you’re struggling for several months with no luck, try applying with different photos. 

Once you’ve got the interest of one or more agencies, the hard work isn’t over – in fact, it’s only just begun! You’ll now need to meet the agencies in person and win them over with your looks and personality. 

Do plenty of research and find out exactly what each agency is looking for. Don’t take it personally if you aren’t selected – they’re looking for a specific look, and you may not be it. But you may be the exact match for another agency… so don’t give up!

Getting Scouted

Many supermodels claim to have been scouted (spotted by agency scouts) while out and about, so it’s a good idea to increase your time in major cities (in the UK that’s London and Manchester). These are the sorts of areas that scouts may be present in. 

Freelance Modelling

Freelance modelling is a great way to earn experience and gain valuable photos that can be included in your modelling portfolio.

When working freelance, this means you’ll keep all the money you earn – but it also means you’ll have to find all your interviews yourself. 

It can be very hard work and often only works once you have already established a bit of a name for yourself in the industry.

It’s not the best way to become a supermodel, but it might be good for those looking to manage their career themselves. 

Social Media

Social media, in particular Instagram, is a great way to boost your exposure and build on your modelling career. Earning a big following will put you in front of potential brands who may wish to work with you. The more in demand you are, the more brands and modelling agencies will take notice. 

Building a good social media presence is difficult and time-consuming work, but can ultimately be worth it if you’re willing to put the hours in.

Becoming Popular as a Model

Becoming a model is fairly tricky, but becoming a well-known supermodel is the REALLY difficult part. You need to find regular work and build on your presence in the industry. And this can only be done if your look is currently in fashion. 

As with everything, a certain look will be more in fashion at a certain period in time. If you’re fortunate enough to be the right look for now, there are some other things you can do to help yourself on the road to supermodel stardom:

– Try and bag as many magazine features as you can. In particular, you’re looking to get as many magazine covers, editorial features, TV adverts and brand collaborations are the way to get you to supermodel status. Aim for Vogue, Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition is also highly desirable; many supermodels have featured on it.

– It also helps to be seen rubbing shoulders with A-listers and other industry professionals, too! Network as much as you can and build a strong contacts list. 

– Don’t be rude and get on anyone’s bad side – you never know what sway they may have with others in the industry!

– Be reliable, professional and courteous. 

– Always look to maintain your appearance. Work out and eat well year-round, and have clean hair, neat nails, and polished skin. Invest in a good skincare routine and get dead ends trimmed over every few weeks. Don’t allow roots to show if you have dyed hair – keep on top of them. 

– Try to develop your own personal style. 

– Practice your posing and runway walk.

– Have a strong modelling portfolio and continually work on it. 

– Understand the business – read books, research and speak to others who know the industry. 

– Be ok with rejection. Learn how to brush off criticism and negativity. 

– Be ready for setbacks. One Victoria’s Secret angel stated it took her 15 years of hard work to land a role as a model; never give up!

– Gain as much experience as you can; top models are always experimenting and trying new things. 

– Seek to work with high-profile brands like Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Tom Ford, Versace, Dolce & Gabanna or Cover Girl. Bagging a billboard is a very supermodel move. 

– Many top models have featured in music videos – look into it.

– Try to get work at a top fashion week. Be ready to work really hard – they’re exhausting!

– Know your worth. If you have good experience, don’t work for free (unless the job is just too good to miss out on). 

– Above all, be realistic in what you can achieve. A very small minority of people achieve supermodel status due to a combination of having the right look, being in the right place at the right time and good fortune. You can still have a lucrative and rewarding job as a model even if you don’t reach supermodel status.

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