Vogue's Old Girl; Linda Evangelista Was the World's First Supermodel. Now, at 36, She's Back - Storming the Cover of American Vogue

By Watson, Shane | The Evening Standard (London, England), August 20, 2001 | Go to article overview

Vogue's Old Girl; Linda Evangelista Was the World's First Supermodel. Now, at 36, She's Back - Storming the Cover of American Vogue


Watson, Shane, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: SHANE WATSON

IT had to happen and it has, almost two years to the day since she started making headlines: Gisele Bundchen, the girl they called the Brazilian bombshell, has become boring. This is no fault of her own, it's just the nature of modelling: beautiful girl arrives on the scene, is a pearl beyond price for a couple of years, and then, just as suddenly, it's all over. She's still gorgeous, but the industry has moved on. They want a new look, we want change. She could have a very public mud-wrestle with Penelope Cruz and we'd still be looking over her shoulder for the Next Big Thing.

And here it comes! Linda Evangelista, born in Toronto to Italian parents, five foot ten, blue/green almond-shaped eyes - September's American Vogue covergirl and the new name on the lips of those who are paid to know. There are rumours of a deal with Dior (she was spotted being fitted for a suit by menswear designer Hedi Slimane). Karl Lagerfeld has photographed her for the cover of French magazine Numero. She is the hot girl of the moment, no doubt about it. But there's a difference between her and Gisele, of course. Linda Evangelista was featured on the covers of American Vogue, and Italian, and British and French Vogue simultaneously, 14 years ago. She is 36 (Gisele has just turned 21).

When she made that crack about not getting out of bed for less than $10,000, it was 1991 and there were only five models in the world who could command that kind of money.

The others have long since diversified: Naomi has done her writing-singing-whatever, Cindy her workout tapes, Claudia's been in some movies and Christy has got into yoga gear.

Only Linda has stood firm, refusing to pick another career because she was born to model. She had it and she'd always have it, was her attitude - why flirt with second best? The news that American Vogue is featuring her on its September cover (the biggest issue of the year) is not just another excuse for trotting out the familiar line about ageless beauty and the end of middle age. It's an appropriate moment to remind ourselves that success as a model requires a lot more than beauty and that Linda is the fairy godmother of the modern model, the one who led the way. Of all the supermodels, Linda was most responsible for elevating the job into an art form, pushing up the fees, piling on the expectations and generally ensuring that by the end of the Eighties the world of the top model had become as lucrative, glamorous and shrouded in enigma as that of the Hollywood star. Like a screen legend she wanted an image that transcended the limits of the job.

And she got it.

Before Linda, models were in service to designers and photographers. After Linda, models were bigger than the clothes, starring in Diet Coke commercials, rock videos and caricaturing themselves in mainstream movies.

Before Linda, modelling was about selling fashion. After Linda, it was about selling that extra something that maybe the clothes could give you and the model already had. As a result, somewhere in between her hitting the big time in the Eighties and the advent of Kate Moss, we started to believe that these blank canvases genuinely were something extraordinary, icons on a par with rock stars, actors and princesses. The other supermodels who came to prominence at the same time were impressive, too. …

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