Within the next minute, in some small town, a clueless 14-year-old will slip white shoes onto her black-stockinged legs, and no one will stop her. No leonine six-footer will swoop down from the sky to grab the pumps from her pudgy little feet and rescue her from fashion disaster. No, the skies are empty today. Because the supermodel is dead.
She's missing from most fashion-magazine covers, replaced by movie starlets. She's all but gone from top advertising campaigns, beaten out by anonymous, awkward-looking teenagers. She has virtually disappeared from runways, her asking price too dear. Even rock stars don't seem eager to date her anymore. A little glamour has left the world. And so the world mourns, its makeup runny from tears.
The six officially anointed supermodels (in the fashion world, this is actually accepted as fact)--Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Kate Moss--have faded. Moss, Campbell and Schiffer only bothered to walk one catwalk each at last month's Milan fashion shows. Evangelista has retired, and Turlington is a student at New York University. Crawford, after co-starring in one bad Hollywood film, is trying to be a TV star, but her recent ABC special, Sex with Cindy Crawford, came in last in the ratings for its time period.
Of course, even supermodels get old (like 25) and have to move on. But the generation that was supposed to replace them on magazine covers and in gossip columns has not come close to matching their star power. The should-have-been supermodels like Amber Valetta and current hot fashion darlings like Maggie Rizer aren't recognized on the street. "They want to make money, which is fine, but I don't know if they have the creative side," says Campbell. "They can show one outfit from another, but they can't differentiate one designer from another." Supermodels don't have to be nice.
Which is why the popular conspiracy theory explaining the supermodel's disappearance is that designers and fashion editors, sick of their "I won't get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day" attitude, made sure a small group of models would never again have the power of the Big Six. "By 1995 several of the girls had acted up so much, there was a building resentment against them," says Michael Gross, the author of Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women. "They'd sit in the back of limos and kick the driver in the neck with their high heels when they weren't happy with the way he was driving. Editors who had to deal with these girls probably weren't sad to see them go."
Actually, editors don't care. Charles Gandee, associate editor at Vogue, says high prices and poor attitudes contributed less to the decline of the supermodel than did changes in the fashion world. As clothes became less flashy--as Versace gave way to Prada--designers turned to models who were less glamorous, so they wouldn't overpower the clothing. "Maggie Rizer, Erin O'Connor, Karen Elson--those three girls are idiosyncratic," says Gandee. "Maggie has freckles; Karen has kind of dicey skin. You don't look at them and say, 'That's a pretty girl.' They not only weren't the homecoming queen; they might not have been invited to the prom." Magazine editors don't have to be nice either.