Issue 13 / Is The Celebrity The New Supermodel (Again)?

Is The Celebrity The New Supermodel (Again)?

Aug 25, 2015

It seems like celebrities and supermodels are always at odds with one another for the coveted spot in the limelight. With their extensive coverage on social media, are celebrities turning supermodels obsolete?

Photo Credit:

Today, the word "supermodel" conjures a very different image than it did 30 years ago. In the age of social media, where celebrities and models alike are able to self-promote, the lines can be blurry as to who is a “model” and who is a “celebrity.” These terms may no longer be mutually exclusive when you think of who you see on magazine covers around the globe. Social media is a modern tool for the traditional media — vying for our attention as consumers — but also for celebrities and models who are equally vying for the same screen time.
A term coined in the ’80s, the "supermodel" was in a class of her own: she owned the runways, graced magazine covers and held society captive with her perfect physique. Cindy Crawford became a household name, synonymous with the classically beautiful and unattainable. And Christie Brinkley enchanted heartthrob Billy Joel, inspiring his hit “Uptown Girl.” Some supermodels, like Brooke Shields, had careers outside of modeling — typically elsewhere on the world stage, like acting or singing — but by and large, the supermodel’s entire focus was acting as a beautiful canvas for global fashion and beauty campaigns.
Fast-forward to today’s runways and ad campaigns, and who do you see? Gone are the days of the elite supermodel, replaced by the Hollywood starlets and it-girls of the moment. Style icons rarely come in the form of catwalk models. Rather, they appear in Instagram photos and celebrity street-style snaps. If today’s society demands a Jill-of-all-trades attitude, does the classic supermodel still exist?
Where are our style icons coming from?
It’s no secret that the average person no longer needs to buy a glossy magazine to stay current with fashion trends. We have images from all over the world at our fingertips: we no longer have to wait for our favourite monthly magazines, fashion weeks or awards shows to see what’s on trend. Perhaps the biggest fashion outlets of the 2010s? Red carpet arrivals before festivals and awards ceremonies like Cannes International Film Festival, the International Indian Film Academy Awards and the MET Gala. People tune in from around the world to see what (and who) celebrities are wearing. Icons are born on the red carpet and viewers can’t wait to see what’s up next.


Take Lupita Nyong’o, for instance: unknown before her inaugural 2014 Oscars appearance, where she took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 12 Years a Slave, she took the fashion world by storm with her sky-blue Prada gown. In just over a year, she has landed on most notable lists for being a fashion A-lister.

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Sonam Kapoor has had a rocky Bollywood film career, with mixed reviews of her performances. Despite her checkered acting repertoire, her fashion game is on point. She was named Most Stylish Bollywood Actress of the Year at the 2015 Mumbai’s Most Stylish Awards. Thanks to her style status, Kapoor is the Indian ambassador for L’Oréal Paris.
Social Media Sensations

It’s never been easier to see what your favourite celebrities are wearing thanks to social media. Kendall Jenner has a whopping 32.1 million Instagram followers. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, awarded Most Stylish Global Icon of the Year for Mumbai’s 2015 Most Stylish Awards, has 29,900 Instagram followers.

Photo Credit: Keystone Press Agency

Bachchan is a bit of a unique case, crossing over both the celebrity and supermodel territories, as she also won the Miss World Pageant in 1994. Both Bachchan and Kapoor have carefully curated lookbooks that millions of people double-tap every day, solidifying their success as modern fashion icons. Other celebrities, like Lauren Conrad and Blake Lively, chose to take the blogger route, creating their own fashion and lifestyle blogs. What gives these women the credibility to speak authoritatively on fashion? The fact that the world tracks their every outfit change. #ootd
Attainability Versus Sustainability
What triggered this celebrity takeover? Perhaps we can attribute the trend to our innate need to identify with the fashionable. The supermodels of the ’80s seemed so lofty and out of our league: their glamorous lifestyles were intriguing, sure, and we were fascinated by them, certainly, but they were completely unattainable. This is not to say, of course, that anyone could achieve Aishwarya Rai Bachchan or Blake Lively status overnight. But since celebrities make themselves so accessible via their social media and online presences, we feel a connection and a familiarity with them. When Taylor Swift — a style icon herself — performed at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 2014, most likely just as many viewers tuned in to see her as tuned in to watch the actual fashion show. With the popularity of street-style trend reports and candid celeb photos infiltrating our media feeds, our version of a style icon is shifting. There’s no question. Much like our ’80s wardrobe staples, the famed supermodel is becoming a thing of the past.

Main Image Photo Credits: (Cindy Crawford) and (Sonam Kapoor)

Nicole Lippay


Nicole Lippay is a Toronto-based freelance writer and editor. An adventurer at heart, she loves to travel. Seeing the world through the lens of fashion, she likes to keep up with global trends and pop-culture influences, and believes that those experiences make up your personal style.


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