Male models

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Gabriel Aubry

Since I’ve devoted so much space to female supermodels this week, I thought I’d dedicate a post to the males in the business. Then I realized I only know two male models by name: Tyson Beckford and Gabriel Aubry (and the latter I only know due to his well-publicized relationship with Halle Berry). My very unscientific reasoning for the lack of famous male supermodels amounts to this: men are probably less interested in modeling as a career given that historically men have relied on power more than beauty; society is less interested in male models because male beauty is valued less than female beauty; and more men fit the physical requirements for modeling than women (being tall and thin) so male supermodels are less recherché than their female counterparts. Maybe?

Apparently, there are some men who have made a name for themselves. has listings of the top 50 male modelstop 10 icons (including Aubry), and the 25 men making the most modeling money. Time to start paying attention.

The supermodel meet-cute

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People love stories of how supermodels got discovered like they love a good romantic comedy. Serendipity and romance prevail in both stories, but there are slight differences. In Hollywood you see boy-meets-girl, while in modelworld the boy happens to be a dashing French talent scout and the girl is freakishly tall and breathtakingly beautiful (ok, Hollywood has probably made that movie already). In both cases, the audience is led to wonder What would have happened if he hadn’t dropped his napkin at that EXACT TIME?! and smile about how the stars were perfectly aligned.

Here are a few stories of how some of world’s most famous faces got found:

Gisele, McDonald's happiest customer

Kate Moss was discovered by a modeling agent at New York’s JFK airport while flying home from a vacation in the Bahamas. She was 14.

Cindy Crawford spent her childhood summers working on a farm to make extra money for her family. A newspaper photographer took a picture of her while she was detasseling corn at the age of 16, and there was so much positive feedback about the picture that she decided to take up modeling.

Continuing in the food trend, Natalia Vodianova helped her mother sell fruit on the streets of Gorky, USSR. A talent scout saw her on the street and convinced her to learn English so as to pursue modeling. At 17 she moved to Paris and signed with an agency.

And, of course, there’s Gisele Bündchen, the highest paid model in the world. She was found while eating at a McDonald’s in Sao Paulo at the age of 14. Bet she’s glad she ate that burger.

The lesson is clear: if you want to be a supermodel, work for menial wages in rural towns and frequent fast food joints. You’ll be discovered in no time.

It’s a walk-off

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One of the most important parts of being a supermodel is having a distinctive catwalk. Take, for example, Naomi Campbell:

Kate Moss:

and Zoolander:

How to be a supermodel

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What you’ll need: Legs til Tuesday, symmetrical bone structure

Songlist: Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison, Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy

Further reading: Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women by Michael Gross

Supermodels without makeup...still prettier than your average bear

My favorite show for my entire teenage years was America’s Next Top Model. Tyra Banks was on a mission: to prove that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Or so she said.

Supermodel beauty is unnatural beauty. Supermodels come in exactly one shape—boyishly thin—and one size—tall.  Girls must be at least 5’6”, but any girl on ANTM who wasn’t at least 5’10” got kicked off early for being too short.  Tyra eventually incorporated “plus-size” models, and a plus-sized girl even won one season. However, women larger than size 0 and smaller than size 12 (ie, the majority of women in the world) have no place in the modeling world.

Still, I harbored dreams of being on the show. I learned a lot of modeling techniques from watching the show obsessively. Tyra loves to show girls how to take their look from average to supermodel by showing a seemingly insignificant change. After seeing her show girls a million times over how to smile with their eyes (“smise” in Tyra vocabulary), I knew I could do it as well as any of them. I’d roll my eyes along with the judges at the girls who were too “pose-y.”

The author, smising.

My main barrier to being on ANTM, as I saw it, was my height. Being 5’4” automatically disqualified me from even applying. Then, when I was about 21, Tyra announced a new season: SHORT girls. But there’s another barrier I had already hit, which was being too old. Because, apparently, if you haven’t been discovered by the time you leave your teenage years then it’s already too late.

So I never got to be on America’s Next Top Model, but I did recently start a job at a new eyewear company. We each got our picture taken in the glasses with a real makeup artist on set and a real fashion photographer. Maybe my smising lessons didn’t go to waste after all.