I Have Questions ...

How Do Supermodels Feel About Aging?

On September 20, the four-part, four-hour AppleTV+ docuseries The Super Models dropped, providing a remarkable walk down memory lane. While we may think of the supermodel era as the ’90s, the groundwork was actually laid in the ’80s, when the four luminary and era-defining beauties — Linda, Cindy, Naomi and Christy — were discovered and carved out careers in their teens. Later, as a group, they parlayed that white-hot fame into pop cultural icon status.

But what we really want to know is what we can learn from their (extraordinary, heightened, elevated, otherworldly) experiences. Well, plenty it turns out. Because in their 50s, the most beautiful women in the world have gone through the same transitions the rest of us have. They are, gasp, relatable.

So what are some lessons on life, beauty and fashion that we can glean from these legendary supermodels?

Call Out for Q’s ...

Do you have questions, too? Why is Brad Pitt dressing like a fuzzy Smurf at the age of 59? Can I still wear a miniskirt? How do I pull off stealth wealth on a budget? Who says I have to age gracefully? What is the best sex position for a bad back? Yup, way more questions. Add your question to our list at . We can’t answer all emails personally, but please let us know if you mind us using your name in the event your question is chosen for publication.

The Zoomerist

Here are some highlights plucked from the series, to show what we can all learn from the fab four.

Never Be Afraid to Stand Out With a Beauty Look

St. Catharines, Ont.’s own Linda Evangelista took her career to the stratosphere in 1998 when she cut her hair. As she says in the documentary, she worried she would “be the only girl with short hair.” She needn’t have worried. Standing out from the crowd, going against the prevailing trend winds, made Evangelista stand out. She went on to cover some 700 magazines.

Independence Is the Key to Happiness

Christy Turlington was a suburban California girl. Her dad was a PanAm pilot, who met her mom, originally from El Salvador, when she was working as a flight attendant for the airline. As a teen, Turlington babysat and cleaned horse stalls. But after she was discovered, she learned from her modelling experience, that “Money gave me independence right out of the gate.” She never forgot that lesson, and negotiated an enormous contract with Calvin Klein Eternity fragrance, that she holds to this day. 

Never Mold Yourself for a Partner

Cindy Crawford has made news since the release of the documentary series for speaking about her first marriage to actor Richard Gere. (Crawford is now happily married to second husband, restaurateur Randi Gerber with whom she co-parented next-gen models Kaia and Presley.) But looking back on her 1991, three-year-long union with Gere, Crawford is thoughtful in the documentary. “You’re willing to kind of mold yourself around whoever you are in love with,” as a young person, she says. 

She gives some examples: “You like baseball? I like baseball. You’re really into Tibetan Buddhism? I might be into that. I’ll try it.” Sometimes hearing someone else, someone from the pinnacle of pop culture, articulate the youthful exuberances we’ve grown out of, helps us process our own past mistakes (ahem, growth experiences!). 

Stand Up for Yourself

Naomi Campbell had a helluva fight to be treated equally to her white peers in the modelling business, mainly Linda, Cindy and Christy. Her first big job was for Elle magazine, and she was flown from her London home where she lived with her single mother, to a plantation in the American south for a feature called “Land Girl,” with an introductory image of her in a headscarf. As the documentary shows us, it was six white crew members and one Black teenager. Harrowing. 

As Campbell recalls, “I started to understand culturally that I was gonna have to work really hard to be accepted.” Later, when Linda and Christy started to demand that Naomi be cast alongside them in shows, she says, “I wanted what the white model was getting. I wanted it too.”

Fake It Til You Make It

This may be the best piece of advice in the docuseries. Now, the late ’80s/early ’90s were a complicated time for feminism. We often confused the trappings of power — high heels, big hair, big shoulders — for real power. But these four women drove an industry to a different level as the advent of cable television coverage changed the nature of fashion shows and what people saw in their living rooms. At the dawn of the ’90s, they all appeared in the George Michael Freedom video, taking them inside the pop culture nexus. Soon after, Gianni Versace cast the quartet to open his runway show playing the same characters. Worlds converged. Massive beauty brand, Pepsi, perfume offers followed. As Cindy, who went on to host MTV’s House of Style says in the doc, “We looked powerful, then we were kind of, maybe we are powerful. And we started owning that.”

Remember How Far We Have All Come

In a remarkable throwback clip shown in the docuseries, Cindy Crawford appears as an adorable, leggy Chicago teen model on The Oprah Winfrey Show, with her agent, industry bigwig John Casablancas. Winfrey asks Crawford to stand up so the audience at home can take a look at her body. Really. 

Then Casablancas speaks for Crawford, answering all the questions. “I felt like chattel,” says Crawford looking back on the jaw-dropping moment. “Or like the child.” She found her own voice when she took over MTV’s House of Style, which was an early example of personality driven programming, and which allowed Crawford to hold the mic. She hasn’t dropped it since, sitting in the driver’s seat in all her entrepreneurial endeavours, including her own beauty line.

Let Go of Your Past

Evangelista revealed a number of painful things in the docuseries, from her two-time battle with breast cancer to her emotional upheaval after CoolSculpting caused her bodily disfigurement (a lawsuit was settled for undisclosed terms). She talks about “the deep depression I am in.” She also, for the first time, spoke about the domestic violence she suffered during her marriage to model-agent Gérald Marie. Marie was accused by 15 women of sexual assault. A French court earlier this year closed the rape investigations against the former agent, on the basis the accusations exceeded the country’s statute of limitations. But his former wife, Evangelista, had this to say in the documentary: “He knew not to touch my face. Not to touch the moneymaker.” 

Christy Turlington also spoke about the dark side of the modelling profession, where very young women’s lives and careers had been overseen by sometimes unscrupulous persons. She said she feels like she barely skirted disaster. As fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi also says on film, “These women took tropes about women, and rather than be victims they made them into icons.”

Even Naomi Campbell Gets Hot Flashes

During a photo shoot where the documentary crew was following them around in the current time period, Campbell pauses and waves papers at her face. “It’s aging. Everything changes. Your body changes.” If that isn’t relatable, and kind of a relief that time spares no one its little indignities, I don’t know what is. 

Turlington continues the thread with, “You hope that the way you are will sort of transcend your image.” I’m assuming she meant that who we all are now is a better place and a better vessel to inhabit than in our youth, because despite the changes, we get wisdom and perspective in return.

Keep Living Out Loud

The most moving moment of the documentary comes when Evangelista says, “I didn’t want to hide anymore. I wanted to start living again.” She has managed that magnificently, recently, with the tour around the launch of her coffee-table book with Steven Meisel, drawing adoring crowds in major cities all over the world. “Beauty doesn’t have to have an end date, or an expiration date.” 

As Turlington observes, “We are all in our 50s, we are all mothers now.” They are also cultural avatars. And yes, being so public about their fears and vulnerabilities is helpful. The most beautiful women in the world, who have captivated us for the better part of 40 years, are struggling with who they were, and who they are now. Supermodels. They really are just like us.

Always asking questions.

—Leanne Delap