book review: Models of Influence

models of influence

Models of Influence By Nigel Barker.
Harper Design| February 10. 2015.| pages |$40.00| ISBN: 978-0-06-234584-4

Rating: ****/5*

“Our culture often puts fashion down as phony, materialist, and shallow—is it a coincidence that people would denigrate a business mostly run by and catering to women? It’s not just a multibillion-dollar business, employing people on an international level. It’s also a means of self-expression, for designers and models, certainly, but also for everyone who wakes up and gets dressed in the morning.”

Modeling seems diametrically opposed to being a good feminist. Models and advertising make women feel inferior. Not perfect enough. Not thin enough. Not pretty enough. Just not enough. You can be a feminine feminist who cares how she looks, wears make-up and likes fashion. You can be any kind of woman you want to be. We’re a consumer-driven society [unless like me you like to revolt against being like everyone else and shop at Goodwill and thrift shops] and these things must be advertised in magazines and commercials. Generally models do that.

These days it’s cool for celebrities to be the face of a brand or to do advertisements when years ago that wasn’t the case. Just like TV actors didn’t do film and film actors didn’t do TV. As Gisele Bundchen said recently modeling is a job and when she gets home she’s no longer a model. I don’t read magazines that often anymore. I used to subscribe to music magazines as well as Elle, Vogue and Vanity Fair. I became first aware of models in my 20s when Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista—“The Trinity”– were supremely popular. The beautiful and smart Christy Turlington has always been a favorite for me.

“In my job as a photographer, I’m inspired not so much by other photographers or art directors as by the models themselves.”

Photographer and TV judge/host [also listed on the press release as “authority”] Nigel Barker profiles 50 models who he feels substantially shaped the modeling industry in one way or another from the 1940s to present day. I’ve watched America’s Next Top Model and The Face. Nigel Barker knows what works. His definition of supermodel also differs from that of Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell, models he works with on those programs. Barker explains: “Today, the term “supermodel” has become so overused that it’s lost all its meaning. The word should really only be employed in cases when a model has transcended the limitations of her field and crossed over into new territories, both in the business and at large, through her influence upon contemporary standards of beauty.”

Models of Influence includes the triumphs and the tragedies of modeling. Barker includes plenty of information about each model’s career and a bit about their lives outside of modeling. He’s also selected wonderful pictures by world-renowned photographers. Interestingly no female photographers. Sharp and well-written. A beautiful coffee-table book if you enjoy beauty and beautiful faces and bodies.

Barker divides the models into these sections: The Golden Age [Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, Dorian Leigh, Bettina Graziani, Dovima, Carmen Dell’Orefice, China Machado]; The Cult of Personality [Jean Shrimpton, Veruschka, Peggy Moffitt, Twiggy, Penelope Tree, Naomi Sims]; The Beauty Revolution [Lauren Hutton, Jerry Hall, Margaux Hemingway, Iman, Janice Dickinson, Gia Carangi, ; The Million-Dollar Faces [Christie Brinkley, Brooke Shields, Ines de la Fressange, Isabella Rossellini, Paulina Porizkova, Elle Macpherson] ; The Supermodels [Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Tatjana Patitz, Stephanie Seymour, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen, Tyra Banks] ; The Androgynes [Kate Moss, Kristen McMenamy, Amber Valletta, Stella Tenant, Alek Wek, ; The Noughties [Gisele Bundchen, Sophie Dahl, Natalia Vodianova, Liya Kebede, Daria Werbowy]; The Contemporaries [Coco Rocha, Lara Stone, Liu Wen, Karlie Kloss, Joan Smalls, Kate Upton, Cara Delevingne]. Some models are familiar and others not.

“Above all, models have moved us over the years to think and see the world differently. They hold up a mirror to society and show us where we are and where we still have room to grow. What is considered beautiful evolves, but it’s very often through models and fashion that we come to understand beauty in the context of our time, by extension, within ourselves.”

It’s interesting that many models in the 40s and 50s didn’t start modeling until later in life. Also they gave it up when children came along. Top models pursue interests in art, dance, curating art, expression, business and design. They’ve also been humanitarians and remain involved in giving back in huge ways through their own foundations or other international organizations.

Here’s how Nigel Barker describes some of these models:

Bettina Graziani: “Gamine, with a freshness that broke through the aristocratic mold, Bettina Graziani had a rock-solid connection to some of the most influential designers of the age. With her long, swanlike neck, tiny waist, broad, full mouth, and sharply defined profile, she was built for the graphic, sculptural couture and high-drama black-and-white photography of the 1950s.”

Peggy Moffitt: “As a model, Peggy put her great intelligence and dance training toward creating an angular new style of posing that called to mind the work of choreographer Martha Graham, which she complemented with Kabuki-esque makeup.”

Iman: “Iman also happened to be stunning, with a long, aristocratic neck and delicate features, a powerful grace of movement, and an ability to channel her energy into very impactful moments in front of the camera.”

Isabella Rossellini: “The dreamy, faraway look in her eyes; the noble face so like her mother’s; the air of refined intelligence; the maturity that her “older” years brought even to her still images—all added up to a seductive, sophisticated antidote to the cheerful blonde brigade that still dominated the big-money modeling world. . .”

Christy Turlington: “A sublime combination of exotic and down-home, regal and approachable, enigmatic and familiar, and greater than the sum of her parts.”

Amber Valletta: “Although Amber was emblematic of the delicate, childlike beauty that was in favor when she first became successful in 1993, her versatility and soulfulness have always differentiated her, resulting in work with lasting impact.”

Sophie Dahl: “At a British size 14, the equivalent to a US 10, Sophie did not have the kind of proportions that designers and photographers were used to, but she had a laundry list of irresistible qualities: luminous sexiness, refined facial features, enormous eyes, and a rank fearlessness, which in her case was born of a peripatetic childhood and an unstable mother.”

Joan Smalls: “She has hauteur and fierceness, a mature and womanly bearing, and smoldering sexiness that is all class. With a mixed heritage—Spanish, African, Taino Indian, Irish and South Asian—she has face with a unique yet universal appeal.”

Some interesting tidbits:

Dorian Leigh
–opened her own agency and used a voucher system to advance money to the models and Eileen Ford ended up using the same system
–opened a restaurant and wrote two cookbooks and her autobiography, The Girl Who Had Everything

Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn
–married photographer Irving Penn
— Often called world’s first supermodel due to her versatility from art photography to editorials to hair dye ads.

China Mochado
–highest paid runway model of the time earning $1000 per day
–in February 1959, she became first woman of color to appear on cover of a major fashion magazine [Harper’s Bazaar]
–at age 81 she signed a two-year contract and appears in advertisements for Cole Haan and Barney’s New York

Jean Shrimpton
–dated actor Terrence Stamp
–was the highest paid model in 1963 at $120/hour
–she was on the cover of Vogue 19 times

Lauren Hutton
–in 1973 she signed a three-year contract with REVLON for $1 million.
–on 26 Vogue covers

Jerry Hall
–before marrying Mick Jagger, she dated Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry

Iman
–in 1985 Yves Saint Laurent created a collection inspired by Iman called “The African Queen”
–her father was a diplomat, her mother a gynecologist
–she speaks five languages

Isabella Rossellini
–she signed a contract with Lancome in 1981 for $2 million and worked with the company for 14 years until she was terminated at age 42
–in her mid-50s returned to school to study animal behavior and created a film series about the sex lives of animals called Green Porno

Paulina Porizkova
–In 1988 she signed a $6 million/year contract with Estee Lauder

Elle Macpherson
–most covers of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue at five
–created a skin-care company The Body
–cofounded a nutrition company

Christy Turlington
–discovered at age 13 riding horses in Miami
–signed an exclusive contract with Calvin Klein in 1988—which made her the face of Eternity perfume and ready-to-wear and lingerie
–earned a degree in 1994 in Eastern religion and philosophy from New York University
-started foundation, Every Mother Counts, to support international women’s maternal issues and released the documentary No Woman, No Cry

Linda Evangelista
–had been on 60 magazine covers by early 1990
–named the face of Revlon’s Charlie perfume
–at the end of the 90s after a breakup with a famous French soccer player and a miscarriage she moved to the South of France and remained there in self-isolation for years
–George Michael saw a cover with Linda, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Tatjana Patitz and cast the video for “Freedom 90.”
–in 2001 she returned to modeling with a spread in Vogue

Naomi Campbell
–has never taken a break from modeling
–in her 33-year career has had more than 500 magazine covers
—she founded Fashion for Relief in 2005 to raise funds to rebuild Haiti

Cindy Crawford
–dated Richard Gere
–Prince wrote the song “Cindy C” about her
–she hosted MTV’s House of Style [a show I watched.]

Liya Kebede
–in 2003 she became the first black model to sign a contract with Estee Lauder for $3 million
—vocal advocate for her native Ethiopia
–started a casual contemporary sportswear line called Lemlem which is made by artisanal weavers in Ethiopia
–in 2005 she became a goodwill ambassador for the World Health Organization for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Design/Harper Collins.

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