It is difficult to pinpoint who really was the first supermodel. Naturally, various models have their partisans. However, in my opinion, Paulina Porizkova (born 9 April 1965) was the first model who took the entire high fashion modelling profession to the next level, and I will explain why below.
Paulina is from Prostějov, Czechoslovakia, but she was still an infant when her parents fled Czechoslovakia to Lund, Sweden during a Soviet invasion. While that makes it sound as if Paulina also went to Sweden, not so fast: they left her behind in the care of her grandmother. The Czech authorities did not look too kindly on this, being of the Soviet persuasion, and Paulina became a celebrity as a child due to the various devious maneuvers they launched to claim her. The family ultimately was reunited in Sweden when the Communists gave up their opposition, but the whole thing turned to ashes when Paulina's father left the family soon thereafter.
It soon became obvious that Paulina was growing into a beautiful young woman. One of her girlfriends took some test shots in order to show off her own photography skills, but when she sent them into Elite modeling agency, John Casablancas himself noticed the subject of the shots rather than the photographer and hired Paulina.
The list of Paulina's modelling accomplishments is virtually endless. She was the face of Estée Lauder for a decade, became the cover model for the 20th Anniversary issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine in November 1985, was the face of Escada, and graced the November 1999 Millenium cover of American Vogue. Her other international covers include, among many others:
Australia: 'Cosmopolitan' - June 1983; 'Cleo' - June 1987; 'Marie Claire' - April 1997
Canada: 'Flare' - November 1988
France: 'Madame Figaro' - January 18, 1986; 'Photo' - July 1987; 'Vogue' - October 1988;
Germany: 'Vogue' - August 1987; 'Vogue' - September 1988; 'Funk Uhr' - August 14, 1992
Greece: 'Cosmopolitan' - February & April 1983; 'Cosmopolitan' - December 1985; 'Cosmopolitan' - July 1986; 'Cosmopolitan' - March & July 1987; 'Cosmopolitan' - February 1989; 'Cosmopolitan' - January 1992
Italy: 'Grazia' - March 16 & May 11, 1986; MODA' - October 1987
Malaysia: 'Her World' - March 2012
Spain: 'Harper's Bazaar' - April 1984; 'Harper's Bazaar' - 1988
Sweden: 'Starlet' - #33, 1985
After that, Paulina's rise to fame followed the usual pattern, though with a special twist because she was the first one to blaze the later-common trail. Starting out in Paris, the people at Sports Illustrated noticed her and brought her over to appear in the 1983, 1984 and 1985 editions (the latter two on the cover). She pressed her fame further with an artful appearance on the cover of Playboy Magazine in August 1987, and put out extremely popular calendars in the following two years.
Paulina became a celebrity who transcended the modelling profession. She was listed in People Magazine's Fifty Most Beautiful People for 1990 and 1993, and other magazines such as Harper's Bazaar also listed her as a top beauty. She broke records for the value of her modelling contracts and so forth. Basically, she named her own price.
With all of her fame, Paulina was a natural to try her hand at acting. While that is a well-worn path by now, back in the 1980s it was much rarer. People did not take models seriously as actresses, and when they did appear in films, it would be as a model or something close to home. Reviews of her performances weren't universally good by any means, but she appeared in a string of high-profile films such as "Her Alibi," "Anna," "Arizona Dream" and "Knots," and on television shows such as "Desperate Housewives," "Dancing with the Stars" and "America's Next Top Model." She also co-authored a children's book, "The Adventures of Ralphie the Roach," and published a novel, "A Model Summer."
Paulina has very definite views about the current state of the modelling business:
I feel really sorry for the girls that are modeling now. Their work, their business, their opportunities are maybe not a fourth of what we had in the ‘80s. The market has been taken over by celebrities. I also keep saying this: Adobe Photoshop killed the model. Before Adobe, you had to look perfect on the photo in order to be able to be in a magazine. You couldn’t have wrinkles. You couldn’t have pimples. You couldn’t have cellulite.Paulina currently serves as the face of anti-aging skin-care line Rx Genesys.
|Paulina and Ric on their wedding day in 1989. They are ageless.|
Paulina married Ric Ocasek, lead singer of The Cars, and they have two sons. Any marriage of that sort which lasts 25 years or more, as is the case with them, is quite rare and suggests that Paulina is down-to-earth. A friend of mine used to see Paulina in the dog run at Union Square in New York when they were visiting the city from their home in upstate New York (Woodstock, Dutchess County), there are no airs about this supermodel.
I mentioned above that I would make the case that Paulina was the first true supermodel. Christie Brinkley undeniably was a huge celebrity, preceding Paulina on the cover of Sports Illustrated and becoming an iconic figure. Cindy Crawford was a huge phenomenon during the '80s. Heck, you could even go back to Twiggy during her Carnaby Street days in the '60s and say she was a supermodel. However - and this is the essence of the case - Paulina established herself overseas and only later came over to the US to become the premier model of the day during the years when the term "supermodel" first came into use. While Christie Brinkley and some others were huge, huge phenomena in the States, Paulina became a household brand around the world and showed that modelling fame was fungible across national boundaries. She transcended place or national origin. Paulina was a global supermodel, while Christie Brinkley and the others at the time were more of a US phenomenon. Her true competitor for the title is probably Elle Macpherson, but Elle came along a few years later. Paulina becoming a first-name celebrity, an honor formerly reserved for pop stars like Cher, was huge for models. She broke so much ground that Paulina should be recognized as the first true supermodel.
|Paulina and Ric with Marco Glaviano at the Jazz & Models Exhibition Opening held at Palazzo Morando on October 4, 2010 in Milan, Italy.|