Friday, August 21, 2015

Paulina Porizkova, the First Supermodel

Paulina Porizkova victoriassecret.filminspector.com


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.

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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.

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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.

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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


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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Paulina and Ric with Marco Glaviano at the Jazz & Models Exhibition Opening held at Palazzo Morando on October 4, 2010 in Milan, Italy.





2015

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Elle Macpherson, Australian Legend

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Elle Macpherson (born Eleanor Nancy Gow, 29 March 1964) is one of the celebrity supermodels whose fame transcends any normal bounds or limits. While her home country of Australia must be reckoned a hotbed of supermodels, along with places like Brazil and the Czech Republic, she bestrides the fashion scene there and elsewhere like a Colossus (she's very tall, too, 6'3" in heels she has said, and is a 34C). While of a slightly earlier generation of models than Heidi Klum and some of the other top names, she remains a force in the modelling world and the other fields she has entered successfully.

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Elle, as she is universally known, hails from Killara, New South Wales, a suburb of Sydney. She spent her youth in East Lindfield, and graduated from Killara High School in 1981. She matriculated at Sydney University to study law, but started to pick up modelling gigs. She ultimately gave up the law and decided to live in New York for a year to model, a situation she later romanticized in "Easy Living":
"I went to America on holiday when I was 17 and, before I knew it, I'd been signed up by an agency and had these obligations I didn't understand, but which I couldn't say no to. This industry chose me."
Choose her they did, and Elle hasn't looked back since.

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Elle has been on too many magazine covers to list over the past 35 years. Whoever keeps track of such things must have her listed around the top of that summit, along with Christie Brinkley, Naomi Campbell and a few other of the elites. She is unique in the fashion world because her fame is completely independent of Victoria's Secret, though she has appeared in their ads. There never was any need for her to become an Angel, her fame eclipsed that of any brand other than her own, and how many supermodels can say that? She continues to model, and some of her more recent covers include:
2015 June Harper's Bazaar Australia
2013 August Gioia, F, Mujer Hoy, Harper's Bazaar Australia, Harper's Bazaar Australia, Red 
2012 December S Moda October F September Petra August Vanity Fair Italy
2011 December Cosmopolitan Germany 
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During the 1980s, Elle picked up the nickname "The Body" from a 1986 Time Magazine article. Elle loved the nick and built her brand around it. The same nickname later was applied to or appropriated by or whatever you want to call it by Heidi Klum. One might say that Elle is the original The Body and Heidi is the second coming of The Body. While there are rumors that Elle was going to sue Klum over stealing the nick, she never did. In interviews, Elle makes it clear that they are at most polite toward each other - which says quite a lot in that situation (no, they don't sit around together laughing about both having the same corny nickname, this is big business in the branding world). What this little anecdote reveals is that there are supermodels, and then there are supermodels. Elle is a supermodel of supermodels, big enough to be able to look down with some justification on Heidi Klum as a kind of newcomer, interloper or parvenu. That's not arrogance, it's just plain reality. Elle is Elle. Heidi is not.

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Elle reached the peak of her fame in the mid-1980s, beginning a string of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition appearances that ultimately included the years 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2004 & 2006.

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Elle branched out into other activities over the years, capitalizing on her worldwide fame. She produces her own calendar, which she publicizes at signing ceremonies (one of which I have attended), became part-owner of the Fashion Café restaurant chain with pals Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington (don't we all wish we had them as close friends), and appeared nude in a May 1994 Playboy Magazine (very artful shots by Herb Ritts). She also was one of the first supermodels to have her own fashion line, "Elle Macpherson Intimates."

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However, Elle's main career besides being a model and businesswoman is acting. She has appeared in films such as "Batman and Robin," Jane Eyre" and "Sirens" (her breakthrough role) and had a recurring role on "Friends." She also appears in and produces television shows such as Britain's and Ireland's Next Top Model, Fashion Star and the mini-series "A Girl Thing." Elle is considered a national treasure down under and had an elaborate float at the closing ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

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Elle is tall - did I mention that? - with lots of freckles, and has legs that go up to there. She has a sunny, smiling demeanor that endears her to her fans. She has a son, Arpade Flynn, with her one-time man (and billionaire) Arpade Busson, from whom she separated in 2005, and also another son with him, Aurelius Cy Andrea Busson. More recently, Elle married a billionaire (come on, you didn't expect anything else), Jeffrey Soffer, and apparently divides her time between the UK and Florida.

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When contemplating someone like Elle Macpherson, one wonders what could possibly be in a life as perfect as hers. She has everything a girl growing up in suburban Sydney could possibly want. Are eggs cooked a little too long for her liking the lowpoint of her week? Does she fret if she breaks a nail or one of her covers doesn't sell as well as the last? It's hard to imagine what could possibly disturb the tranquility of her perfect life. She's Elle.

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Among the many little bits of trivia about Elle is that Billy Joel actually wrote "Uptown Girl" about Elle, not Christie Brinkley. They were all on vacation at St. Barts with Whitney Houston (then a model) and Joel was entranced by both Elle and Christie, and while he later wound up with Christie, he first had Elle. Elle needed a place to live, he gave her the top floor of some building he owned on Central Park South, and they, you know, hung out. Tough life!

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Incidentally, Elle still looks great at 50.

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2015



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