beauty

"I don't want to fight myself everyday." The unique pressures of being an ageing supermodel.

From the likes of Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista, the original supermodels in the ‘90s were anointed the “most beautiful women in the world.” 

Their success was centred heavily on their youth and looks, and as we all know, youth has a shelf life. And these supermodels were acutely aware that their status and adoration across the globe wouldn’t necessarily last forever. 

So in 2017, when the original supermodels reunited for a Versace fashion show, many were asking where was Linda Evangelista?

It was only this year the supermodel shared the reason, describing herself as a “recluse” after a common cosmetic procedure went wrong in her quest to look a certain way.

Watch: the original supermodels reunite. Post continues below. 


Video via Getty.

This week’s episode of Extraordinary Stores: Linda Evangelista explores the pressure the model felt about ageing.

Linda Evangelista:

Image: Getty.

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Throughout her years, Evangelista maintained her image and held a respected reputation in fashion, her career even thriving after she turned 50. Then all of a sudden, she disappeared. 

It took five years before anyone knew why one of the most visible women in the world became invisible.

After a cosmetic procedure went wrong, Evangelista took to Instagram this year to say she became “a recluse” due to the experience, sending her into a cycle of “deep depression, profound sadness and self-loathing.”

Her statement was met with comments of encouragement from the likes of supermodel pals Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell.

“I applaud you for your courage and strength to share your experience and not be held hostage by it anymore,” Campbell said. “You know I love you. We love you, and [are] here for you always. Right by your side.”

“Linda: your strength and true essence are forever recognisable and iconic,” Crawford commented.

Image: Getty.

As discussed on Extraordinary Stories, Evangelista was undoubtedly under extreme pressure to remain looking a certain way. It is a complex tale when she both benefitted from this culture, but eventually too fell victim to it. 

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“We’re fighting against the natural ageing process but let’s face it we’ve been conditioned to fight against it,” Laurie Marsden, a former model and now psychotherapist, said on Extraordinary Stories.

“Since we were little girls, we were told how we should look, how we should dress, how we should make up our face. So, I think it’s hard for someone who has a lot of currency in their physical appearance to lose it completely.”

Supermodels from Evangelista’s era share their thoughts on ageing.

Image: Getty.

Paulina Porizkova:

As one of the biggest models of her time, Porizkova fronted magazines and ad campaigns throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. She covered the famous Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in 1984 and 1985, posed for Playboy and appeared on the front of Vogue multiple times.

These days, it is her views on ageing that garner the most attention. 

During an appearance of The Tamron Hall Show in 2021, the model said ageism is rife not only in the modelling industry, but just in life in general. 

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“In my 20s, I was celebrated for showing up in lingerie. I was getting a lot of money for it and everybody loved me. In my 50s, I still think I look pretty good in lingerie, but the reaction is reviled, obviously not by everybody, but yeah, there’s a fair amount of backlash.”

Porizkova has also shared that she isn’t keen on “Botox or fillers.”

In a recent Instagram post, she wrote about why ageing should be celebrated rather than condemned. 

“Combat age. Reverse ageing. Rejuvenate. Anti-age. None of this is possible. Yet, if you do an internet search on ageing, this is what you’ll get. I do not want to fight myself every day for the rest of my life. I want to shine a bright light in the dark corners of the shame that is heaped on women for daring to age.” 

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Naomi Campbell:

From modelling, dancing and acting, Naomi Campbell’s career has only skyrocketed since the ‘90s. 

Campbell, who is now 51, previously said to The Mirror UK, that she finds the pressure for women to have cosmetic surgery and the focus on her own face as she ages very frustrating. 

“I don’t see myself as gorgeous and I’m fed up with people saying I’ve had plastic surgery and lipo. I don’t need it because ‘black don’t crack.’ My grandmother has fantastic genes and only has about one wrinkle.”

Claudia Schiffer:

Schiffer has also said cosmetic surgery is not something she would consider. 

“It’s poison in my skin and no-one knows the long-term effects,” she said in 2009 to the Herald Sun. “I’m far more scared of that than a wrinkle on my forehead.”

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It appears that sentiment has continued through to 2021.

“I believe age should be celebrated and revered. I am so happy to be turning 51 and have never felt more confident or happy in my life. I don’t try to look or feel younger, I embrace now,” she wrote on her website recently.

Cindy Crawford: 

One of the ‘90s It-girls, Cindy Crawford was the definition of a supermodel. At the height of her fame, she was working with every major fashion powerhouse and gracing the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle, regularly.

But like many in the business, she has struggled with the idea of ageing, especially given that for so long her beauty and youth has been her way to make an income. 

In 1991 she said: “It’s not like a career that you can pour yourself into because it gets to a point where you’re going to be told that you can not do it anymore.”

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The supermodel has also been candid about her choice to embrace cosmetic surgery, telling InStyle about her experience using Botox. 

“Past a certain age, creams work on the texture of your skin but, in order to restore elasticity, all I can really count on is vitamin injections, Botox, and collagen. I owe the quality of my skin to my cosmetic surgeon.”

Listen to the trailer for Extraordinary Stories: The Supermodel Who Vanished. Post continues below.


The pressures of ageing in the modelling industry.

Doctor Vivienne Lewis, a clinical psychologist from the University of Canberra, is an expert when it comes to discussions around body image.

As Dr Lewis said to Extraordinary Stories, for models, their body is the selling point. 

“It is their appearance that is important because that's what gives them work. That’s what they're known for. And so there's a lot of pressure to look really good, because if they deviate from that, they’re likely to not be able to fulfil their career.”

Interestingly, Dr Lewis notes that for the people she has worked with who were in the modelling industry, their dissatisfaction actually starts to grow as they age, as there is no longer the same level of attention or work opportunities. 

It’s a reality Evangelista knows all too well. 

In 1992, the supermodel said: “I’m not stupid. I know this is going to end one day. I just hope that I can deal with it when it comes.”

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Image: Getty.

Paula Joye, the former Editor of Cleo Magazine, said to Extraordinary Stories: “With supermodels we want them to stay super forever. Linda’s gone and had a procedure to keep looking super. And you know, that issue divided the internet, people saying ‘she’s so vain.’ But is it really that different to an athlete?”

What Joye highlights is this double standard: athletes are encouraged to undergo reparative surgeries, excessive exercise and put strain on their bodies for the sake of their sport. Models are sometimes pressured to do the same, given their bodies are a commodity too. 

It’s this obsession with youth in the modelling industry that psychotherapist Laurie Marsden hopes will be brought down.

“I’m hopeful that this is changing. I think we're slowly rejecting this idea that there’s something wrong with us. We’re all beautiful in our own way. It’s not just about how we look like that is our currency, it can also be our intelligence, how much we contribute to society, our personalities and relationships,” she said. 

“I think women are beginning to reject this notion that I have to look a certain way in order to be acceptable, pretty or valuable, because really that's just garbage.”

For more on this topic, listen to Mamamia’s Extraordinary Stories podcast series on Linda Evangelista..

Feature Image: Getty + Mamamia.