The original supermodels epitomised perfection. Behind the glamour, they were treated horrifically.

Warning: This post deals with sexual assault and domestic violence and could be triggering for some readers. 

Long before the term 'influencer' was popularised, the supermodels that emerged in the late '80s were the original tastemakers and trendsetters. 

We're talking about the big four: Linda, Cindy, Christy and Naomi.

They are four models so prolific they're known just by their first names. 

The unprecedented rise of Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell has been celebrated in the Apple TV+ four-part docuseries The Super Models. 

Watch the trailer here. Post continues below.

Video via Apple TV+. 

The series features revealing interviews with leading designers and of course, with the four women, as they speak candidly about breaking into fashion, meeting in New York, becoming the first supermodels, their legacies in business and activism, and share some of the more disturbing and damaging experiences they had along the way. 

Linda's story is one that is especially signposted by tragedy, with the recent news of her Coolsculpting leaving parts of her body disfigured, along with her being diagnosed with breast cancer twice.


The supermodel's struggles first began when she was just a teen breaking into the industry. 

"My parents let me go to Japan when I was 16 on a modelling contract," she said. "When I got to Japan, the first thing they asked me about were nude photographs."

She continued: "I didn't want to take me clothes off. I kind of freaked out. I never should have went there by myself. I went home." 

Image: Apple TV+. 


Turlington also shared a story about being put in an uncomfortable position as a teen model.

At 17 years old, Christy did a shoot with late fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier. "After we finished the shoot, we took a portrait. I had these extensions in my hair, so it was this very long hair. We did a portrait where I was, like, covering [over her breasts with her hands]. The classic covering yourself," she said.

The prolific photographer instructed her to "Put your arms down a little bit lower, a little bit lower," she recalled. 

"Eventually, that [topless] image came out on the cover of PHOTO magazine… I definitely didn't think it was for a cover of a magazine. I don't think there was any age that you were supposed to be in order to have a nude picture. I don't think there was anyone monitoring or regulating any of that."

Cindy recalled an experience with Demarchelier which emotionally scarred her, where he had instructed that she cut her hair for a photoshoot in Rome, and even though she refused, her hair was cut without her consent by a stylist. 

"I was in shock, I just sat there at a hotel room in Rome crying. If people wonder why I haven't cut my hair since then, that's why," she said. 

"I wasn't seen as a person who had a voice in her own destiny." 

In another moment, Campbell spoke about one time when an art director once touched her breasts without consent.

Image: Apply TV+. 


As the four women's fame started to skyrocket, they had to contend with the paparazzi stalking their every move. In one particularly disturbing moment, Linda and Christy spoke about photographers capturing them getting undressed backstage at shows. 

"At a certain point, I hired a bodyguard to shield me," Linda said, revealing she would threaten to spray their camera lenses with paint. "I didn't want them photographing us women with our clothes off."  

Cindy's fame loomed especially large during the years she was married to Richard Gere. However, she doesn't have particularly fond memories of their relationship. 


"I was 22 when we met," she said. "You're willing to mould yourself around who ever you were in love with."

Linda eventually got married to Elite Model Management's Gérald Marie, after meeting the French model agency boss when she was just 22 years old. 

They were married for six years and it's a relationship Linda alleges was 'abusive'. 

"It's easier said than done to leave an abusive relationship - I understand that concept because I lived it," Evangelista said. 

Linda went on to describe the alleged abuse she suffered at the hands of Marie. "He knew not to touch my face, to not touch the money-maker. I married him when I was 22 and I got out when I was 27. He let me out as long as he got everything," she said. "But I was safe - I got my freedom." 

In the years since their marriage ended in 1993, several women have come forward alleging that Marie sexually assaulted them in the 1980s and 1990s. 

"When I found out that he had hurt many, many women; he had violated many, many women... it broke my heart," she said. "Thanks to the courage of these women, it gave me the courage to speak." 

Naomi was dealing with her own private struggles on her rise to becoming a supermodel. After landing in New York, she said at first she struggled to get taxis due to racial discrimination. 

This racism followed her into her work. "Naomi wasn't always booked to do the shows," Linda reflected. "I didn't understand. Naomi was more beautiful, she had a much more rocking body than me, and a better strut - why aren't they booking her?" 


"I said to them 'If you don't get her, you don't get me'," Linda said.

Naomi added: "Linda and Christy absolutely put themselves on the line. They stood by me, they supported me, and that's what kept me going. 

But the British model still suffered unequal treatment by the people running the fashion industry. 

"I would do these great shows, wear these beautiful dresses, but then it came time for the advertising and I would not be included - that used to really hurt me," she said.

Campbell added that sometimes she was booked for a photoshoot "to appease" her, but she never had her photo taken.

"I'd sit there from 9am to 6pm all day and not be used. It made me more determined than ever to never be treated that way, or be put in that position, again." 

The Super Models is streaming on Apple TV+ from September 20, 2023.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

Feature image: Getty + Apple TV+.