Fashion models have long been icons of society, even back in the World War II years when soldiers would pin posters of their favorite models on the inside of their lockers.
In the 1970s, models were elevated to an even higher place in American culture as many of them achieved “supermodel” status.
In fact, it was during the 1970s that the term “supermodel” was coined and tacked onto women who were becoming household names thanks to their stunning good looks and the power of advertising.
During the 70s, fashion magazines were as popular as ever and the world’s best models were seen in 70s mags like Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle, and several others. However, the publication that truly launched the careers of many 1970s American models was the Sports Illustration Swimsuit Edition.
The covers of these ever-popular editions featured the bodies of such women as Cheryl Tiegs and Christie Brinkley, the latter of whom appeared on several covers well into the 80s.
The make-up and fragrance industry also catapulted many models to fame, mostly through television ads that touted their products. The use of a supermodel for these ads spoke to the American women who dreamed of leading a more glamorous life just like that of the model who was peddling the product.
Hence, even more models became household names and they began receiving contracts that were rivaling those received by actors and sports icons.
In fact, in the mid 1970s, Margaux Hemingway became the first model to receive a million dollar contract from a fragrance company.
This came from Faberge and was given to Hemingway for her ad campaign for the company’s new perfume, Babe. She’d go on to appear on the covers of Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and even Time Magazine, where she was dubbed one of America’s “New Beauties.”
Actress and model Lauren Hutton, with her famous gap-toothed smile, also made it big in the cosmetics industry during the 1970s. In 1974, she picked up a huge contract with Revlon and went on to be their spokesmodel for many years.
She was dubbed “the fresh American face of fashion” and still continues to model today.
During the 1970s, models of color were coming into vogue as well. African American models that emerged during the decade included Beverly Johnson, who was the first black woman to appear on the cover of American Vogue in 1974.
A year later, she was on the cover of the French edition of Elle. Johnson is credited with paving the way for the African American models that followed shortly thereafter, like Barbara Smith, Bethann Hardison, Iman, and others that would emerge in the 80s.