Iman at The annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards ceremony in 2017

Iman at The annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards ceremony in 2017 (Photo by a katz on Shutterstock)

In the 1980s, the world was captivated by a gang of big-haired beauties who were household names, even without social media. They covered magazines and appeared in advertising campaigns for everything from Cover Girl to Tab Cola while walking the runways. Some are still modeling today and have brands of their own. One thing all of these stunning icons do have in common is that they are some of the best supermodels of the 1980s.

It is important to note that when we talk about these iconic beauties, and people like influencers, to be cognizant of what is said in front of kids and teenagers. Many attributes make a person beautiful other than physical appearance. According to a new national poll by a team at the University of Michigan, mental health issues are a growing concern among young children and teens. In fact, two in three parents say their child feels insecure about their appearance. One in three parents say their child has been bullied or made fun of because of their looks. “Children begin forming opinions about their bodies and looks at a very young age,” says Susan Woolford, MD, MPH, a child obesity expert and pediatrician at the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Mott Poll co-director, in a university release. “These findings reinforce research that as kids receive unhealthy messages about societal ideals, it can lead to a poor self-image of themselves. Left unchecked, a preoccupation with appearance and body dissatisfaction may lead to decreased mental health and emotional well-being and increased risks for eating disorders, depression, and low self-esteem.”

Not only do unrealistic beauty standards affect our kids, but they can affect adults too. Human beings can’t stop looking at themselves in the mirror, a new study explains. An international team finds that people spend one-sixth of their lifetime trying to enhance their physical appearance. That’s four hours a day, every day, for both men and women, the young and the old, according to researchers. So, why do humans have such an obsession with how they look? Using a global survey of over 93,000 people in 93 countries, the team finds that one of the reasons is fairly obvious — people want to look good to attract a lover. However, in the digital age, the study also finds that people are more likely to fuss over their appearance if they spend more time on social media. For the social media-obsessed, researchers say many are spending all this time chasing unrealistic standards of beauty.

Before we get to the list, look at yourself in the mirror, give yourself a high five, and say “I love you” because you’re beautiful too! That being said, let’s get to our list of faces you may have nostalgically grown up seeing. StudyFinds worked to find the best supermodels of the 1980s across 10 expert reviews. If we missed a face you remember seeing everywhere, please share it below!   

Elle Macpherson at the CBS, CW and Showtime All-Star Party in 2009
Elle Macpherson at the CBS, CW and Showtime All-Star Party in 2009 (Photo by s_bukley on Shutterstock)

The List: Best Supermodels of the 1980s, According to Experts

1. Elle Macpherson

Elle appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue five times, an unsurprising record due to her renowned eye-catching swimsuit photoshoots. “Known as ‘The Body,”” Elle transitioned into high fashion before the Australian model launched her high-end lingerie line, Macpherson Intimates. The line became a huge success, and department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Neiman Marcus stocked her designs. Most recently, Elle also started the company WelleCo, which provides those with money to spend on organic wellness supplements,” says Amo Mama.

Elle became a famous model when she decided to move to NYC and pursue modeling to, simply, cover law school. “Macpherson became one of the most successful supermodels during this decade. You would find her gracing most major magazine covers, including the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue many times,” informs Did You Know Fashion.

As with many models, she has also appeared in television and film, specifically as a host for “Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model” and “Fashion Star”. “Macpherson still modeled occasionally during this time, most notably closing out the 2010 Louis Vuitton show for Marc Jacobs in Paris,” says The Vintage News.   

2. Iman

Iman was the first African American to grace the cover of German Vogue. “The Somali native earned her first modeling gig in 1975. She strutted her stuff for designers such as Calvin Klein and Oscar de la Renta. Iman even became a muse for Yves Saint Laurent,” says Cafe Mom.

In addition to owning the runways, Iman also launched some successful brands. “The model launched Iman Cosmetics, offering more makeup shades for women of color. She has since also launched a line of fashion and accessories for HSN, Iman Global Chic, and fills her remaining time with international charity work,” informs Popsugar.

When Peter Beard discovered Iman on the street in Nairobi, she was at university majoring in political science. She was also fluent in five different languages. “Iman exploded onto the fashion scene, booked many major fashion spreads and covers, and served as a muse to the likes of Thierry Mugler, Calvin Klein, and Donna Karen. She went on to win the affections of another ’70s icon, David Bowie, who she married in 1992. The supermodel became a CEO in 1994, launching the makeup brand IMAN Cosmetics to serve women of color at a time when the beauty industry largely ignored their needs,” boasts Marie Clare.

3. Christie Brinkley

Another grace of the cover of Sports Illustrated, Christie shot to fame in the late ’70s and early ’80s. “Christie is considered one of the foremost faces of the ’80s, she’s appeared on over 500 magazine covers and made history with a 25-year run as the face of CoverGirl. Brinkley’s also known for inspiring her ex (and father of her daughter Alexa Ray), Billy Joel, to write ‘Uptown Girl,’ and subsequently appeared in the iconic accompanying music video (that polka dot dress, though),” states Popsugar.

Today, the model has her hand in several business ventures including Christie Brinkley Authentic Skincare, a collection of clip-on hair extensions, and a line of organic Prosecco and sparkling wines. “Christie Brinkley didn’t dream of becoming a supermodel. In fact, she was hesitant to abandon her career as an illustrator. But that all changed after she caught the attention of an American photographer on the streets of Paris. She decided to embrace the industry, and the rest was history,” informs Marie Clare.

Christie then embodied the all-American female ideal, with her blond hair, blue eyes, winning smile, and slender build. “It wasn’t long before she nabbed a CoverGirl partnership that lasted for two decades and became the first model to cover Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue for three straight years. While this led to successful calendars and numerous contracts, Brinkley’s pop culture status was reinforced after her high-profile marriage to Billy Joel and her role in the hit, ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation,'” states Watch Mojo.

4. Paulina Porizkova

As a Czech model, Paulina became the first Central European woman to grace the cover of a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. “Four years after entering the world of high fashion, Paulina landed the highest paying contract at the time for a campaign with Estée Lauder during the 1980s of $600,000. Paulina continued modeling throughout the 1990s as well and appeared in Vogue’s Millennium Issue in 1999,” says Amo Mama.

Like our number five pick, Carol Alt, Paulina also started with John Casablanca’s Elite Modeling Agency. “Paulina starred in campaigns for Chanel, Hermes, Estee Lauder, Christian Dior, and Oscar de la Renta among many others,” informs Did You Know Fashion.

Like a lot of the models, Paulina entered the world of acting. She starred in “The Mysteries of Laura” and “Desperate Housewives.” “True to the ’80s, you can catch Paulina in the Cars’ ‘Drive’ music video. She was, after all, married to frontman Ric Ocasek,” informs Cafe Mom.

5. Carol Alt

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue launched Carol’s career and she became known as “The Face” due to her distinctive appearance. “Carol was featured in hundreds of high-profile shoots after her cover on a The supermodel diversified into acting and starred in various Italian films during the 1980s, and most recently appeared in the 2012 film, ‘To Rome With Love.’ However, Carol, since started her skincare collection, Raw Essentials, which takes up a chunk of her time, and presented a Fox News show titled A Healthy You & Carol Alt,” informs Amo Mama.

A photographer discovered Carol while she worked as a waitress and was introduced to John Casablanca’s Elite Model Management. “Soon after signing up for a modeling career, Alt became one of the top supermodels of the 1980s. Soon enough, she began modeling for brands Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren,” adds Did You Know Fashion.

Carol graced the covers of Vogue, Vogue Paris, Vogue Italia, and Vogue. She was an incredibly popular model to book in the 1980s, easily earning herself supermodel status after being featured in over 500 covers in this 10-year period alone,” says The Vintage News.

You might also be interested in:

Sources:

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Janelle Davis

Our Editorial Process

StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

Our Editorial Team

Steve Fink

Editor-in-Chief

Chris Melore

Editor

Sophia Naughton

Associate Editor