With the kickoff of New York Fashion Week, the world’s hottest models are gracing their “Blue Steel” stare down the runway and posing for Instagram selfies as their number of followers continue to rise. With all the glamour and fashion heightened within the blaring flash of cameras and stage lights, lets rewind to simpler beginnings. To find the starting point that led to a career of traveling, posing for cameras, and strutting (or falling) on fashion’s leading runways. Strip away the hair, the makeup, the fashion, and the lifestyle, and you will find a girl with a humble start, given a ticket to a modeling career.
Many of the world’s leading models, seen in glossy magazines and on shiny runway floors, were spotted in fashion malls, flea markets, super markets, London’s Covent Garden, and even a cornfield in Midwestern America.
A fresh face among a sea of people. For a moment in time, a pivotal moment occurred that would transport the face from “a girl in the crowd” to “the girl in the magazine,” becoming one of the most recognizable figures in the fashion world.
Here are 10 of the Hottest Top Models Who Were Randomly Discovered
10. Kate Moss – Kennedy Airport
Kate Moss was discovered at Kennedy Airport at the age of 14. Model scout and Storm Model Management founder Sarah Doukas was on her way back from a model search when she spotted the brown-eyed beauty with her father. Shortly after, the five-foot-seven schoolgirl from South London began her modeling career, altering the industry with her rebellious demeanor and soft features, which eventually led to mega-stardom. Photographer David Ross captured her first photo shoot. “The combination of youth and attitude, which Kate offered was unique and special and broke the mold of perfection. She was the princess of anti-glam,” he said. Moss has gone on to grace the cover of over 300 magazines, reigning in a net worth of around $70 million.
9. Candice Swanepoel – A Grand Flea Market Find
Candice Swanepoel grew up on a dairy and beef farm in South Africa. While attending an all-girls boarding school, the Victoriaès Secret bombshell was discovered by a modeling scout at a local flea market when she was 15-years-old. In an interview for Victoria’s Secret, she states “I was very lucky, I started working very quickly.” Her first major editorial was for Italian Vogue, and in 2010 she booked her first gig with Victoria’s Secret. The exotic blonde has also been on the cover of many major magazines and has modeled for Versace, Ralph Lauren, Juicy Couture, and many more. She has been listed in Forbes’ “Top 10 Earning Models” in 2012 and 2013.
8. Behati Prinsloo – Spotted At The Super Market
At the age of 16, Behati Prinsloo was scouted while vacationing with her grandparents in Cape Town, South Africa. While perusing the aisles of a super market, a photographer approached the Namibian-born girl and gave her his card. Though her grandparents and parents were hesitant over the opportunity, Prinsloo’s uncle and mother took her in to Sarah Doukas’s agency, Storm Model Management. She was soon sent to London and her modeling career took off from there. Prinsloo is most known for her cat walking and lingerie-posing persona as a Victoria’s Secret model. She’s also married to Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine.
7. Cara Delevingne – Bushy-Tailed Beginnings
Cara Delevingne, the daughter of British high society, grew up in London, where Sarah Doukas also discovered the British beaut. Delevingne was good friends with Doukas’s daughter, Genevieve Garner, since she was 5-years-old. The girls attended school together, which is where she was introduced to the famous modeling agent. She was officially signed with Storm Model Management when she was 17-years-old. She told Telegraph, “I had never thought about modeling before, and it just happened.” The bushy-browed tomboy has modeled for major fashion lines including Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, H&M, and Victoria’s Secret. She also landed a lead acting role in Paper Towns, and will soon be seen in the highly-anticipated film, Suicide Squad.
6. Karlie Kloss – The Ballerina
At age 13, Karlie Kloss was scouted in a mall. Two years later, she walked the runway of Calvin Kline. “I was discovered at 13 in a mall in St. Louis. You know, I’d never been on an airplane, actually – funny now that I think about it. Now I live on airplanes. I live at 30,000 feet,” Kloss told CBS. Born in Chicago and raised in St. Louis, the leggy American model, who wanted to become a ballerina when she was younger, has come a long way from the charity event at her local mall. With her signature catwalk, piercing gaze, and humble personality, Kloss is quickly becoming a household name. At the age of 23, she is a modeling pro and has walked countless runway shows and posed for major fashion brands, editorials, and magazine covers.
5. Gisele Bundchen – Brazilian Beauty Gets Her Wings
Karlie Kloss was not the only model discovered at a mall. Gisele Bundchen was scouted by Elite modeling agency while at a Sao Paulo mall in Brazil when she was just 14-years-old. Since being discovered, she has become one of the world’s most well-known supermodels. She has walked in countless runway shows, has been on numerous glossy covers, and modeled for Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana, Victoria’s Secret, Christian Dior, and Michael Kors, to name a few. In April 2015, Tom Brady‘s wife retired from the runway, walking her last catwalk at Sao Paulo Fashion Week. She took to Instagram saying, “I am grateful that at 14, I was given the opportunity to start this journey. Today after 20 years in the industry, it is a privilege to be doing my last fashion show by choice and yet still be working in other facets of the business.”
4. Naomi Campbell – Fashion Mall to Fashion Icon
Naomi Campbell was also discovered at a mall in London when she was 15-years-old. She was one of the most accomplished supermodels of the 90s, among models such as Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, and Linda Evangelista. Campbell was the first black model to grace the cover of French Vogue and Time magazine. In her modeling career, she has walked down many runways and modeled for Ralph Lauren, Prada, Chanel, H&M, Francois Nars, and many others. Despite being notorious for her model attitude and her past trouble with the law, she has become a major icon in the fashion industry.
3. Lily Cole – Foggy London Days to Bright Lights
While walking through Covent Garden in London, Lily Cole, then age 14, was approached by Benjamin Hart, a model and scout. Despite declining the initial opportunity, Cole later reconsidered and signed with Storm Model Management. Cole’s agent and mentor, Sarah Doukas, has said “she has the confidence and personality of someone extraordinary, and I think it really shows in her pictures.” Her alabaster-like skin and vibrant red hair can be seen in various magazines, and in recent years, on the silver screen starring in movies such as The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) and Snow White and the Huntsman (2012).
2. Alek Wek – The Girl Next Door
Alek Wek was born in Wau, South Sudan. When civil war broke out, she and her family fled to Britain when she was just 14-years-old. Shortly after, she was discovered by a modeling scout while at an outdoor market in London, signing with Ford Models in 1996. Within the next year, Wek became the first African to be on the cover of Elle and was awarded “Model of the Year” by MTV in 1997. Her distinctive beauty and rich, dark skin was highly celebrated by the high fashion industry, even inspiring actress, Lupita Nyong’o in her early years. Wek has stated to The Guadian, “When I started, I’d hear other people saying, ‘God, she’s so bizarre-looking’, because I didn’t look like the girl next door. But I was just normal. I was the girl next door.” She went on to say, “it’s about telling girls from a young age that it’s okay to be quirky, it’s fine to be shy. You don’t have to go with the crowd.”
1. Cindy Crawford – Detasseling to Cat Walking
When she was 16 years old, Cindy Crawford was discovered while working at her summer job detasseling corn in her hometown of DeKalb, Illinois. A newspaper photographer spotted Crawford in the cornfield and snapped a picture of her. Due to the attention and encouraging feedback the photo received, she decided to try modeling. In an interview with Esquire magazine, she stated, “Hey, I’ve worked in a cornfield. We’re just Midwestern girls who by some grace of God were gifted with a nice envelope.” And what unfolded in the following years turned into one of the most legendary modeling careers. Crawford has posed for over 1,000 magazine covers and campaign ads for the top fashion leaders in the industry, and is known as one of the “original supermodels.”