Putting a price on beauty is a tricky concept – especially at a time when extreme body-consciousness is becoming more and more of an issue, and airbrushing is frequently being denounced as warping our perceptions of beauty. Social media has begun acting out against the advertising industry’s unrealistic standards and the modelling industry which feeds into them. However, the models themselves are often the ones crying out about these distortions of beauty. As we’re often reminded, even the girls in the magazines don’t look like the girls in the magazines.
With all the controversy, sensitivity and expectations attached to the job, modelling isn’t an easy business to be in. For the women who work in a world ruled by aspirational and even unattainable aesthetic standards, dieting, exercising and cosmetics are at the core of their everyday lives. Some of the leading figures in the modelling world today, listed below, reveal that being a model involves a lot more than just looking pretty. Along with being female beauty icons, many of these women are spokespeople or representatives of a brand, meaning their attitudes and personalities are as much as part of their images as their appearances. Many of the models on this list also reveal themselves to be entrepreneurial or philanthropic figures, who are role models beyond the confines of the catwalk.
The following ten women are the ten highest-earning models of 2014 from lowest to highest, according to data collated by Forbes. The 21 highest-paid models in the world made a combined $142 million over the course of the past year, revealing just how valuable a pretty face and a marketable personality are. Although modelling may sound like easy money, of course, the models on this list are the elite and they’re the exceptions to the general rule: lower profile models are often paid very little for long, arduous photoshoots and runway duties. In this world, when you make it, you make it big – but many a model falls by the wayside when striving for the spotlight.
10. Natalia Vodianova – $4 million
32-year-old Russian model Natalia Vodianova grew up far from the runways of Paris or New York, in Soviet Russia. Born into a poor family and estranged from her father for most of her life, she, her mother and two half sisters struggled to get by. Vodianova had big ambitions for herself, however, and by the age of 15 had signed up with a modelling agency. By 17 she had moved to Paris and signed with Viva Models.
To date, she has appeared in more than 175 runway shows for U.S. and European based designers and has appeared in fashion magazines worldwide. She has featured in advertising campaigns for Guerlain, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, L’Oréal, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, Versace, Chanel and more, and holds an eight-season, seven-figure contract with Calvin Klein. Vodianova is one of the founders of the Naked Heart Foundation, that provides safe and inspiring environments for children living in urban Russia to play in and helps support families raising children with disabilities. She also is a spokesperson for the Tiger Trade Campaign and, in 2011, was awarded an Inspiration of the Year Award for her philanthropy.
9. Hilary Rhoda – $5 million
27-year-old Hilary Rhoda from Maryland has established herself as an internationally renowned model, primarily through her work with Estée Lauder. A ballet dancer and athlete during high school, Rhoda deferred college field hockey scholarships when modelling opportunities arose during her sophomore year. Rhoda is currently represented by Elite Model Management in New York City, and has appeared in ad campaigns for a wide variety of brands such as Max Mara, Balenciaga, Valentino, Belstaff, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Ralph Lauren, and Victoria’s Secret. She’s also well-known for her appearances in Sports Illustrated. She is currently engaged to the former professional hockey player Sean Avery.
8. Alessandra Ambrosio – $5 million
Alessandra Ambrosio started modelling at the age of 15, making the cover of Brazilian Elle magazine a few years later. Today, aged 33, Ambrosio is best known for her work with Victoria’s Secret. She was chosen as the first spokesmodel for the company’s ‘PINK’ line and is one of the Victoria’s Secret Angels. Over the years she has also modeled for brands such as Next, Armani Exchange, Christian Dior, and Ralph Lauren. Ambrosio shows serious entrepreneurial spirit: she launched her own fashion and lifestyle brand Ále by Alessandra earlier this year. Developed in collaboration with US retailer Cherokee, the fashion line is aimed at women aged between 18 and 35 years. Ambrosio has also made several television appearances, notably in cameo roles as herself, and serves as an ambassador for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
7. Liu Wen – $7 million
Chinese fashion model Liu Wen is the first East Asian model to feature in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Wen became the first spokesmodel of Asian descent for Estée Lauder in 2010, and in 2012 The New York Times named her ‘China’s first bona fide supermodel’. Wen began modelling at the age of 17, encouraged by her mother to enter the New Silk Road World Model Contest. Starting out in Chinese magazines, she was picked up internationally in 2007 when featured in a shoot wearing clothes designed by Karl Lagerfeld and Viktor and Rolf. This led to an invitation to the 2008 Paris fashion week where she signed with an agency. Wen is highly popular and has gathered a large following: in April 2014, American Vogue declared her to be the model with the biggest social-media audience.
6. Miranda Kerr – $7 million
Australian model Miranda Kerr started her modelling career at the early age of 13, and is carrying it to new heights today at the age of 31. She became a major model when selected as a Victoria’s Secret Angel in 2007, when she became the first Australian ever to have participated in a Victoria’s Secret campaign. She helped draw international attention to Australian up-market department store David Jones and has taken her role as an icon further than just fashion shoots, launching KORA Organics, her own brand of organic skincare products. She’s also set to release a self-help book titled Treasure Yourself. In April of this year Kerr released her first single online featuring herself and Bobby Fox in a cover of ‘You’re The Boss’ by Elvis Presley. Kerr and Orlando Bloom married in 2010 and had a son, and although the union was short-lived but the couple remain on good terms.
5. Kate Upton – $7 million
At just 22 years old, Kate Upton is the fifth highest-earning model in the world in 2014. Brought up in Florida to athletic parents, fitness has always been a priority for Upton. She was recruited by Elite Model Management in Miami in 2008, and then with IMG Models in New York City. She served as the face of Guess for 2012-11 before moving onto more beach-body focused campaigns. Indeed, she is best known for her appearances in Sports Illustrated. Upton has also pursued a career in acting, having starred in Tower Heist, The Three Stooges and The Other Woman alongside Cameron Diaz.
4. Kate Moss – $7 million
Discovered at the age of 14, British model Kate Moss is still a fashion icon today, at the age of 40. London based Moss was discovered at JFK airport by the founder of Storm Model Management. She has been a leading figure in campaigns for designers such as Chanel, Calvin Klein, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Rimmel. Moss has made a huge contribution to the fashion industry throughout her life, and received a Special Recognition award in December at the 2013 British Fashion Awards in acknowledgement. She has gone beyond the catwalk, launching her own clothing line and getting involved in musical projects. Despite having been scrutinised for her party lifestyle and drug use in 2005, she has since been cleared of all drug charges and resumed her modelling career.
3. Adriana Lima – $8 million
33-year-old Brazilian model and actress Adriana Lima started her career as a model at the age of fifteen when she finished first in Ford’s ‘Supermodel of Brazil’ competition. The following year, she came second in the Ford ‘Supermodel of the World’ competition after which she signed with Elite Model Management in New York. Since 2000 she has been a Victoria’s Secret Angel, and between 2003 and 2009 she worked as a spokesmodel for Maybelline.
2. Doutzen Kroes – $8 million
29-year-old Dutch model and actress Doutzen Kroes has been a Victoria’s Secret Angel since 2008 and has worked for the brand since 2004. Currently under contract with L’Oréal, Kroes most recently starred in the brand’s ‘Castings Sunkiss Jelly’ campaign. Her acting career began in November of 2011 when she made her debut in Reinout Oerlemans’ Nova Zembla, the first Dutch 3D film ever made – she says she plans to focus more on her acting career in years to come. She is married to Dutch DJ Sunnery James and the couple have two children.
1. Gisele Bundchen – $47 million
Gisele Bundchen has been the highest-paid model out there since 2004, and her fortune only keeps growing. This year she takes first place by far, having earned a shocking $47 million. The 34-year-old Brazilian model’s huge earnings come from her work as not just a model but an actress, producer and the ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program. Bundchen was among the first wave of Brazilian models to find international success in the late 1990s and she retains an unwavering style and worldwide reputation that led Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell to state, in 1999, that Bundchen was the only true remaining supermodel. Earlier this year she was chosen as the new spokeswoman for Chanel No. 5. Chanel described her ‘natural beauty and modern femininity,’ as the reasons for her selection.