Less than two years ago, Claudia Schiffer declared that the age of the supermodel was over. Magazine covers and beauty contracts had become the province of celebrities. The industry’s newest generation had not quite attained the international, first-name basis fame that Naomi, Cindy and Christy had pioneered.
A lot has changed in two years. While fashion magazines and retail brands still market their wares with stars from music and movies, models have moved off the runway in equal measure, expanding their brands into fashion, entertainment and philanthropy. The age of the multi-hyphenate model has replaced the age of the supermodel, giving the top girls more earning power than ever before.
A perfect example is the No. 2 earner on our list, Heidi Klum. While still a successful model at the age of 35 after having three kids, the majority of Klum’s earnings are driven by her TV and endorsement career. Klum remains a member of the Victoria’s Secret angel entourage as well as host of Project Runway and Germany’s Next Top Model. The German beauty also designs a line Birkenstock sandals and has endorsement deals with Diet Coke, Volkswagen ( VLKAF.PK – news – people ), McDonald’s and LG. Last year, she came out with her own skincare line, In An Instant.
Returning at No. 1 this year is Gisele Bündchen, who earned an estimated $25 million in the last year from numerous campaigns including Versace, True Religion jeans, Dior ( CHDRF.PK – news – people ) and Ebel watches. The Brazilian model has rare range–from high fashion to mass market–and measured impact on the success of the brands she represents. She also has her own Brazilian shoe line and tabloid fame on par with movie stars.
The models on our list were ranked according to estimated earnings from June 2008 to June 2009.
The modeling industry was hard-hit by the economic crisis. Prominent fashion labels canceled or downgraded their runway shows, leaving models hoping for a break with fewer opportunities. Declining revenues at major beauty and retail companies left agents with less leverage to bargain for their clients.
But, the economy has increased the value of the versatile yet trademark beauty of those at the top of the industry. “After a few years of mixed results where the sole obsession was attaching the biggest name or celebrity to your brand, companies are searching for that face that won’t muddle their message,” says Chris Gay, president of Marilyn Agency, which represents Adriana Lima. “The models that possess that beauty are the faces everyone wants right now, but that’s a rare beauty.”
The most successful models, including those who have cycled on and off this list, are able to evoke an emotional consumer response. While celebrities hawk everything from cotton underwear to Smart Water, only professional models can walk the Victoria’s Secret runway with inimitable perfection and enough accessibility to get plain Janes across the world into the stores. While the uber-successful make millions, the majority make very little compared to the impact they have on the retail economy.
“These are young business professionals at the height of their game, rarer than superstar athletes, who are in an incredibly competitive environment and who have to deliver their skill set at any time day or night,” says Ed Razek, president and chief marketing officer of Limited Brands ( LTD – news – people ), the parent company of Victoria’s Secret. “These are people who can connect to consumers and move product.”
As with years previous, the changes on the list illustrate the cyclical nature of the modeling business. The loss of a major contract can have a huge impact on overall earnings, as in the case of Karolina Kurkova, who dropped off our list after her Victoria’s Secret contract expired.
Bündchen, though still No. 1, earned $10 million less with the loss of Victoria’s Secret and other contracts. Kate Moss’ earnings climbed $1 million based on the continued success of her clothing line for the British chain Topshop and several deal renewals.
This year’s new girl is Emanuela De Paula at No. 11, who broke through as the face of U.K. retailer Next and is featured prominently in Victoria’s Secret campaigns.
1. Gisele Bundchen – $25 million
2. Heidi Klum – $16 million
3. Kate Moss – $8.5 million
4. Adriana Lima – $8 million
6. Doutzen Kroes – $6 million
7. Alessandra Ambrosio – $6 million
7. Natalia Vodianova – $5.5 million
8. Daria Werbowy – $4.5 million
9. Miranda Kerr – $3 million
10. Carolyn Murphy – $3 million
11. Emanuela de Paula – 2.5 million
9. Miranda Kerr
This Aussie model is best known for being a Victoria’s Secret angel, though her profile is on the rise.
The first Australian addition to the cast of angels for Victoria’s Secret got her break as the face of Maybelline. Last year, she signed a contract with XOXO. Earlier this year, she lent her legendary dimples to help those affected by the Australian bush fires as a participant in the Australia Unites fundraiser.
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