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What We Learned from Watching the Documentary ‘The Super Models’

How fashion megastars Cindy, Linda, Naomi and Christy changed the face of modeling

spinner image linda evangelista christy turlington naomi campbell and cindy crawford pose for a photo together in the apple tv plus documentary series the super models
(Left to right) Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford in "The Super Models."
Misan Harriman/Apple TV+

In the late ’80s and ’90s, there were four models that captured the public’s attention — and the covers of every magazine around the world: Cindy Crawford, 57, Linda Evangelista, 58, Naomi Campbell, 53, and Christy Turlington, 54. With unique looks, diverse upbringings and oh-so-much style, the fab four were the first models to be elevated to heady “supermodel” status and all the money, power, pitfalls and opportunities that come with it.

In the four-part documentary The Super Models, debuting Sept. 20 on Apple TV+, the still-iconic models reminisce about their pivotal rise to fame, the bond they share and careers that have spanned decades.

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Here are some surprises from the first episode, “The Look.”

spinner image cindy crawford in the apple tv plus docuseries the super models
Cindy Crawford
Misan Harriman/Apple TV+

From tragedy comes a quest for perfection

Growing up in DeKalb, Illinois, Crawford had an “idyllic” childhood until the death of her younger brother from leukemia. “My sisters and I kind of felt like, ‘Oh, it should have been one of the girls, as opposed to the only boy,’” Crawford said. “I think we felt pressure to be perfect kids, which probably served me well in life.”

spinner image christy turlington in the apple tv plus docuseries the super models
Christy Turlington
Misan Harriman/Apple TV+

Money, not glamour, as a key motivator

Turlington, who was discovered while riding horses, kept her early modeling gigs on the down-low. “To be 15 years old modeling wedding dresses is kind of funny,” she mused. “Sometimes I would say yes to a job and of course I didn’t want to do that job if I had a more fun thing to do with my friends. … Modeling was not cool at all except that I had money. It gave me a lot of independence right out of the gate.”

After a hairdresser on a “terrible” local shoot showed her pics to the Elite modeling agency, Crawford landed a bra ad for department store Marshall Fields. “About two weeks later, I go to school one day and [the picture] is plastered all over my high school. I remember kids trying to tease me about it and [trying to] make me feel bad. I’m thinking, Do they know I made like $120 bucks or whatever doing that? I didn’t care. I was like, ‘Better than working in the cornfields!’”

spinner image naomi campbell in the apple tv plus docuseries the super models
Naomi Campbell
Misan Harriman/Apple TV+

Secret ambition

Raised in London by a single mother, Naomi Campbell was in trendy Convent Garden with her private school friends when she was spotted by a talent scout. Intrigued, Campbell started going on photo shoots on the sly, only revealing the truth when she was asked to join Elle magazine on a photo shoot in New Orleans. “So, I finally go home and work up the nerve to tell my mom. She’s pissed!” Campbell said.  “[Modeling] is not what she sent me to school for. … But she did say yes. So off I went.”

A photo surprise

While taking portrait pics after a Vogue photo shoot, a photographer kept urging a 17-year-old Turlington, who was wearing only long hair extensions, to shift her arms — which were covering her bare chest — a little bit lower, a little lower. “I remember being self-conscious, but I didn’t feel necessarily bad. I felt pretty in that moment,” she explained. “But I do remember being like, Oh my gosh, I shouldn’t be doing this!” The revealing pic eventually turned up on the cover of the low circulation Photo magazine. “I don’t know what I thought it was for, but I didn’t think it was for a cover of a magazine! I don't think there was any age that you were supposed to be in order to have a nude picture out ... there [wasn't] anybody monitoring or regulating any of that.”

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spinner image christy turlington and naomi campbell talking to each other in the apple tv plus docuseries the super models
(Left to right) Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell
Misan Harriman/Apple TV+

Wham! makes an early appearance

Young Christy and Naomi became fast friends at a photo shoot in London.

“It was such a great shoot I didn’t want it to end. It didn’t feel like work,” said Campbell. “We were playing Wham!, I remember. And we would be dancing and dancing.” Turlington agreed. “From that moment on, Naomi and I stayed close,” she said. (Ironically the four models would be tapped to star in Wham! singer George Michael’s iconic “Freedom” music video in 1990.)

spinner image linda evangelista in the apple tv plus docuseries the super models
Linda Evangelista
Apple TV+

Not-so-naked ambition

“I was obsessed with fashion. Obsessed,” declared Evangelista, who shared that she used to cut out photos of models from magazines and hang them on her bedroom wall. After she did a brief stint at modeling school (“Nobody needs to go to modeling school to be a model”), her parents allowed the then-16 year old to go to Japan on a modeling contract. “It’s ironic," Evangelista mused. “They wouldn’t let me go on the school ski trip, but they let me go to Japan.” Upon arrival the young model was stunned when she was asked about shooting nude photographs. “I didn’t want to take my clothes off. I kind of freaked out,” she said. “I never should’ve went there by myself. I went home.”

In the remaining three episodes of the docuseries, look to the foursome to explore “The Fame,” “The Power” and finally “The Legacy” as they continue to evolve their roles now as mothers, activists and entrepreneurs.

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