Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington; in 2023, it is rare to find these four together under one roof for a public event. So, Apple TV+’s new docu-series, appropriately titled The Super Models, is not only just an extraordinary cultural sighting, but one that serves as a record of fashion and beauty as it has evolved, as well as the present state of the industry which borrows visual aesthetics from their time. Right at the beginning, Naomi says that she has lived most of her life in front of the camera. This is true for all four women, who entered the modelling industry as teenagers. So the question really is… does this documentary’s camera show them in a new light?
Directed by Roger Ross Williams and Larissa Bills, the four-part docuseries begins in the early 1980s. Naomi begins her journey from London, where she is spotted by an agent, and asked to audition for a modelling agency. Cindy, Linda, and Christy follow similar beginnings, as the docu-series charts their journey from humble beginnings to being scouted by photographers and agents, and finally landing their first jobs. However, beyond these standard revelations, which each model reveals to us in glee, the docu-series real purpose is fulfilled when they scrutinise these experiences, looking back at them with a mix of sadness and caution.
The Super Models (English)
Directors: Roger Ross Williams, Larissa Bills
Cast: Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and others
Runtime: 50 to 55 minutes
Storyline: Supermodels Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington reflect on their journeys to becoming the most iconic faces in fashion
Linda specifically talks of a shoot in Japan, when she was only 16, and was made to feel uncomfortable on set, leading her to almost giving up on modelling altogether. Other models speak of such experiences as well, hammering in the importance of two words: safety and trust. At various points, especially early on in their career when they are just beginning, these experiences fill up the runtime of the first two episodes. It is uncomfortable but necessary to watch, in the light of a renaissance of enthusiastic consumption of fashion, and the reverence of models. Neither of which are bad, just too static in its effect to be taken up without cautionary tales from the experienced members of the fraternity.
Linda Evangelista opens up about her experience where she underwent a cosmetic procedure that went wrong and caused her harm. Following this, Linda had to take a step back from public life to heal. “I wish we could just really see ourselves in the mirror, non-distorted, without having seen ourselves with a filter or retouched,” she says in a moving confession. A similar incident was echoed by Cindy earlier whose mole was removed without her permission from a magazine. This is where the documentary finds solid ground, in moments where it contrasts testimonials.
Fashion industry stalwarts heap praises for the models, calling them icons of the “glory days” who transcended fashion. There is no denying the impact of these supermodels, of the way they changed the way we desire to be and consume the image of ideal woman embracing fashion. They set a standard that persists, but as Linda points out they were supermodels, but not superhumans. This sentiment is wonderfully maintained in the four episodes, and stands imposing alongside the larger-than-life myth of the supermodel. While there uninterrupted confessions are immensely effectively, the docu-series could have only stood to gain if these four were brought together, for more than just the last photoshoot, to reflect on their shared history.
The Super Models is efficient in its seduction, in that it pulls you in to look at the glamour, and you maybe go in expecting a peek backstage behind the runaway. The docuseries serves you what you expect, monologues of the evolution of fashion, of defining and re-defining beauty, and the magic that these four models held. However, it thankfully doesn’t stop there, and gives us just more than a pull-out quote humanising these women. In their 50s at the time of the filming of the documentary, Cindy, Naomi, Linda and Christy allow more than a glimpse into a time when they were at the height of fame and glamour, a time which may not have mirrored their journeys to reach there.
The Super Models is currently streaming on Apple TV+