Date: Sat, 2 Aug 1997 08:28:18 -0400
From: "Barry A. Popik" Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: VERSACE SPECIAL: Supermodel, Superman
"You were the first supermodel, weren't you?"
--Howard Stern (syndicated radio program) to Carol Alt.
Time to straighten this thing out.
Surprisingly, "supermodel" (not in OED) hasn't been included in any
recent books, such as William Safire's books (of his hundreds of columns) or
THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF NEW WORDS (1991).
Everyone knows what a supermodel is--an extremely famous model. Lots of
magazine covers, lots of beauty endorsements, lots of money, and sometimes
one name only (Iman, Cindy, Christie, Claudia, Naomi).
"Model" means "copy" or "imitation." Surely, the REAL Cindy Crawford is
out there somewhere!
"Supermodel" goes back to the 1950s and rockets.
Carol Alt's claim is based on "The Spoiled Supermodels" by Anthony
Haden-Guest, in New York magazine, 16 March 1981, pages 24-29. Page 29
states that "Alt is typical of the supermodel who is here for the long haul."
The earliest "supermodel" on Nexis is "Diet Secrets of the Supermodels,"
Harper's Bazaar, November 1978, pg. 140 and pg. 190. The "supermodels"
featured are Cristina Ferrare (briefly married to John DeLorean), Lisa
Taylor, Christie Brinkley (was married to Billy Joel), and Rene Russo (now a
movie star). I don't think they stay thin on that cheddar cheese soup,
The issue also has such headlines as "super jewels" and "super looks,"
among other superlatives.
The December 1978 Cosmopolitan ran "The Model Game--How to Play and
Win." "Supermodel" is not mentioned, but page 240 has a photo of "Supergirl
The big movie for 1978 was--big surprise here--SUPERMAN.
The movie came out in the summer. The November 1978 Harper's Bazaar
came out in October and was composed that summer/fall.
U. S. News & World Report had "American Models: Today's Superstars" in
2 June 1980, pp. 62-63. No "supermodel," though.
I briefly checked WWD with no luck. I'll check Page Six of the New
York Post, which features generous photos of various lovelies and would
probably mention what they are.
It would appear, however, that "supermodel" was not coined by
Haden-Guest (who also answers to the name Mies van der Rohe), but was
directly influenced by SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE.