She was one of the most recognisable supermodels of the ’90s, gracing the covers of Vogue and Sports Illustrated.
But Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson — aka “The Body” — says times have definitely changed in the modelling industry.
With the rise of social media, Macpherson said models could no longer afford to keep their distance from the public.
Now they have to keep it real, “get off the pedestal”, and be “down to earth”.
“There have been quite a lot of changes with social media … (in the past) the more iconic you were, the more distanced you were from your public, the greater your success,” Macpherson said today, with her hair in long beachy waves and wearing a dark Hermes knit, a figure-hugging skirt and knee-high boots.
“Today, the more relatable you are, the more connected you are to your public, the greater your success,” she added.
“I think that the models that have been able to transition in this period … have been the girls that have been willing to get off the pedestal, and come back down to earth, and start working with businesses that really resonate with them.
“So that they can talk about who they are and what they believe in, in everyday ways, instead of having to be like a rock star.”
Macpherson was one of the first models to turn her career in front of the camera into a fully-fledged personal brand.
Now 55, Macpherson built a $US95 million ($A138.9 million) empire spanning fashion, TV, lingerie, acting, and now, a line of plant-based elixirs with her latest business venture, WelleCo.
“The business of modelling has changed,” Macpherson said. “In the 80s and 90s when I first started, everything was about bigger, better, bolder — your work was about creating an image and that was the most important thing, your image.
“When I first started modelling in Australia … you did everything — you were a hand model, a foot model, swimwear, runway, TV commercials.
“If you wanted to earn money, you had to be versatile.”
Speaking in Melbourne, Macpherson reflected on moving to New York — initially, with a plan to make enough money from modelling to put herself through a law degree — and being told she had to conform to rigid beauty standards.
“They’re like, ‘No Elle, brown-eyed girls don’t do covers’. I was like, no, no, give us a go here,” Macpherson said.
She said she told fashion heavyweights: “‘You don’t understand, I gotta go back and go to law school — I need the cash.’”
Enter the ’90s, an era when supermodels like Macpherson, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Claudia Schiffer became famous for much more than the runway.
“I was so lucky because at that time, there was the rise of the supermodel,” Macpherson said.
“It started to become a very powerful industry.”
While she is one of Australia’s most famous fashion faces, Macpherson — who describes herself as a “frenetic person, A-type personality” — admitted she found scrutiny tough.
“I wasn’t comfortable in front of the camera … that amount of scrutiny is quite difficult to cope with day in and day out,” she said, speaking at a Business Chicks brunch held in her honour.
“When I say scrutiny … it was my own. I had a huge attention to detail and it’s not great when it’s directed at yourself.”
She credited her success in business — including a groundbreaking lingerie licensing deal for Elle Macpherson Intimates — with trusting her intuition, and being “willing to embrace change”.
“I also embraced the … cosmic nudges that you get along the way,” Macpherson said.
ELLE’S RULES FOR SUCCESS
* “Believe in yourself.”
* “Don’t take shortcuts: they end in dead-ends.”
* “Aim to make a difference.”
* “Find out what your strengths are. Know what you bring to the table.”
* “If you can align your choices with your personal values, it saves time (making decisions).”
* “Diarise everything.”
* Ask yourself: “Does it align with your values? And if the answer (is) yes, it does. Then do it.”
Elle Macpherson is continuing her national speaking tour with Business Chicks.