From ad campaigns to runway shows to magazine covers, The Daily Beast crunches the numbers to determine supermodel superiority. VIEW OUR GALLERY of the world’s 10 most valuable models.
Beauty is eternal, but that hasn’t kept the modeling industry from falling prey to the same economic hardships crushing other fields. Luxury beauty and fashion companies are strapped for cash, and editorial opportunities are decreasing as magazines shrink and shutter. Cash-strapped celebrities have elbowed in on some of the product-shilling traditionally done by models. Collectively, like many of us, models make less for the same amount of work than just a few years ago.
Click the Image Below to View Our Gallery of the Most Valuable Models
In some ways, however, this has strengthened the hands of the modeling industry’s top names. As in investing, troubled times means that people crave blue-chip. So to test who’s up and who’s down at the top of the pyramid, The Daily Beast set out to determine the most valuable model in the world.
Note that, while related, value is different than earnings. Some models grab every opportunity available. Others try to create scarcity. Some try to maximize fees, while others will work for free if the opportunity is right. They all share versatility, as the faces of high-fashion campaigns, magazine covers, and mass-market advertising campaigns. In this ranking, we looked at each model as a brand—which is what they are—and tried to figure out which brand was worth the most.
Our list is filled with both veterans (Kate Moss, Gisele Bündchen, Christy Turlington) and up-and-comers (Daria Werbowy, Doutzen Kroes, Miranda Kerr). Both groups are navigating a profession in flux.
The starkest transition has occurred on the runway. Top models could once earn up to $250,000 from a runway season, but now most brands pay just $200 to $1,000 per hour, claiming the pay is in the exposure. Agents counter that runway shows don’t attract attention, and are no longer an entrée into editorial and advertising success.
“In the last season, there’s been a shift. Brands used to use some unknown girls on the runway and then they’d get the campaign,” says Richard Habberley, agent of Alessandra Ambrosio at Elite Model Management. “Now the models getting campaigns may not be on the runway at all.”
“Financially successful fashion companies have duped our industry into sacrificing a model’s traditional earnings from both fashion shows and fashion advertisements in the name of positive exposure,” adds Chris Gay, president of Marilyn Model Agency, which represents Adriana Lima and Emanuela de Paula. “If campaigns and shows are now considered just another form of positive exposure, then where’s the recompense for a model’s time and effort?”
The top 10 are finding a way. All make several million dollars a year. In terms of determining their value, here’s how we did it:
We considered four tenets to illustrate a model’s visibility and success—multi-year contracts, advertising campaigns, runway appearances, and magazine covers. Those with retail licensing deals, including Kate Moss and Gisele Bündchen, got credit for those estimated annual earnings, as well. Annual income from contracts, primarily negotiated by large cosmetic companies and Victoria’s Secret, were weighted 40 percent because they are the most difficult to get, bear the largest salaries, and indicate a very high level of success.
Advertising campaigns were examined in two ways: the number of campaigns a model currently has (10 percent) and the monetary value of the most significant campaign (30 percent) to track versatility, desirability, and exclusivity. All monetary figures used for ranking the list were estimates based on conversations with numerous industry experts.
Runway work was weighted 10 percent. Because runway work is mostly the provenance of less-established models, we wanted to consider the hypothetical value of each model’s appearance on the runway would be. To do that, we asked industry experts to give their opinion of a model’s relative value on the runway to measure what her appearance might cost a brand and bring in publicity.
Lastly, we looked at the covers of 18 domestic and international magazines to determine a model’s commercial newsstand value and measure the publishing industry’s confidence. Cover appearances were weighted 10 percent. Magazines included: Vogue, W, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Glamour, InStyle, Allure, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Vogue UK, Elle UK, Harper’s Bazaar UK, Vogue France, Elle France, Vogue Nippon (Japan), Vogue Russia.
Lauren Streib is a reporter for The Daily Beast. She was previously a reporter for Forbes.