When we think of the 1990s, one iconic image often comes to mind: that of statuesque supermodels like Naomi Campbell, Christina Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford walking confidently down the catwalk, embodying not only fashion but an entire cultural movement.
These women, often affectionately referred to as the “Big Four,” weren’t just pretty faces. They were muses, game changers and game changers for women in all industries. Now they’re the focus of a new four-part Apple TV documentary series. The supermodelswhich will premiere on September 20.
The supermodels offers a raw, intimate and unfiltered look at the lives of Campbell, 53, Turlington, 54, Evangelista, 58, and Crawford, 57, who revolutionized the modeling industry by helping change the aesthetics of the industry to that was more daring and inclusive. For them, fashion wasn’t just about clothes: it was a political statement.
Bringing their stories to life was no easy feat, directors Roger Ross Williams and Larissa Bills told Yahoo Entertainment during New York Fashion Week.
“I remember someone telling me, I think it was Linda’s agent, ‘You have to understand the responsibility here,’” Bills recalls. “And I absolutely do, on every level.”
Williams adds: “We grew up with these women. They were part of our lives, so I feel like we understood the era, we understood the art. It was not lost on us; “We were ready.”
‘A cultural milestone’
Not long before Campbell, Turlington, Evangelista and Crawford became household names, Williams and Bills explain, fashion was fixated on models with an all-American look (usually with blonde hair and light-colored eyes). But in the 1990s, amid broader cultural, technological, and political changes (the end of the Cold War, the rise of cable television and music videos, the AIDS crisis, and a growing focus on consumer culture and brand marketing, for example), the “The “supers,” as they call them, were in the right place at the right time.
“It’s very interesting to see these world events and how they intersect with fashion,” Bills says, emphasizing that fashion is a kind of beacon towards liberation, expression and freedom.
Culture was undergoing a major transformation (due in large part to the digital revolution) and designers like Calvin Klein, Gianni Versace, Tom Ford, among others, were taking greater risks. That included elevating models who were perhaps only known as “print models” to be front and center on the runway and other forms of media, such as George Michael’s epic “Freedom ’90” video with Campbell, Turlington, Evangelista, Crawford and Tatjana Patitz (who died in januaryand to which the directors gave a special mention in the series).
Those risks paid off, executive producer Sara Bernstein tells Yahoo Entertainment, and ultimately led to Versace introducing the Big Four at its now-famous 1991 show in Milan, using Michael’s song to guide them down the runway. At that point it was clear that the trend had officially infiltrated pop culture. And there was no turning back.
“It was a cultural milestone,” Bernstein says. “‘Freedom’ catapulted them into the stratosphere and they exploded in a way that defined culture as we know it.”
The culmination of their growing fame, as well as their early collective work during that era: Turlington as the face of Calvin Klein and Maybelline, Campbell for Yves Saint Laurent and Versace, Evangelista for Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana, Crawford for Revlon and Pepsi. she made them not only models, but superModels. And whether they realized it or not, they finally shaped a landscape that would come to define man of influence culture.
‘The power of brotherhood’
Beyond their beauty and stage presence, Bills and Williams say the Big Four didn’t achieve success on their own. Rather, it was the culmination of intimate collaborations with designers and photographers alike, all of whom were revolutionizing the fashion world in one way or another (Steven Meisel, Richard Avedon and Azzedine Alaïa, among others).
Even more notable is the fact that the women helped each other. climb the ladder of success, such as when Turlington, Crawford and Evangelista refused to model for designers of the time who deliberately left out Campbell because she was black.
“Naomi was being defended by her peers,” Bills notes. “Looking back through today’s lens, it’s hard to understand what other girls were going through, working at 14, 15 years old (I mean, they were girls) in a very unregulated industry at the time.”
Beerus made sure that “the power of brotherhood” prevailed throughout the series. And while other “Supers” are not shown in their entirety (Claudia Schiffer, Kate Moss, Helena Christensen, Tyra Banks, Elle Macpherson and more), she and Rogers mention the Big Four, through historic collaborations and iconic images as a collective , unlike others, are the epitome of women empowerment. That’s a vital message in the series.
“There used to be supermodels, but they were all individual people,” Rogers explains. “When these four women came together, they fused with pop culture and music in a way that was unheard of and will never be seen again.”
Models like Moss, he notes, arrived later in the ’90s. “These four are the originals,” he says plainly, and telling their story was critical to depicting the “bigger picture” of how today’s models fit into a mold driven by the digital and commerce that these women helped define.
The future of fashion and how the Big Four changed it
There are certainly scenes that are difficult for fans to watch, including an emotional moment where Evangelista breaks down while talking about her recently. Failed CoolSculpting Procedure That left her permanently disfigured.
“What happened to my body after CoolSculpting became a nightmare,” he says in the series. “If someone had told me, ‘You’re going to get really fat and fat and we won’t be able to eliminate it,’ I might never have taken the risk.”
Other moments show how the Big Four dismantled unhealthy views on aging and body image, using their own stories as a vehicle. A cringe-worthy clip from an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show in the ’90s shows Winfrey asking Crawford to stand up and show her body to a “courting” audience. Other moments chronicled the various ways they were forced to cut their hair without their consent, highlighting that even in their heyday they had no ownership over their bodies. (Crawford October 1998 Playboy The cover, he says in the film, was his way of claiming that agency.)
The filmmakers hope that highlighting how far the modeling world has come in that regard will serve as a “lesson” for younger generations to learn.
“We’re so conditioned to think, ‘Well, these are beauty ideals and they make women feel bad,'” Bernstein says. “But as you experience their journeys and their stories, you understand that they are actually feminists in their own way. There is a lot of power in who has evolved and what they have done with this ideal of beauty, which permeates from the inside out.”
“They have shown that beauty and feminism, or beauty and power, are not mutually exclusive,” Bills adds. “I don’t want to say that they are responsible for the whole influencer culture, but they certainly have a role in it. Her faces became branded faces. Now, to have someone so closely affiliated with a brand, that’s what everyone wants.”
“The wonderful thing about people like Naomi is that she is using her power to encourage young African designers who otherwise would never have had a break,” says Rogers, who is also quick to point out that today’s fashion influencers lack the brave models of the 90s. had.
“It feels diluted,” he says of the current fashion landscape. “They are all influencers and they are just sitting in front of his ring of light. There is no art in it anymore. There is no storytelling.”
To that end, Rogers wants the history of the Big Four to be a “learning tool” from which pop culture fans can grow. Maybe then, he says, he could help others understand the power of community and that “no one can succeed alone.”
“Maybe it will inspire young influencers,” he says. “Or maybe it inspires them to go a little further artistically or express themselves in a different way than the comments on TikTok.”