Modelling was poor girl’s path in 80s but now posh girls taking over

Catwalk Class war! Electrician’s daughter turned supermodel Eva Herzigová says modelling was a poor girl’s path to stardom in the 1980s but now posh girls such as Cara Delevingne and Lady Amelia Windsor are taking over

  • Modelling has propelled women from humble beginnings such as Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell to stardom
  • However now fashion pages are less diverse and filled with upper-crust models born into huge privilege
  • Instead of scouring the High Street, scouts scroll through Instagram looking for girls already well connected

Call me a hopeless romantic but I love Cinderella. The tale of an impoverished, hard-working young girl plucked from obscurity for her charm and beauty tugs at my heartstrings.

It may be a fairy story, but I suspect it resonates so strongly because I saw it happen so often in my working life.

Time and again, beautiful young women from the humblest beginnings have been catapulted into a life beyond their wildest dreams. And they don’t owe their transformation to a boring Prince Charming: they owe it to their careers. Yes, I’m talking about modelling. 

Supermodel Eva Herzigova (left) came from humble beginnings in communist Czechoslovakia. Her Dad Jiri was an electrician and mother Eva, a secretary. However Cara Delevingne (right) had a high society start in London’s swanky Belgravia. Her grandfather was English Heritage chairman Sir Jocelyn Stevens and her father Charles is a property developer

Model Linda Evangelista (left) was born in Ontario to immigrants. Her mother Marisa was a bookkeeper and she was spotted aged 16 in a pageant. In comparison Lady Amelia Windsor (right) is The Duke of Kent’s granddaughter and 38th in line to the throne. She was spotted on Tatler’s cover in 2016, which declared her ‘the most beautiful member of the Royal Family’

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A world where women as diverse as Twiggy and Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell have been propelled to fame and riches. 

Not one of them was born with a single material advantage. All that marked them out was their beauty and drive. And that’s why it seems a pity that the fashion pages are suddenly filled with upper-crust models born into huge privilege.

Model Eva Herzigova said something similar earlier this month. And she should know. Eva, 45, was born in the Eastern Bloc to a secretary and an electrician. 

‘In my time, models came from nowhere, when those Cinderella stories still happened,’ she said. ‘These very famous models have often grown up as little princesses, and they simply take advantage of the opportunities and benefits that open up to them.’

I suspect much of the blame lies with social media. Instead of scouring the High Street, scouts scroll through Instagram. If Mummy and Daddy are already famous, a good-looking girl is more likely to get noticed. Her legions of well-connected followers will fuel publicity, making her easier to promote.

Cindy Crawford (left) is from DeKalb, Illinois. Her father John was a machinist and mum Jennifer was a housewife. A local photographer spotted her aged 16 and now she’s worth an estimated £70million. Lady Mary Charteris’s father is the Earl of Wemyss and her mother the Hon Catherine Guinness. At age 19, she (right) was introduced to Storm model agency by friend and style queen Isabella Blow

Naomi Campbell (left) comes from Stockwell, South London. Her dad abandoned her pregnant mum, Valerie, who was only 19. She’s risen from her humble beginnings to be a guest at Princess Eugenie’s wedding and be worth an estimated £45million. Lady Kitty Spencer (right) is the niece of Princess Diana and was only one-year-old when she made her modelling debut on cover of Harper’s Bazaar with model mum Victoria Lockwood. Her family is worth over £100million

No wonder brands think they’re on to a winner with models such as Lady Amelia Windsor, Lady Mary Charteris and Lady Kitty Spencer.

I have nothing against these young women. But I worry their success comes at a cost for other girls and the industry.

When I started modelling in 1958, the glass ceiling was beginning to crack. Society models such as Fiona Campbell-Walker were giving way to solidly middle-class girls like me. 

My father was a doctor and I entered modelling by attending a course at the Lucie Clayton Charm Academy. I was then lucky enough to be spotted by celebrated photographer Norman Parkinson, after I was sent on a job as a stand-in.

I was a bag of nerves. But Norman took a shine to me because he noticed the stammer I was trying to hide. The photographs ended up in Vogue and my career took off. It was around this time that Twiggy exploded onto the scene.

Supermodel Kate Moss (left) is from Croydon. Her father Peter was an airline employee and her mother Linda a barmaid. She was spotted aged 14 at New York’s JFK airport in 1988. Now she hangs out with the champagne-swilling Primrose Hill set. Adwoa Aboah (right) boarder at the £39,000-a-year Millfield School in Somerset and went to rehab aged 21. Her mother Camilla is the granddaughter of Viscount (Anthony) Lowther

She wasn’t just a quirky beauty. She had an exceptional drive and work ethic — inherited, I suspect, from her humble background. 

Born Lesley Hornby in Neasden, she was the daughter of a factory worker and a carpenter and was discovered when a fashion journalist spotted some photos of her in a hair salon.

Twiggy opened the floodgates. But sadly, I fear it’s no longer a level playing field.

Once every model agency was looking for the next Kate Moss. Now they are looking for the next Lady So-and-so. Of course, I don’t want these beautiful society women to be excluded. But I think it would be very sad if there’s no longer the same wonderful diversity.

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