The 25 Greatest Supermodels of the Past 50 Years: The 60s
Mar 10, 2011 - by Lester Brathwaite
The supermodel is that most rare of species: the working model who transcends the runway or the pages of magazines and catalogs to become a part of the popular culture. An ageless beauty whose style and personality make up for any shortcomings in talent, or sanity, or choice in men. I was going to create a Top 10 list of the greatest supers, but then I got to thinking, 'Hey, Lady (that's what I call my inner self), everyone knows Naomi, Kate, Christy, Linda and Cindy. But what about the ladies of yore; those catwalk pioneers who paved the way in false eyelashes and broken champagne bottles for the supermodels of today?' So I dove into the past 50 years of modeling and came out dragging the 25 muses who best defined what it meant to be a supermodel. Grace, beauty, versatility, influence and overall fierceness. Let's start in the swinging 60s!
Wilhelmina Cooper (1939-1980) Before starting her own modeling agency in 1967 (yes, that Wilhelmina), the Dutch-born Cooper appeared on some 300 magazine covers, and still holds the record for most covers of American Vogue: 27. Though Gwyneth Paltrow is slowly sneaking up on her.
Veruschka (May 14, 1939) The Countess Vera Gottliebe Anna von Lehndorff was forever immortalized in Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 classic Blow Up, writhing around on the floor, turning, giving and generally destroying everything in the room. At 6'1 with size 13 feet, some might say she was tranny..."some" like me. Either way, before Lidna refused to get out of bed for $10,000, Veruschka was making that in a day. Go. Head. Tranny.
Jean Shrimpton (Nov. 7, 1942) Shrimpton was a sensation almost immediately when she started modeling in 1960 and is perhaps the world's first supermodel, despite Janice Dickinson's drunken claim to the title. One of the most iconic faces and bodies of the 1960s (her slim figure earned her the nickname "The Shrimp") Jean caused a stir in 1965 when she wore a mini-dress on Victoria Derby Day in Melbourne. It was so easy to cause a stir back then; now someone has to smuggle blood diamonds just to get some attention around here.
Naomi Sims (1948-2009) Before there was Naomi, there was Naomi. The first black supermodel, Naomi Sims worked overtime to break into what is still a largely racist industry. With a little help from Wilhelmina Cooper, Sims officially made it when she appeared in an AT&T commercial in 1968 wearing a Bill Blass ensemble. And I bet she never threw her phone at anyone...no, she probably did.
Twiggy (Sept. 19, 1949) A boyishly short haircut in 1966 shot Leslie Hornby to superstardom as the international supermodel, Twiggy. At 5'6 and only 91 lbs at her discovery, she ushered in a new concept of female beauty and a whole rash of eating disorders. A tradition she continued as a judge on America's Next Top Model.
Peggy Moffitt (1939) My personal favorite 60s model, Peggy Moffitt was the original edgy girl. With her dark bangs and dark, Kohl-line eyes, she had one of the most distinctive looks of the decade. As a model, muse and eventual collaborator of Rudi Gernreich, she was immortalized when photographed in his topless bathing suit, the monokini, in 1964. How's that for a stir, Shrimpton!
Donyale Luna (1945-1979) Peggy Ann Freeman escaped the slums of Detroit for the glitz and glamour of New York City. Here, as Donyale Luna, she was exotic and intriguing whereas in Detroit she "wasn't considered beautiful or anything." At 6'2, with her already striking features and ultramarine contacts, she was in high demand, scoring the cover of British Vogue in 1966. Donyale lived like, partied like and dated rock stars and died like one when she OD'd in 1979. Then 6 years later she was reincarnated as a sassy fashion blogger (Ahem!)
Penelope Tree (1950) The ultimate 60s "It" girl, Tree was the daughter of socialite Marietta Tree and British member of Parliament, Ronald Tree. When Diane Arbus took some photos of Penelope, her parents threatened to sue the photographer if the photos were ever published. Nonetheless, The Tree became rival to the Twig and inspired John Lennon, when asked to describe her in three words, to respond: "Hot hot hot! Smart smart smart!" Meanwhile, that's either 2 or 6 words. Pull it together, Lennon.