Naomi, Cindy, Linda and Christy. Four of the biggest names in popular culture for over three decades, but, according to those in the know, this fab foursome are more than stars.

‘They’re like a supernova’, says film producer Larissa Bills.

‘There is this je ne sais quoi. When you’re in a room with them, everything just stops. They’re so charismatic. Beyond the beauty, there’s just something about them. And when you put them all together, it’s something else.’ 

Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington’s stratospheric rise to fame has been documented by Larissa and Roger Ross Williams in the hotly-anticipated AppleTV documentary The Supermodels, due out on 20 September.

Talking about the making of the film, Roger recalls, ‘You would see 50 dresses arrive on set and these massive glam teams. We were like – how will this all work? It was fascinating; a massive endeavour.’ 

Alongside the glamour and prestige, the first ever supermodels have also seen plenty of dark times. To get a candid retelling of their lives, Roger and Larissa spent time alone with them before the cameras started rolling. 

‘We went to Cindy’s house and it was just very normal,’ Roger tells Metro via a Zoom chat from his New York base. ‘Kaia [Cindy’s daughter] is playing with her dog and [husband] Rande is laying by the pool and we were just at home with Cindy Crawford. It was a little surreal.’ 

At the height of their fame in the ’90s, the four models had the world at their feet. Linda Evangelista once famously said she wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 – a statement she later came to regret.

But behind the globe trotting and glamorous photo shoots the quartet struggled with racism, addiction, illness, domestic abuse and a cosmetic surgery nightmare. 

Recruited as teens in the eighties, the women made huge sacrifices to follow their dreams. Cindy, who had a scholarship to study chemical engineering at university, dropped out of college before finding herself distraught in a Rome hotel room having her hair unceremoniously cut off without her consent. 

The women, or ‘girls’ as they were routinely called, were paraded and ogled at in a way that is uncomfortable by today’s standards. 

In one scene in the documentary, we watch as a young Cindy was told to stand up on Oprah’s show so the audience can take a proper look at her figure. Meanwhile, Linda was ordered to lose 5lbs at the beginning of her career and recalls how she passed out on a shoot. 

‘They would prop you up and start again’, she remembers.

Naomi also reveals how taxis wouldn’t stop for her in New York – but would pick up Christy. However, as her power and influence grew, Naomi started fighting back.

She tells the documentary: ‘I wanted what the white model was getting’. And she did. In 1988 Naomi made history by becoming the first Black person on the cover of French Vogue. 

PR Guru Lynne Franks tells Metro that despite what people might think of their glamorous career, the four women worked extremely hard: ‘They were flying all over the world, they weren’t getting enough sleep, they had to look gorgeous all the time. It was probably a bit of a strain.’ 

They also grew to wield tremendous power. Lynne ran the biggest fashion PR agency in the world at that point (she was the inspiration for Absolutely Fabulous’ Edina Monsoon) and was responsible for London Fashion Week.

‘The big thing was always – could we get them into town?’ remembers Lynne, who now runs SEED, a women’s empowerment network. ‘Naomi was always very loyal to a lot of the young designers and occasionally we got Linda and Christy.

‘We knew if they walked the shows, those pictures would get on the front pages of newspapers and magazines all over the world. If you had their face or their body on the catwalk, that would make the brand.’

Before long the women were on the cover of every Vogue magazine across the globe, securing huge contracts with big name brands that made them millionaires. Together, they were greater than the sum of their parts.

‘There’s something about the power that came with their beauty that could only have happened in that particular time and culture that transcended fashion, commerce, that really transcended the role of the model,’ Larissa explains.

‘Their individual appeal is only surpassed by the fact that they were a group; there was this camaraderie and this kind of looking out for one another that took it to this new level of feminism. I hate to use that phrase, “girl power”, but they were on a par with the Spice Girls.’ 

And six years before Scary & co were even a thing, they conquered the music world. In 1990, the four women became household names when they starred in George Michael’s video for Freedom!, a move that added to their universal appeal.

In short, they could do no wrong. When Naomi famously tripped wearing rubber tights and vertiginous heels for Vivienne Westwood in 1993, other designers started asking her to fall for them.

However, as their stars ascended, the pressure of being under constant surveillance took its toll.

John Casablancas, an American modelling agent and scout who was often credited for curating the rise of the supermodel, eventually turned on the women and blasted them in the press. ‘They’re most of all selfish, and they very, very quickly develop into monsters of egocentricity,’ he said.

Naomi tells the documentary: ‘That stigma of his words and his statement to the press messed my work up for many many years. I’ve heard “crazy”, I’ve heard “nightmare”, I’ve heard “difficult”.

‘I’m just called difficult because I open my mouth. I mean, some people call people bitches when they are hard-working, opinionated, in control of their own career.’

Linda was also taken to task for demanding $10,000 a day for getting out of bed, something apologises for in the documentary.

‘I shouldn’t have said that. That quote makes me crazy…,’ she says. ‘I said it and around the world, I’ve apologised for saying it.’

However, she also notes, would have been more socially acceptable coming from a man?

Linda cuts a more vulnerable figure throughout the film. She talks of suffering from imposter syndrome, desperately wanting to please photographers and designers. And when her marriage to Gérald Marie, who was the head of Elite Model Management broke down in 1993, she spoke of domestic abuse.

‘I knew I had to endure the abuse in order to continue working,’ she explains. ‘That was made very clear to me. I was dependent on Marie for my food, for my housing and for my employment. I was completely trapped.’

Naomi also battled demons, telling the documentary how her cocaine addiction was caused by unprocessed grief. In 2007, she pleaded guilty to assault after throwing a mobile phone at her housekeeper.  

‘Addiction is such a bulls**** thing… You think it’s going to heal that wound,’ she says. ‘It doesn’t. It can cause such huge fear and anxiety. So I got really angry.’

Meanwhile, recent years have brought further misfortune to Linda. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, and then cancer of the pectoral muscle last year. She was also heartbroken by being left unable to work as a result of side-effects of a cosmetic procedure CoolSculpting, a fat-freezing treatment that left her ‘permanently deformed’.

Wearing a covid mask, shades and a hunter’s hat, Linda covers her entire face in part of the documentary. 

She explains how she spent years in hiding, not leaving the house unless she had to go to the doctors. She says: ‘I wish we could just really see ourselves in the mirror, non-distorted without ever having seen ourselves with a filter or retouched. That is what has thrown me into this deep depression that I’m in. It’s like you’re trapped with yourself that you hate. It’s been years since I worked and years of hiding.’ 

But she has worked since then – and her image has been retouched since. In May, the four women were reunited in a Manhattan studio for a Vogue shoot alongside the cover line: ‘The Greatest of All Time.’

The images were highly edited, a move that disappointed PR guru Lynne.

‘Vogue thought it was necessary to take all the wrinkles out,’ she says with a sigh.

‘They’re all beautiful and for me it would be important to say that you can still be beautiful in your fifties. You don’t have to take out all the lines. I thought that was a real shame.’ 

Beyond the wrinkles, the women have seen other changes. Despite experiencing hot flushes in front of the camera, Naomi continues to model.

They now manage business endeavours, philanthropic projects and all have children – with Cindy’s own children – Kaia and Presley – becoming models and overtaking her in “instafame”.

Now, in their fifties, they want to reflect and remember. As Larissa says following hours of conversations with the quartet: ‘I’m in my fifties and I am much more reflective and open to talking about things I might not have been talking about 30 years ago.

‘And I think they wanted to just look at that time through today’s lens.’ 

Roger hopes the documentary will inspire viewers, but he warns that these models’ dramatic ascent is one that can never be replicated.

‘They were the first influencers. They were at a time when fashion and modelling was a real art form, when it took weeks to do a fashion shoot,’ he says. ‘Those days are over now. It’s click, click, click, instagram, everyone’s an influencer, everyone’s a supermodel. 

‘But this was the beginning of it all. It’s the origin story. It’s the moment it all came together; fashion, art, culture, music, celebrity culture. And these four women were the big bang.’

The Super Models is due to be released on September 20 on Apple TV

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