Making a SuperModel – Steven Meisel and Candice Swanepoel and Vogue Covergirls

2 Apr

  • Text, Vivian Kelly

What girl that gets into modeling doesn’t have the following dream?

The dream of fashion photographer/genie,  Steven Meisel “discovering” her and plucking her out of obscurity or from a [ugh] “commercial” career and waving his magic wand/lens and ‘”transforming” her into an editorial STAR.

Over the years, Steven has created Gueneviere Van Seenus, Stella Tennant, Agyness Deyn, Carolyn Murphy, Liya Kebede, Kristen McMenamy, Coco Rocha, and more.

To read more about Steven, Vogue published an excellent feature on this very reclusive fashion figure, in their May 2009 issue.

His most famous transformation/creations are “The Trinity” aka Linda [Evangelista], Christy [Turlington-Burns], and Naomi [Campbell].

The latest lucky girl on the list is South African model, Candice Swanepoel.

Who? Come again?

Before she caught Steven’s eye, Candice Swanepoel was a Victoria’s Secret Girl.

Candice is  5’9″ [short], size 4 [curvy] and 21 [older]. The descriptors in brackets are BY FASHION INDUSTRY STANDARDS.

To confess, I’d never heard of her until my friend Anthony Leonard, showed me a spread he’d done with Steven Meisel for the February 2011 issue of Vogue Italia. Anthony created the wigs that helped to transform Candice from just another  beautiful commercial girl to  an Italian Vogue cover girl and a girl worthy of 8+ pages with her name prominently displayed – something that is virtually unheard of for a mere model. Only a photographer with Steven’s clout can make such a thing possible.

I trolled the Internet looking for images of Steven’s new star. Other than this huge new editorial coming-out, it’s as if Candice hadn’t really existed before Steven plucked her out of  relative obscurity.It was a few weeks until I made it back to Anthony Leonard to continue the conversation with Anthony for  a brainstorming session at A-L where we discussed his recent Elizabeth Taylor homage in his monthly product post and revisited the Candice-Steven topic.

TheFE: Getting back to Candice, what’s the attraction?

Anthony Palermo: [shrugging] There’s something about her that Steven liked. She’s very confident on set. I like what he did with her. She as a different girl in each photograph. With the hair change for each, it was like what he did with Linda [Evangelista], but different.

TheFE: You mean she could be a new Linda? That’s so exciting!

Anthony: We ALL want a new Linda.

TheFE: She’s different though. Linda was harder.

Anthony: Yes, and the body. Linda never had a body like THAT. Candice’s nickname in the Industry is “the organ donor” [explains] – her proportions are so tiny as if she’s had all her organs taken out to make them possible – yet she’s still so curvy and sexy.

TheFE: She looks real, though, it’s all really her, no plastic.  There’s no doubt after looking at pictures of her.

Anthony: She’s sexy but there’s more. Her face intrigues me; it’s iconic, as if she’s already been around for a while, even though she hasn’t.

TheFE: That brings us to a bigger question. How about American Vogue? Can she get on it? Do you think we’ll see models on the cover again as we used to before celebrities took over?

Anthony: No. I was so upset when models lost the covers to celebrities but there recently seems to be a shift to pop stars. We had Lady Gaga in the March issue and Rihanna in April’s – brilliant covers and I am dying to know who gets the next one.

TheFE: These things go in threes. For it to be a REAL shift, there has to be a third.

Anthony: I’m predicting that Anna may be going with pop stars. The Teen Vogue Reader from five years ago is now twenty and will be reading Vogue.

She doesn’t want to read about Angelina Jolie and her ten kids or Jennifer Anniston or Penelope Cruz. She’s interested in Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga. Those girls are 23. The reader wants to know what makes them so special that they can fill stadiums, about what it is about THEM that makes them stars.

TheFE: You’re right and this makes total sense. WHO then? Who should be next?

Anthony: Taylor Swift. She’s tall, she’s beautiful, talented and has a huge following. If she were on the cover, young girls would get the Vogue app for their ipads not because they’re Vogue fans but because something about that pop star cover drew them in. It would be good for business.


I always look forward to the mags hitting my mailbox, but now, after this conversation, more so than ever, and not just for the May issue to see if Anthony’s onto something, but for the next 6 months. Maybe there really IS a shift in the winds of fashion.

What do you think? Are movie actresses  going to be dethroned on the big fashion magazine covers by pop celebrities?


2 Responses to “Making a SuperModel – Steven Meisel and Candice Swanepoel and Vogue Covergirls”

  1. Robyn October 4, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    Lovely article, I was a bit shocked to see you wrote the model was a size 4 and in brackets curvy. A size 4 in tiny not curvy.

    • thefashionexaminer October 4, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

      Thx for your comment. The reason I put the brackets around the word curvy was an attempt to be facetious. I agree, there is nothing “curvy” about a size 4 woman, particularly when she’s 5’10”. I miss “the Brazilians” – Giselle Bundchen, Adrianna Lima etc on the runways and the SuperModels of the early Nineties, Cindy Crawford, Naomi!

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