In 1990, supermodel Linda Evangelista uttered what has become the most famous quote in modeling history: "We don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day."
She was referring to herself and fellow supermodel Christy Turlington, both of whom were a core part of the handful of models shaking up the industry by being as famous and powerful as celebrities.
Check out a slideshow of the highest-paid models at our partner site Forbes.com.
Models did talk shows. They landed movie roles. They inspired franchises — the ill-fated Fashion Cafe, which was part owned by supermodels Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and Elle MacPherson. They dated or married movie stars — Evangelista and Kyle MacLachlan, Turlington and Ed Burns and Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere. And, of course, they made millions.
Some still do. Gisele Bundchen tops Forbes.com's 2007 list of the top earning models in the world, raking in $33 million, more than triple the $9 million banked by Kate Moss, who came in second. The 15 models on the list were ranked primarily according to estimated earnings over the last 12 months.
Where necessary, the "relevancy" of the model —determined by recent campaigns, editorials, fashion magazine covers and the opinion of those in the industry — was taken into account. Household names Heidi Klum ($8 million), Adriana Lima ($6 million) and Alessandra Ambrosio ($6 million) round out the top five slots.
Bundchen is a workhorse who leads the pack by far: While most models on the list have one major contract in addition to three or four seasonal campaigns, she juggles almost 20 campaigns. She also brings in at least $6 million a year by licensing her name to a Brazilian shoe company Grendene. But watch for Bundchen's fortunes to possibly decline next year: In December, her record-breaking $5 million-a-year deal with Victoria's Secret expires.
For most other models, things are different. Top models like those on Forbes.com's list still bank millions, but only once a multiyear contract is secured. The days of $10,000 runway fees are over. Top models don't even do runway. It's considered an internship process for the hundreds of anonymous 15- and 16-year-old foreign girls who swarm the runways of New York, Paris and Milan each season. They do 70 shows in six weeks and are paid about $250 an hour their first season.
A good, hardworking model can make $200,000 a season, but chances are that model, once the season is over, will never be seen or heard from again.
In the supermodel heyday, most of the top models were homegrown — Crawford from Illinois, Tyra Banks and Turlington from California. Their American accents made for a fairly easy transition to stardom. Then the fashion industry, which thrives on change, began to prefer foreigners.
Five years ago, it was the Brazilians, out of which rose Bundchen, Lima and Ambrosio. This new trinity, with their Victoria's Secret contracts, became well known, but with their foreign accents, they were unable to cross over into the world of TV, movies and talk shows as easily as their predecessors did. And with the exception of Bundchen, who dated Leonardo DiCaprio on and off for several years, they kept their private lives private.