Supermodel Linda Evangelista loves her job, a glass of wine and a good cigar.
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95
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Early on, though, her mind focused on modeling rather than academics. "From about the age of 12, I got it into my head that I wanted to be a model," she says. "I dreamed about it. I did not really think I could become one. I started with the women's fashion magazines. It was more the clothes than the actual modeling that fascinated me. I got every magazine. I would tear the pages out and dream."
Her mother made sure she was busy. "She kept me in all these extracurricular activities," Evangelista says. "I took accordion lessons and skating lessons and tap lessons. Then my dance school closed down, so she wanted to find something else for me to do. And people said, 'Oh, your daughter's really pretty. She's tall enough to be a model.' When I was 12, I was five foot eight. Now I'm five foot nine and a half. I thought I was going to be seven feet tall. And I had really big feet. They haven't grown since then."
So one day her mother took her to a local modeling school. "They interviewed me and said I could join the modeling class. But I think it was too expensive, so my mother enrolled me in the self-improvement class instead, which actually was not a bad thing. I laughed at it, but I learned how to set a table, how to get in and out of a car. I learned a lot of etiquette. Then I begged my mother to let me get into the modeling class. The school was the only way to get jobs."
The jobs she got, though, were not exactly high-paying. "I don't know how much money it cost my mom, but I think that, with the price of makeup and the classes, I probably grossed about $100 a year. It was real small-time. I would go to fashion shows. I would be the bridesmaid. I would have rehearsals and fittings, and I would get $20. She would take the day off from work and drive me to Hamilton to do a store catalog for $8 an hour, and it would be for two hours."
When Evangelista was 15, the modeling school entered her in the Miss Teen Niagara Pageant. "I didn't place at all," she says, "but there was a scout from the Elite model agency in the audience who gave me his card afterward and said that if I was ever interested, I should give him a call and he would test me and send my picture to New York."
She decided, though, to remain in school. And a year later, she had an experience that almost turned her off modeling for good.
"These people from Japan came to my hometown agency and said they were looking for girls for the summer in Tokyo, and I was the chosen one, the only one they wanted. I got so excited. I said I was going to go and do it on my own. So I went to Japan, and when I got there I completely panicked. The accommodations were disgusting, and they started throwing questions at me like 'Will you do nude?' It was overwhelming. After one day I said I didn't want to be a model. The Canadian Embassy got me out, and everything was fine, but I dropped the whole modeling thing and went back and finished high school."
After graduation, her mother suggested that she try again. But it was not easy. "She said I should call the guy who gave me the card. I was terrified, but I said, 'All right, I'll do it.' I came to New York, and at first they were very excited about me. But things didn't happen quickly. I thought I was doing OK. I got a couple of bookings, and I was overwhelmed to get those. I even made $600 on one job. But I guess my agency was very frustrated. They said I should try Europe, because it wasn't working out here." ("I didn't really have myself together," she once recalled. "I still had baby fat, and the hair was a problem.")
She moved to Paris in 1984 and began working right away, "at the bottom of the ladder." The climb was slow. "It was three years before I got a booking with Vogue," she says.
The people at Elite in Paris were not enthusiastic about her, she says. "And if you don't have a booker or manager who believes in you, you're not going to get anywhere." She left. She met an important fashion executive, Gérald Marie, and she went to his agency--and with the switch, her move to the top began. (Evangelista and Marie were married in 1987 in her hometown; they separated in 1992.)
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