The modeling industry is all about who's young, who's hot and who's next. Or is it?
Her pals from the supermodel heyday a decade ago are also faring well: At 36, Naomi Campbell is still queen of the catwalk. Kate Moss, 32, is starring in a half-dozen designer ad campaigns this season, including a fall Versace campaign that also features Christy Turlington, Angela Lindvall, Carolyn Murphy and Daria Werbowy.
Evangelista never saw modeling as a means to another career.
"I decided when I was 12 that it's what I wanted to do and I count my blessings that I got to realize my dreams," she says. "Being a rock star was out of the question. I can't sing. I'm so glad this worked out for me, I do think I know how to be a good model. And I didn't have a Plan B in place."
It helps, too, that she's a fashion junkie and keeps up on the styles and trends, whether she's working or not. "I love that it changes every six months. I really love the creative process of making beautiful images. I so enjoy everything about it."
Turlington, 37, has gone on to other things, including marriage to actor-director Edward Burns, motherhood and her own activewear company, Nuala. Still, she was happy to be called back to duty for Versace.
"I started my career working with the Versaces and it had been years since I saw Donatella," she says. "It was great to spend a day catching up with old friends and familiar faces. Shooting the campaign was definitely more fun than work."
Evangelista, whose baby is due this fall, isn't worried about her post-pregnancy figure.
"I'm not freaked out at all, I embrace it. I believe I'm doing everything to go through this as smoothly as possible. I'm either doing yoga or exercising every day."
There won't be a "comeback" after the baby's birth, Evangelista says, because she doesn't plan on ever going away.
Sally Singer, fashion news director at Vogue, says someone with a full life, public recognition and a few (or more) years of experience is an even more effective model because the women buying clothes, beauty products and magazines can relate to her.
"Readers and customers respond to images of older women — women who've had lives, women who they know something about. They're more interested in a woman who's had children and still looks great. It's more inspiring than seeing a 14-year-old from a former Eastern Bloc country."
Fame is a factor, too.
"The more iconic models of the '90s have greater appeal because they are, in their own right, celebrities, and we all know celebrities and campaigns do work," Singer says. When even the jaded crowd at a fashion show cheers for Campbell as she struts the runway, they cheer because they know her, she explains. "It's a celebrity moment, not a model moment."