LOS ANGELES – Once upon a time, a supermodel was seen, but never, ever heard. (Do you even know what Christy Turlington's voice sounds like?) Today, top models – and the people who manage them – say those days are long gone, and will never, ever return.
Model turned Broadway musical sensation N’Kenge told FOX411 the modeling world is much more competitive than it once was, making the “full package,” plus something special that sets you apart, vital.
“Many things are celebrity driven so it’s even harder to compete if you are not a household name. As a result, you have to be multi-talented. There are pretty faces everywhere,” N’Kenge said. “People want to know what makes you tick. You cannot survive in this business with no personality.”
Yes, in the modeling world, just having a personality can translate into big bucks. For example, outspoken-model-married-to-Tom-Brady Brazilian bombshell Gisele Bundchen, who has sounded off on everything from breast feeding to her husband’s teammates’ ability to catch the pigskin, made an estimated $42 million last year for being much more than a pretty face. The vivacious 32-year-old is so in demand, she replaced both Beyonce and Rihanna to become the face of H&M (affordable fashion) and Chanel (high high high end fashion) respectively.
Plus, a savvy model doesn’t need a team of hangers-on anymore to get her message out. Today, a beauty needs only an iPhone to express her myriad thoughts on politics, education, and the environment on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, which in turn gains her a massive, personal fan base. Just ask Heidi Klum (1.2 million Twitter followers), Adriana Lima (more than a million Twitter followers), Bar Refaeli (over 500,000 followers) and Chrissy Teigen (over 300,000 followers).
“People are still amazed when a model cares about education and diversity of interests,” said fashion designer and talent manager Nadja Atwal. “Many models know the business is very unpredictable now and make sure to put their education first.”
But “America’s Next Top Model” finalist and “JOBS” actress Natalie Gal says being able to express yourself is a privilege reserved only for the very famous.
“More women are going into modeling today than 5-8 years ago. There’s a huge pool of supply and not much demand. That lowers the rates and makes every girl disposable and replaceable, like a plastic bag from Target,” she said. “The base of modeling is beautiful physique and perfect young body so I would not see how anything else like personality or social status … can be a deciding factor in becoming a successful model.”
Kira Dikhtyar, star of the Oxygen series “The Face,” agrees, adding she even tries to “switch off (her) personality” when it comes to particular clients. She said in her five year career, nobody has ever been interested in what she has to say.
“The ‘no personality’ factor does work and has been working forever in the industry for women,” she said. “It’s easier to employ a life-sized perfect doll than a beautiful woman who will speak her mind.”