This is how much money supermodels really make

When you were younger, you probably thumbed through the pages of Seventeen Magazine, stopping briefly on the advertisements to consider what it would be like to be a supermodel. What you probably didn't know at the time is that your chances of becoming a supermodel — that is, a high-fashion, high-paid international model — were even lower than winning the lottery. Most of us didn't grow up to become models, let alone supermodels, but we can't say we ever got over our fascination with the industry. The success of America's Next Top Model alone proves that fact.

Of course, what we see in the magazines is not exactly an accurate depiction of the supermodel lifestyle. In an article for The Washington Post, former supermodel Ainsley McWha revealed that, although her life looked glamorous on the outside, modeling made her "severely depressed." Still, McWha would remain in the industry for 20 years — having started at just 16 years old. "Being so young," she explained, "I only saw dollar signs."

Being a supermodel paid well then, and has only become a more lucrative career. You might be surprised to learn just how lucrative. Here's what many of the world's supermodels are taking home today.

Secret salaries

Some of the most well-known faces in the modeling industry are contracted with the lingerie company Victoria's Secret. The majority of the company's big names form just a small portion of Victoria's Secret models dubbed "Angels." These women have unique agreements with the company that other runway models who work with the brand do not. One of the things that sets the Angels apart is their paycheck. As Insider reported, 11 of the 17 highest paid models on Forbes' 2016 list either had been or presently were Angels. 

Although neither the brand nor the Angels have shared many details about their contracts, we do know that the odds of becoming an Angel is incredibly low. As of February 2016, only 36 women had ever been chosen to model in this capacity and, by late 2017, only 14 women were working as Angels.

When Forbes released their "Highest-Paid Models" list in 2018, no current Angels made the cut. That's not to say Angels now make chump change. Forbes revealed that Adriana Lima — the highest-paid Angel as of 2018 — barely missed the list with an income of "just below the $8 million cutoff."

Doutzen Kroes is no Angel

After a year-long hiatus from the business, Doutzen Kroes returned to modeling and secured her place as the world's tenth highest-paid model in 2018, according to Forbes. Most of the supermodel's revenue comes from a contract with L'Oréal, Piaget, and Repeat Cashmere — where the model has her own line of sweaters. By 2018, Kroes had been a model for 15 years

Early on in her career, she was one of the few women to become a Victoria's Secret Angel. "I definitely fell into this position," she said in an interview with pr.com. She continued, saying, "I went to an agency in Holland and they sent me to New York. I had lots of troubles with being homesick, but I went for it. Then I went to some castings for Victoria's Secret and I worked for them, and then they wanted me to try out as an Angel. I had no idea when I was in Holland what Victoria's Secret was." Kroes finished out her contract with the brand by late 2014, but, obviously, her career is only getting bigger.

Joan Smalls' not-so-small paycheck

In 2018, supermodel Joan Smalls raked in $8.5 million, making her the ninth highest-earning model that year. "A runway expert, the Puerto Rican star walks in more shows than her fellow list members, and still finds time to shoot campaigns for Estee Lauder, Moschino fragrances and more," wrote Forbes

In just three years' time, Smalls' annual income has increased by $3 million. Not only does Smalls have a strong work ethic, she's also financially savvy. "I'm actually really good with money. I don't spend a lot," she told Harper's Bazaar Arabia. "I splurge every once in a while on a great vacation or if I like a piece of jewelry that I think is cute, but for the most part I save my money and think wisely." Smalls compared herself to a squirrel "stashing things away" for a later date. And although modeling is what has earned her millions of dollars, her career is also what encouraged her to save. "With this industry," she explained, "you never know when your next job is going to be, so you have to be astute with how you spend."

Bella Hadid: Young millionaire

Forbes named Bella Hadid the eighth highest-earning model in 2018 due to her incredible $8.5 million income. At just 22 years old, Hadid is also the youngest model to make the cut. She may be young, but Hadid lives a fast-paced, career-oriented life. "I travel a lot and I often work directly after landing," she explained to British Vogue. In summer 2018 alone, Hadid was booked for appearances at the Met Gala and Fashion for Relief. Additionally, she was scheduled to travel to Paris, New York, Cannes, and Monaco for work. But 2018 wasn't her first year in the business. Hadid got her start in modeling back in 2014 at the Desigual Spring 2015 fashion show.

In 2017, Hadid made her way onto Forbes' list of highest-paid models for the first time after bringing home $6 million. The supermodel's older sister, Gigi Hadid, also made the cut. Together, the two sisters made history by becoming the first siblings to have ever appeared on the list together.

Gigi Hadid: From "bad runway walker" to supermodel

In 2018, at 23 years old, Gigi Hadid made $9.5 million, according to Forbes. Hadid's income came from a wide array of brands: Maybelline, Tommy Hilfiger, and even Reebok, the publication revealed. Although it could be easy for Hadid to compare herself to her sister, she said that's not the case. "Bella and I have very different styles," the supermodel told Elle. "A job that wants Bella is not a job that I'm the right look for, so I never took that personally. In a lot of ways, she inspires me. We learn from each other."

Like her sister, though, Hadid is very career-minded. And, even though she says she was judged for being a "bad runway walker" in the beginning, she kept modeling. These days, she spends much of her time working or traveling to work. Hadid accredits her work ethic to her parents. "My mom was a model. She moved to the States when she was 16 to send money back to her family in Holland. My dad was a refugee and worked his way up in every way," she revealed to Elle. "I work hard to honor my parents."

Gisele Bundchen's post-retirement income

In 2007, Gisele Bündchen officially hung up her Angel wings. She'd started working for Victoria's Secret in the late '90s, but started having a change of heart. "For the first few years, I felt comfortable modeling in lingerie, but as time went on, I felt less and less at ease being photographed walking the runway wearing just a bikini or a thong," she detailed in her memoir Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life. "Give me a tail, a cape, wings — please, anything to cover me up a little!" 

When it came time to renew her contract with the brand, Bündchen decided to make a change, despite knowing she'd lose out on "80 percent of [her] annual income." At that time, Bündchen was the 16th richest woman in the entertainment industry. Later, in 2015, Bundchen also made the decision to retire from the runway altogether.

Despite having retired from the catwalk, Bündchen is still one of the world's highest paid models. At number five on Forbes' list, Bündchen took home $10 million in 2018, thanks in large part to her memoir and non-runway modeling gigs with Stuart Weitzman and Arezzo.

Cara Delevingne's high-paying, high-profile career

In 2015, we weren't sure if supermodel Cara Delevingne would ever walk runway again. "I am not doing fashion work any more, after having, like, psoriasis and all that stuff," she revealed to The Times (via W Magazine). The model's skin condition worsened with stress. As health.com reported, Delevingne walked in over four dozen runway shows in just one season. For each show, makeup artists used thick concealer to cover her psoriasis — and it wasn't a pleasant experience. "People would put on gloves and not want to touch me because they thought it was, like, leprosy or something," she told The Times (via health.com).

That wasn't the only reason Delevingne stepped away from her career, though. "Modeling just made me feel a bit hollow after a while," she told the publication (via W Magazine). "It didn't make me grow at all as a human being. And I kind of forgot how young I was. …I felt so old." Yet and still, Delevingne made a colorful — and lucrative — return to the runway in 2018. That year, Delevingne earned a whopping $10 million.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is a "multi-millionaire businesswoman"

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's profitable line of lingerie — not to mention her perfume and makeup — at department store Marks & Spencers helped the supermodel secure a spot at number three on Forbes' list of the world's highest-paid models in 2018. Huntington-Whiteley took home $11.5 million in that year alone. In 2018, the model and her husband, actor Jason Statham, were also busy with their first child, Jack. "It sounds so clichéd, but [motherhood has] just been the most magical experience. …This is what I want to pour my heart into now," she told Harper's Bazaar. "Hashtag blessed, right?" she joked.

Although 2018 was a busy year for Huntington-Whiteley on a personal level, it was also her most profitable year. Since she first partnered with the British department store in 2012, the company has sold 11 million items from her line, Rosie for Autograph. As the publication rightfully noted, "…As well as being a highly successful model and a former Victoria's Secret Angel, Rosie has also quietly spent the last few years becoming a multi-millionaire businesswoman." 

Chrissy Teigen: Beyond modeling

Tied with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley at $11.5 million is Chrissy Teigen, another über successful supermodel-turned-businesswoman. Forbes accredits many of Teigen's millions to her "giant social media presence" as well as her cookware line and the release of her second cookbook. According to The Independent, Teigen first got her start in modeling back in 2006 when she appeared on the show Deal or No Deal. The following year, Teigen made the cover of Maxim and then, in 2010, she was featured as "Rookie of the Year" in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition.

Teigen didn't fully pursue her love of cooking until after the birth of her first child, Luna. Suffering from postpartum depression, the supermodel turned to cooking as a way to heal. Despite having a background in modeling — a career notorious for the pressure it puts on women to conform to a certain look — Teigen recognizes that she doesn't "have to be [a] swimsuit model anymore." She continued, telling Good Housekeeping, "I get to be a mommy, cook, and meet incredible people, and I'm happy to be going through this transition."

Karlie Kloss' step-by-step income

Supermodel Karlie Kloss made an incredible $13 million in 2018. However, this wasn't the 20-something's first year in the modeling business. By the time she became the second highest-paid model on Forbes' list in 2018, she had a decade of experience under her belt. And, she was already very familiar with fame and fortune.

In 2015, Marie Claire reported that the Association of Accounting Technicians crunched Kloss' numbers and discovered she made £193 (about $249) per each runway step. At that time, the association estimated her earnings at around £1.8 million (roughly $2.3 million). By that math, Kloss made well over five times as much money in 2018 as she did in 2015. But even before she became a high-earning model, she knew she wanted to give back in some way.

"Long before I really understood fashion, I always had a knack for business and was excited by the idea of being an entrepreneur," Kloss told Net-a-Porter. In 2016, Kloss started her own organization, Kode with Klossy, which teaches coding to girls in a summer camp setting. By April 2018, the supermodel's organization grew from one camp to 12 across the United States.

Kendall Jenner is in a league of her own

Karlie Kloss' 2018 earnings are impressive and yet, there is a nine-million-dollar gap between her and the highest-earning model of 2018, Kendall Jenner. In just one year, Jenner took home $22.5 million. For those of us who are not Kardashians or Jenners, that's pretty much an unfathomable amount of moola. As Forbes explained, "The 23-year-old's earnings nearly matched her age in millions as she pocketed a career high from contracts with Estee Lauder, Adidas, and Calvin Klein, among others."

While its inarguable that Jenner is the highest-paid supermodel, most of her income doesn't actually come from modeling. Instead, Harper's Bazaar reported that most of her millions come from endorsements and sponsorships. Prior to Forbes naming Jenner as the highest-paid model, Jenner told Love Magazine"Since the beginning we've been super selective about what shows I would do. I was never one of those girls who would do like 30 shows a season or whatever the f*** those girls do. More power to 'em. But I had a million jobs, not only catwalks but everything else." Naturally, her comments angered many in her fieldAwkward

There's more to the story than just earnings

The top ten highest-earning supermodels of 2018 earned $113 million between them. Jenner alone is responsible for bringing in nearly 20 percent. Additionally, the models' cumulative income was $3.5 million more than the year prior. Being a supermodel pays well, for sure, but CNNMoney dubbed the cost of being a model "outrageous." And, well, they're right.

"Unlike most U.S. workers, models regularly see huge chunks of their earnings — whether it's a third, more than half, or even entire paychecks — disappear right before their eyes," the publication revealed. For models who are independent contractors, their agency fees may range as high as 20 percent. "A pay stub from one model showed how a big $30,000 payday became only $6,475 after a 20% commission and a big tax hit (though she's hopeful she'll get some of that back at tax time)," the article read. Model Lorelei Shellist once brought a lawsuit against the agencies charging such high commissions, but to no avail. "Nothing has changed. Nobody has enforced the laws," she explained. Although the highest-earning models aren't hurting for cash, it may also be expensive for them to keep their jobs.

Not all models make millions

Although supermodels are generally thought of as being super rich, most models don't start out at the top. And, plenty of others never — for one reason or another — make the transition from model to supermodel. "Models — many of whom are minors — have low bargaining power and are frequently not paid all of their earned wages, are paid wages late, are paid only after complaining about non-payment, are paid in 'trade' instead of money, or are simply not paid at all," former model and founder of the Models Alliance, Sara Ziff, painted a bleak picture when speaking to The Daily Beast. Ziff cited a "lack of financial transparency" as the root of the problem in the industry.

Frustratingly, being by and large young and female works against models trying to earn a fair wage. "If they were predominantly white middle-aged men," Ziff opined, "models would be treated very differently." Thankfully, some of the highest-earning models, like Karlie Kloss, recognize the pay disparity not just in their own industry but across the board and have advocated for change.

Aspiring supermodel salaries

Advocating for those lower down the industry totem pole could very well pave the way for up-and-coming models to secure a spot on a later edition of Forbes' "Highest-Paid Models." In 2018, InStyle highlighted 14 women, dubbing them "the new class of high-fashion runway models." One such up-and-comer, Remington Williams, was discovered while she was working at Chipotle in Texas. Just ten days later, she would step onto the runway at London's Spring 2018 Fashion Week wearing Marc Jacobs — and she hadn't even mastered heels before tackling the catwalk. "[I've been wearing] the heels to the grocery store and bodega near my apartment," she admitted to Vogue. "Models do not get enough credit for walking in those crazy shoes — they make it look so easy!" She's not wrong. 

However, it's likely that Williams did not make a ton for walking at Fashion Week. One professional model told Refinery29 that modeling at Fashion Week is more about "exposure." Big brands may pay between $800 to $1,000 per runway show while some independent brands may not pay any money and instead barter with clothing. That's a far cry from Kendall Jenner's paycheck, that's for sure.