Supermodels Who Accidentally Found Fame

Ever wonder how supermodels found fame? Well, at one point, it may have had to do with mall photographers beckoning young girls (and their parents) into their studios to take some photos (via The New York Times). However, what was undoubtedly flattering and fun was really just an attempt to secure some business. Most of these encounters began and ended with the young girl posing with her stuffed animal and forcing the adult with her to buy several 8x10s. But sometimes, albeit rarely, encounters with scouts in shopping malls (or anywhere else) turned into something else: a genuine attempt at launching a modeling career. 


According to Elle, modeling became a real career option for women in the 1920s. That's when department stores started hosting fashion shows and the world's first modeling agency opened its doors. Today, models have become A-list celebrities and household names, but how did they all get their big breaks? While a surprising amount of modeling's biggest names can trace their start back to a mall, for many, their fame was completely accidental.

Supermodel Naomi Campbell was a goth girl hanging with her friends after school

Naomi Campbell is, in addition to being one of the most beautiful supermodels in the world, also one of the industry's biggest names. Ever. Even from a young age, it seemed she was marked for big things. Campbell wrote in an article for The Guardian about the beginnings of her career and noted that her first brush with fame came when she was just 7, when she appeared in Bob Marley's "Is This Love" music video. Despite this early peek into what it's like to work with celebrities, this wasn't when Campbell set her sights on modeling and found fame.


In fact, modeling wasn't something that was even on Campbell's radar. In her early teen years, she was a self-proclaimed goth who wore "long black dresses and jackets, and wore Dr. Martens to school." However, on the day she was discovered, Campbell was wearing her school uniform and hanging with friends outside. She was approached by the head of an agency and was excited about the opportunity. Campbell's mother, on the other hand, was firmly against it. So what did the now legendary model do? She went to meet with the agent by herself, and it changed her life.

Before she was a supermodel, Gisele Bundchen accidentally found fame at a McDonald's

Gisele Bündchen has been gracing runways and magazine covers since the late '90s, and, though she's one half of a celebrity power couple, her success is the result of years of hard work that began after she accidentally found fame when she was in her early teens.


According to an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Bündchen thought of herself as awkward and "strange looking" — feelings all too familiar to just about anyone who went through puberty. The gorgeous supermodel was actually teased for the features she's known for today: her long legs and towering height. Because of this, Bündchen told WSJ she hunched over. To combat this, her mother signed her up for a modeling course and, when it was over, Bündchen and the other girls in the course went to São Paulo as a reward. It was during this post-modeling class trip that Bündchen was discovered sitting at a McDonald's (via Vogue).

From that moment on, Bündchen traveled the world as she launched her career and became one of the biggest names in modeling.


Supermodel Claudia Schiffer put off a law career after she accidentally found fame

Though you wouldn't guess it based on her photos or signature walk, Claudia Schiffer is intensely shy. In fact, the supermodel told Vanity Fair her friends did not think she would make it as a model. She shared, "They laughed and said, 'That's funny, you're never going to survive' because I was so shy. But I realized when I had makeup on there was a transformation and I didn't feel like shy Claudia from a small town, and I could do outrageous things." So, how did a shy German girl go on to become one of the biggest names in modeling? According to the Independent, Schiffer found fame accidentally when she was spotted at a nightclub in Düsseldorf at just 17 years old. Originally, Schiffer planned on becoming a lawyer like her father. Obviously, her life went in a different direction.


Schiffer has famously worked with brands like Guess and D&G and enjoyed career highs alongside supermodels. Her shyness, though, stayed with her throughout her career. She rarely gives interviews, was not often seen partying, and has stayed almost entirely scandal-free throughout her decades-long career. Maybe that's the secret to her success?

Before her supermodel days, Elle Macpherson accidentally found fame on a ski trip in Aspen

The running theme of supermodel discovery stories is that they really are random. Elle Macpherson, an example of celebrities who just get better with age, has had one of the biggest careers in the industry and has used her success to become a businesswoman with an empire worth $95 million (via Daily Telegraph). According to Lifetime, at 17, Macpherson was in an advertisement for a low-calorie drink. It was this job that helped show Macpherson that modeling could actually be a viable career. Though, according to the Daily Telegraph, Macpherson was originally thinking a modeling career would put her through law school. 


Her career really launched, though, when she was discovered on a ski trip in Aspen. After that trip, during which she accidentally found fame, she secured a contract with a modeling agency and went on to huge gigs like Sports Illustrated and even a few Hollywood roles, including an appearance in Friends.

Karlie Kloss accidentally found fame at a shopping mall

Today, the veil between supermodels and their adoring fans is thinner than ever. Some stars embrace this, while others prefer to be as private as possible. Karlie Kloss falls into the former category, alongside peers like Kaia Gerber and the Hadid sisters. Her YouTube channel has over 780,000 subscribers at the time of this writing, and it's perhaps where she is the most real with her fans. She shares recipes, behind-the-scenes stories, and the types of in-depth information superfans are just dying to know. 


It was in a YouTube video that Kloss shared how she found fame. In the video, she described herself as just a "13-year-old baby" who was approached by a scout in a mall for a local charity fashion show. After taking some headshots at one of those "cheesy" mall studios, she found herself nailing the audition and walking her first runway. Today, she's no longer the young teen focused on "sports and school and ballet" who had "never thought about" modeling before. She's a bonafide star who has been on the cover of Vogue an astonishing 40 times, according to her website.

Pamela Anderson accidentally found fame when she appeared on a Jumbotron

Pamela Anderson, who's undergone a truly stunning transformation throughout her career, was once just a regular girl from Canada who enjoyed watching sports. She was discovered much later than most other models who dominate the industry, though it can be argued she's among the biggest names out there. 


According to ABC News, Anderson was 22 years old when she was featured on the Jumbotron at a football game in Canada. At the time, she was wearing a Labatt beer crop top and the image became so popular that Labatt ended up hiring her to model for the company. Soon after that, a deal with Playboy followed. It was quite a quick rise to the top for a young woman who was working as a fitness instructor just before she accidentally found fame, according to Biography

Her time as a model though was relatively short-lived, compared to others who've modeled for decades. Instead, Anderson transitioned into acting, landing roles in Home Improvement and Baywatch

Supermodel Candice Swanepoel was discovered at a flea market

Victoria's Secret models tend to dominate the modern modeling world, with the likes of Alessandra Ambrosio, Miranda Kerr, Adriana Lima, and others getting their big breaks from the lingerie giant. In 2010, the brand gave supermodel Candice Swanepoel her big break when they made her an Angel (via Business Insider). However, that was far from Swanepoel's first job.


In an interview with Today, Swanepoel revealed she was scouted by an agent at a flea market in South Africa and thus accidentally found fame. Shortly after, she moved to Paris where she started working on runways. What is not widely known about the model is that she almost gave up modeling completely two years after moving to Paris. It goes without saying, though, that she decided to keep going and, after years of hard work, she is now one of the most recognizable models in the industry, boasting nearly 14 million Instagram followers.

Stella Maxwell was scouted on a street in New Zealand, accidentally finding fame as a supermodel

Stella Maxwell burst onto the modeling scene in the mid-2010s when she became an official Victoria's Secret Angel in 2015 (via Harper's Bazaar). While Victoria's Secret is arguably the job that put her on the map, she's also worked with big brands like Alexander McQueen and Chanel. With Victoria's Secret, though, Maxwell has followed in the footsteps of some of today's biggest supermodels.


While in school in New Zealand, Maxwell was approached on the street while shopping. The model told Vogue, "This woman came up to me and was like 'Would you like to come in? I own an agency. We can just talk about things.' That's kind of how it all happened." She continued, "After my first shoot, I actually just really enjoyed it and I really got into it that I think it kind of spurred me to think about it more as a career." Like many before her, Maxwell really did just fall into modeling and accidentally found fame.

Supermodel Christy Turlington was horseback riding when she found fame

The 1980s-era supermodels arguably made the industry what it is today. Alongside Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, and Linda Evangelista was Christy Turlington, who officially retired from the catwalk in 1995 and forged a path quite different than her counterparts (via Telegraph). 


Her career started when she was just 14 when she accidentally found fame while horseback riding in Florida, according to Harper's Bazaar. What followed was a whirlwind career where she was one of the most instantly recognizable faces in the industry. Unlike her peers, she quit modeling and enrolled in New York University. Since then, she's turned to family, philanthropy, and business, earning a master's degree from Columbia in 2009 (via Vogue). However, in 2019, Turlington came briefly out of retirement to close out the Marc Jacobs show at New York Fashion Week, according to People. It was her first time working with the brand since 1993. What a way to make a comeback! 

Supermodel Christie Brinkley was trying to call a veterinarian when she met a photographer

Modeling really wasn't on Christie Brinkley's radar at all. She was actually studying the arts in Paris in the '70s when a chance encounter threw a wrench in her plans, according to WWD. She was simply on her way to call a veterinarian for her sick dog when she met a photographer who asked her to be in his photoshoot. According to Brinkley, she thought at the time, "Let me just see what it's like and do one little thing." And in doing so, Brinkley accidentally found fame.


That one little thing turned into a wildly successful modeling career that included Sports Illustrated, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan covers, a contract with CoverGirl, and so much more (via Britannica). Today, she's got her own skincare line and winery, and, while she may focus on those other endeavors, a quick glance at her Instagram proves the supermodel could still slay on a runway. 

Coco Rocha was discovered at an Irish dance contest, leading her to become a supermodel

Coco Rocha's unique, Old Hollywood-esque look sets her apart in today's modeling world. In a piece for BuzzFeed, Rocha wrote that when she was first approached at an Irish dance competition in Canada, she found the entire thing hysterical and described herself as "lanky." While she thought it was a joke, she did tell the man who approached her to go talk to her mom, whose response was a resounding "no." Rocha recalled her mother saying, "No, no way are you having my daughter model."


Eventually, though, Rocha, who was just 14 at the time, and her mother agreed to give it a try. After attending a modeling convention, Rocha was called back by every single agent in attendance. Since then, the supermodel's career has taken her all over the world, but she credits working with the photographer who made Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista with making her career, too.

Supermodel Chrissy Teigen accidentally found fame at a surf shop

Chrissy Teigen is all over the internet these days. But once upon a time, the supermodel was just a girl in Huntington Beach, Calif. working at a surf shop, as reported by The Daily Beast. It was while working there that Teigen first started modeling and accidentally found fame. When she couldn't get time off at the surf shop for a job, Teigen revealed she simply quit, a decision that certainly paid off. However, being a full-time model wasn't always a glamorous gig. She once shared a bit of insight into her early career with Net-A-Porter, saying, "I never thought of myself as a real model. I made consistent money working for catalogs and websites, where they didn't care if your eyes were open or closed, because you didn't even see my face. I was modeling the back of a shirt with words on it. Honestly, it was the least glamorous way to model."


Since those humble beginnings, Teigen has appeared on some of the most coveted covers in the industry. While she still models, these days Teigen is also a devoted mother and wife, has published recipe books, and hosts TV shows.

A fashion editor saw supermodel Twiggy's photo in a hair salon

There's perhaps one supermodel to rule them all. A name so iconic, a look so legendary, a face so recognizable that she is still synonymous with the modeling industry decades after she rose to stardom. And that model is Twiggy.


Twiggy's thin frame, blonde pixie haircut, and big blue eyes essentially redefined beauty. However, years later, she told The Guardian she didn't "think [she] was beautiful." Needless to say, others thought differently. In 1966, Twiggy volunteered to get a pixie cut and model it for a hairstylist. A couple of days later, after taking a few photos and going on her way, a fashion editor at the Daily Express saw her pictures in the salon and asked to meet her. Just a few short months later, she was dubbed "The Face of '66." What started as just a fun favor for a local hairstylist quite literally changed her entire life. It wouldn't at all be a stretch to say that opting for a simple trim rather than a bold pixie would not have resulted in the launch of one of the most iconic careers in modeling history. Good thing Twiggy accidentally found fame.


Supermodel Kate Moss was just a 14-year-old trying to catch a flight when she found fame

According to makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury, Kate Moss is "a modern-day beauty icon" (via The Guardian). Despite several decades in the business, the supermodel who accidentally found fame has somehow stayed at the forefront of the modeling world. Her ability to change her look to match the trend of the time is nearly unrivaled, and it's the reason her career has had such staying power. 


At 14, Moss was discovered by model-turned-music manager-turned-agency head Sarah Doukas, who became known for finding talent with so-called different looks (via Business Insider). In 1988, Doukas and her partner were on their way back to England when they spotted Moss and her father, similarly trying to catch a flight at JFK. They ended up being on the same flight. Doukas shared, "As soon as the seat belt sign switched off, we rushed over." By that point, Doukas had made a name for herself, so Moss' father knew this was a legitimate offer. Though her career started off slowly, Moss, who has one of the most scientifically beautiful faces in Hollywood, soon became one of the biggest names in the game.