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American Beauty: 50 Years of Homegrown Supermodels

July 2, 2014

American Beauty: 50 Years of Homegrown Supermodels

July 2, 2014

Veronica Webb Photo: Corbis

When the Statue of Liberty struck a permanent pose on Liberty Island, she became the first in a long line of tall, gorgeous women to proudly represent Team USA. 128 years later, American bombshells have created and challenged beauty standards worldwide. This 4th of July, we salute these iconic beauties—now paying tribute to the bombshells of the ’80s…

Veronica Webb

In 1989, this Detroit native appeared in a New Order music video, which officially makes her cooler than 99% of people on Earth. But Veronica Webb wasn’t just an MTV goddess. She was also a groundbreaking model—the first African American to land an exclusive cosmetics contract, hers with Revlon. A comic book geek who moved to Manhattan to study design, Webb learned French from designer Azzedine Alaia when they worked together in Paris; she also walked runways for Isaac Mizrahi and Chanel. But Webb also worked behind-the-scenes, penning lifestyle stories for The New York Times, ELLE, and Interview, and eventually publishing a book of personal essays with Miramax Books. Fashion fans know she also spoofed herself in the comedy classic Zoolander.

Christie Brinkley

In the ‘80s, girls had Barbie and boys had Christie—at least as a ubiquitous poster on bedroom walls. But the California native wasn’t discovered at the beach—she was spotted in a Paris post office while studying art in college. After flying back home for some test photo shoots, Brinkley landed a lucrative COVERGIRL contract that lasted a record 25 years. She also covered Sports Illustrated three times in a row. Dubbed “America’s Sweetheart” by Seventeen Magazine, Brinkley managed to represent both high-fashion and mass brands, including Chanel, Halston, Noxzema, and Diet Coke. In 1983, her future husband Billy Joel wrote Uptown Girl after partying in St. Tropez with Brinkley and Joel’s then-girlfriend, Elle Macpherson. Brinkley starred in the song’s music video and married the rock star in 1984. One year later, their daughter, Alexa Ray Joel, was born. (The couple split in 1994.) Today, Brinkley is still an active model and TV personality, appearing on Dancing with the Stars, Anderson Cooper Live, and Parks and Recreation. She’s also a multi-millionaire thanks to her much-publicized real estate holdings in the Hamptons. Last year, Brinkley’s 16-year-old daughter Sailor Lee Cook, signed with IMG models and shot a fashion spread with Teen Vogue. 

Cheryl Tiegs

Her dad was a funeral director, but Tiegs’ image as the all-American blonde might just be immortal. After appearing in Seventeen as a teenager, she was flown to St. Thomas for a swimsuit shoot with Glamour magazine; her co-star was Ali McGraw. A Cover Girl model who earned a reported $1.5 million in 1980 alone, the blonde Sports Illustrated poster girl was one of the first to launch her own merchandise with a branded line of clothing and accessories at Sears. Besides her looks, Tiegs is known for her work on behalf of the environment: She wrote a best-selling book, The Way to Natural Beauty, and won an Emmy for Africa: End of the Game, a documentary about poaching and pollution produced with her then-husband, photographer Peter Beard. Tiegs now promotes wellness and natural living on shows like Dr. Oz, Today, and Extra. She is also a spokeswoman for Deepak Chopra’s Renewal program for women aged 50+.

Carol Alt

The first model to make her own official calendars and posters, Alt was discovered while waitressing in Long Island before college. Thanks to her bright blue eyes and magnetic smile, Alt quickly booked campaigns for Diet Pepsi and Hanes. Life Magazine called her “The Face” of the ‘80s after she landed Sports Illustrated and Harper’s Bazaar covers, a fashion reporter spot on Good Morning America, and a guest appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. After writing two books about her raw food diet, Alt became a popular TV guest sharing recipes and beauty tricks with morning shows and food programs. In 2008, she appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice and raised $40k for charity. Today, Alt appears every Saturday on Fox News, where her show A Healthy You and Carol Alt lets viewers ask nutrition questions directly via Twitter. Her website boasts some really great raw food recommendations.