Forbes' Highest-Earning Models

By Jasmine Chorley Foster

Although of course it cannot guarantee accuracy, Forbes' list (read here) of the highest-earning models offers some interesting insight into the industry. The Business Model breaks down the list and analyzes the women by age, career duration, whether or not they are a person of colour, and more. 

Nationality

2014's highest-earning models by nationality (Data from Forbes. Graphed by The Business Model)

2014's highest-earning models by nationality (Data from Forbes. Graphed by The Business Model)

American women came out on top with 7 of 21 models hailing from the USA - 8 if we include Puerto Rican Joan Smalls. Brazil and Britain tied in second with 3 models each. Brazil's Gisele Bundchen and Adriana Lima came in at number 1 and 2, respectively. Legendary Brit Kate Moss came in at number 3.

Height

Karlie Kloss for Neiman Marcus Fall 2014; Carolyn Murphy for Jones New York Spring 2014 by Norman Jean Roy

Karlie Kloss for Neiman Marcus Fall 2014; Carolyn Murphy for Jones New York Spring 2014 by Norman Jean Roy

The average height of the 21 models is roughly 5'10.5". 6'1" Karlie Kloss is the tallest and 5'8" Carolyn Murphy the shortest. Of course, these heights are estimates - composite cards are not known for their honesty.

Career Duration

2014's top-earning models by duration of career by year range (Data from Forbes. Graphed by The Business Model)

2014's top-earning models by duration of career by year range (Data from Forbes. Graphed by The Business Model)

All of the models on this list have been working in the industry for at least 5 years - Cara Delevingne and Lindsey Wixson barely making the cut-off. Over half of the women have been models for over 10 years, proving that youth may book editorial, but experience brings home the bacon.

Persons of Colour

Clockwise from top left: Liu Wen for La Perla Fall/Winter 2014 by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott; Jourdan Dunn for Express March 2014; Adriana Lima for Donna Karan Spring 2014 by Russell James; Joan Smalls for Gucci Fall 2014 by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott

Clockwise from top left: Liu Wen for La Perla Fall/Winter 2014 by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott; Jourdan Dunn for Express March 2014; Adriana Lima for Donna Karan Spring 2014 by Russell James; Joan Smalls for Gucci Fall 2014 by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott

Four of the 21 models on the list are persons of colour. While still an overwhelming minority, Adriana Lima and Liu Wen both cracked the top 3 with an estimated $8million and $7million, respectively.

While generally regarded as caucasian, Lima is of Japanese, Swiss, Native American, and African heritage; she identifies as Afro-Brazillian. (Source)

New York Representation

NYC Agencies representing 2014's top-earning models (Data from Forbes. Graphed by The Business Model)

NYC Agencies representing 2014's top-earning models (Data from Forbes. Graphed by The Business Model)

As most of the campaigns booked by the 21 models are for American clients, we chose to compare New York agencies. Clearly, IMG has the edge, representing 13 of the 21 women including Gisele Bundchen (1st place), and Kate Moss, Kate Upton, and Miranda Kerr, who each made an estimated $7million. DNA represents Doutzen Kroes, who came in at number 2 with an estimated $8million. The Society represents Adriana Lima, who also earned an estimated $8million.

Age

Left to right: Kate Moss for David Yurman Fall 2014 by Peter Lindbergh; Lindsey Wixson for Ermanno Scervino Fall 2014 by Francesco Carrozzini

Left to right: Kate Moss for David Yurman Fall 2014 by Peter Lindbergh; Lindsey Wixson for Ermanno Scervino Fall 2014 by Francesco Carrozzini

We aren't playing by Tokyo rules - that's for sure; the average age of these women is 29. Kate Moss is the eldest at age 40. Carolyn Murphy is 39 and Gisele Bundchen is 34. Lindsey Wixson is the youngest to make the list at 20, but isn't far behind 22-year-olds Kate Upton, Karlie Kloss, and Cara Delevingne.

The list reflects the immense lack of visible ethnic diversity, especially at this level of the industry where millions of dollars are at stake. It's refreshing to see Liu Wen and Joan Smalls climbing up the list. But what's key to understanding the make-up of this list is that it takes years of work to reach this level of visibility and pay. As advocates push for greater diversity, and we see more persons of colour and plus-size women modelling, the fruits of progress won't ripen for some time. 

With the rise of demand for plus-size models, and the slow but steady increase of jobs for models of colour, we should expect to see some interesting changes to the list in 5-10 years.

Read the original Forbes list here.

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(Cover image original photograph: Gisele Bündchen photographed by Michael Thompson, American Vogue, January 2006)