John Casablancas

Posted by | April 5th, 2013


John Casablancas

A interview by Janelle Okwodu
Portraits courtesy of John Casablancas

Fashion is an industry dominated by characters: the closer to the top you get, the more you’ll find distinctive individuals whose strength (and weakness) lies in their powerful mix of bravado and business savvy. The over the top editors, the diva designers, the larger than life personalities who set tongues wagging and make the otherwise normal art of crafting & marketing clothing a consistently fascinating endeavor. On the modeling end, no one exemplifies this better than Elite Models founder, John Casabalancas, a man whose 40 year career has been defined in equal measure by triumph and scandal, in many ways mirroring the complex public perception of the modeling business itself.

What began in Paris at the dawn of 1970s as an exclusive boutique centered around on a few modeling stars, quickly evolved into an international powerhouse focused on finding and developing brand new talent. Elite offered not only management, but also a challenge to the industry status quo of the time. Cashing in on his own clandestine reputation and the disco decade’s anything-goes sensibilities, Casablancas offered an alternative to the clean-cut agency standard, personified by Eileen and Jerry Ford, and ushered in a new era. By the time Elite Models New York opened in 1977, expanding the company and extending its reach globally, the agency was among the most powerful in the entire world. 

Casablancas remains an influential presence within the industry, praised as often as he has been derided. Though he retired back in 2002 from Elite, there are more than a few of the moment industry occurrences that can be traced back to him. The current fixation with new faces owes much to Casblancas’ shift towards scouting fresh talent and the launch of search juggernaut, Elite Model Look. Following semi-retirement after departing from Elite, Casablancas launched Star System in 2009 a fast growing and very promising new project focusing on his passion: Scouting. He remains very involved as its Chairman, is hands-on in developing the Brasilian operation, selecting models and developing their career plan.

When it came to making stars, Casablancas’ track-record was undeniable. Christie Brinkley, Stephanie Seymour, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Gisele Bundchen, Nadja Auerman, Naomi Campbell: the list of famous faces whose careers were molded by Casablancas reads like a high fashion who’s who. More than simply building editorial powerhouses, he had a knack for marketing his girls as crossover stars – a distinction that meant the difference between flash in the pan versus lasting iconic stars. When it came to putting a girl on a pedestal and creating an image that translated into top dollars, Casablancas was gifted, but the master manager was not without his demons. 

In our age of political correctness, it is hard to imagine an agency head today who would flaunt a lothario image, much less relationships with his often underage models. While some remember Casablancas for his skills as a manager, just as many people can recount the scandals of his personal life and the dangerous precedents they set. Stories of inappropriate behavior and clandestine relationships range from his much-discussed relationship with a then-teenaged, Stephanie Seymour, to the accusation that he abused his position as founder. Even in the litigious world of modeling, the libel suits, investigations, and tell-all books that have stemmed from Casablancas tenure are considered controversial. 

There are, of course, two sides to every story and in this exclusive interview John Casablancas tells his. From his thoughts on the early days of Elite and its lasting impact on the business as a whole, to his feelings about the perceptions and misconceptions regarding his character, Casablancas offers candid insight into the business behind the glamour. Delving into the past without shying away from some of the more unflattering truths, while providing his opinions on where modeling can go next, Casablancas provides an insider’s point of view that is compelling, irreverent, and at times contentious, but never boring.


Back in the days, from top left clockwise: John with Stephanie Seymour, Bonnie Pfeifer with John Casablancas and Roshumba at the 1998 Elite Model Look, at the Elite office in the 90’s, with Claudia Schiffer, with Linda Evangelista, with Ines Sastre

When you started Elite what was the industry like?

John Casablancas: The American Agencies (Ford, Wilhelmina, Zoli, Stewart,) controlled the business. The European agencies were just “farms” where models were formed and then shipped to the U.S., where they made all the money. The flair and style was in Europe. The look, mostly dictated by Ford, was Wasp/Scandinavian (Grace Kelly, Candice Bergen). The stars once known to the general public were few and getting old (Wilhelmina, Suzy Parker, Dorian Lee,) and a new, more wholesome crop was beginning to appear (Cheryl Tiegs, Cybill Shepherd). The rates weren’t much different for top and regular models. New York and Paris ruled, but London’s influence was strongly emerging (Twiggy, Penelope Tree, Jean Shrimpton). In Europe, the only place where models actually made meaningful amounts of money was Germany and, to a lesser degree, Italy.

What were your goals for the agency?

JC: I knew I was an outsider, and as a strategy from day one I chose to put in opposition the European free lifestyle, charm and sensuality against the austere, puritanical, prim and proper approach of Eileen Ford. My belief was that, eventually, the opinion of the young models themselves would matter more than that of their parents, and they would be attracted by a younger, more fun-loving philosophy. In practical terms, (and through my partner who was a Danish photographer, and my girl friend who was Miss Denmark,) I aimed at taking over the U.S. agencies’ scouting influence in the Scandinavian countries, where the vast majority of European models came from at the time (Gunilla Lindblad, Charlie, Ingmari Johanssen, Beska).
Other than that, I knew I had to be original and provocative because I had no prior connections within the fashion industry, and it was vital for a Paris agency to build a prestige profile in order to be taken seriously by the top clients, in particular the editorial magazines.


Christie Brinkley / Vogue Italia 1983 | Berverly Johnson, Louise Vyent, Iman / Revlon 1985 | Beverly Johnson / Harper’s Bazaar Italia 1977

In the years since, how do I feel the industry has changed?

JC: It’s been over 40 years since I opened my first agency at 21 Avenue Georges V in Paris and, in a strange way, things are slowly coming full circle! When I began, models were non-celebrities with low rates, and we’ve been steadily heading back in that direction over the last years! The industry, however, has completely changed as has, altogether, the world in general and fashion in particular. For me, the biggest difference is in the quality (or lack thereof,) in the human relationships within the agencies’ working environments. Fashion, photography and modeling was a small universe based on personal relationships, the given word, trust, and loyalty. Of course, competition could turn things ugly, but altogether once you represented a model and established trust and friendship, the relationship was solid unless there were big mistakes or failures on our part. A model would leave her agency because she was not doing well and needed a change…today, a model will leave her agency because she’s doing so well that she can easily bargain for a better commission deal with a competing agency. Model agents were true personal counselors, business advisors and managers who participated to every aspect of their models’ lives and decisions; whereas today the agencies are more like secretarial services where the most influential people tend to be the bookers, who often use their relationship with the models they are entrusted to hop from one agency to the other! I had more turnover at Elite in my last three years there (1997-2000) than I had had in the previous 25 years…and, from what I’ve observed since, this insane carousel has become even worse in the last decade. From a technical point of view, it is obviously the introduction of the new technologies and the internet which totally revolutionized and changed the way bookings are made, models are discovered, selected and introduced to clients, etc.

Has the industry changed you as a person?

JC: Actually, my personal experience was a humbling one. When I began, I got a tremendous thrashing served by the American agencies (mainly Ford,) who not only took my best girls to the US without giving me anything in return, but also influenced them in Paris to switch to the agencies with which they were cozier. I got such a beating that I was close to giving up more than a dozen times. However, I couldn’t find a buyer for my fledgling agency, and therefore decided that it was better to fight and get even than to feel sorry for myself. It’s a lesson I never forgot, and even though I am a rather peaceful person by nature, I became the most competitive, aggressive and sometimes ruthless agent; I can’t deny that I was pleased to see the contempt of the beginning being replaced by respect and fear. It took nearly ten years to become the world’s number one, and we stayed in that position for close to twenty years. I became stronger, but never forgot that things could get bad if I didn’t watch every day after the satisfaction of my models.


Iman / Saint Laurent 1979 | Gisele / Vogue UK 1998 | Cindy Crawford / Vogue US 1987

What is the biggest misconception about John Casablancas?

JC: Actually, men fantasize about (and many women disapprove of,) the mistaken notion that I had romantic affairs with all these famous top models and supermodels! In fact, I had a very friendly relationship with my stars but, I’m sorry to say, no romantic involvement (with a couple of extremely rare exceptions considering the length of my career). I had a lot of fun, dated a great amount of incredibly beautiful women, but I kept the management of Elite’s stars a strictly professional affair; that is probably why the majority of our stars stayed with us for most of their career and why I entertain still today friendships with them, their husbands, parents, etc.

Of all the girls whose careers you’ve played a part in, whose success were you most proud of?

JC: Our first true supermodel was Christie Brinkley, and I was extremely proud to see, in less than one year, her basic rates triple with Elite (my agency had discovered her in Paris when she was a student, but we had placed her with Ford at the time when Elite didn’t yet have an agency in New York).

I was extremely proud to have convinced the two black superstars to join the same agency: Having Iman and Beverly Johnson together at Elite gave us a practical monopoly on the top budgets for black models; I still consider today Iman one of the greatest supermodels ever.

Janice Dickinson: I was proud to prove that a sexy, dark-eyed brunette could also be a star in the U.S.

Cindy Crawford: She was not your typical fashion model, but we imposed her extraordinary beauty, and together with her own entrepreneurial zest she became possibly the biggest success story ever in the industry.

Gisele Bundchen: The skinny, flat-chested fourteen-year-old finalist of the Elite Model Look became in a four-year period the first Brasilian on the cover of US Vogue and the number one model in the world.

Heidi Klum, originally just a catalogue model with other agencies, became with us, through the magic of Steven Meisel, the superstar that she is still today.

Naomi Campbell: In spite of her explosive temperament, we were able to keep her for a long time, then lose her, then get her back, then lose her again, and so on!…it was a story the press loved and, actually, I continue being very fond of Naomi.

Linda Evangelista: She was not easy to handle, but she always was loyal and, in my view, was possibly the most talented professional I’ve ever seen in front of a camera.


Stephanie Seymour / Elle 1987 | The trinity: Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington / Vogue Italia 1989 | Linda Evangelista / Vogue Italia 1990

You once said that Gisele and Heidi were the last supermodels – do you still feel that is the case?

JC: They were the two last supermodels created by Elite under my tenure. I’ve been following the business since, and although there are so many incredibly beautiful models who have made it to the top, I don’t see anyone that has the glow, the prestige and the notoriety of the original supermodels. The nearest thing to it is another Elite-made star, Adriana Lima, who is close to having reached such status.

In your opinion, what caused the demise of the supermodel – besides your retirement.

JC: I retired, Eileen got old (and her kids did not have their mother’s talent,) and becoming an agent developed into an extremely popular and common profession. The agencies multiplied, and due to competition, commission and rate deals became the norm, and power switched from the models and their agencies’ grasp to the clients and their budgets. I’m amazed to see today (with rare exceptions for established household names such as Gisele or Claudia,) that campaigns for major products are being paid a half or third of what the rates were at the turn of the century. The agents forgot, or didn’t know how, to promote their stars as celebrities, and as a result the covers of magazines, the endorsement of beauty products, fragrance campaigns, etc., were taken over by actresses and other celebrities better known to the public. I still remember nostalgically the time when Hollywood agents would call me, begging Elite to obtain for their actresses an editorial spread or lucrative cosmetic campaign…what a difference a few years make!

What changes would you like to see coming to the modeling world?

• Less agencies
• More professional agencies
Better contracts to secure the models.
More exciting new agents to inject into the profession a return to some glamour and more excitement.

How do you feel about the idea of models unionizing themselves?

JC: Ever since I’ve been in this business there have been attempts to unionize models. I still don’t believe it will happen anytime soon because, by nature, models are self-centered and individualistic, and because the needs of models at the bottom of the ladder are so vastly different to those of the models who are part of the top, it’s extremely difficult to find common ground.

What do you feel is your legacy?

JC: I feel it’s rather presumptuous to speak about legacy in a profession such as model agent! But, if I have to mention what I think I brought to the business, I would say that I was creative, that I refused to bend to the rules established by a small group of fashionista dictators, that throughout my career I imposed a beautiful, healthy, natural woman with a sensual body (which does not preclude an elegant line,) and a playful or intriguing personality, and I endeavored to live a life that reminded everyone that, even when you run your business professionally, fashion should be about fun, superficiality and sensuality, and not to be taken as seriously as some tend to do.

Are there any things you regret?

JC: Of course! For practical reasons, I sometimes took on the wrong partners or accepted unhealthy alliances. I failed to foresee the change and the mood of the business, and I did not develop in time the strong contracts that could have protected me from losing some of our more successful models. I also should never have smoked.

What do you think represents the future of modeling?

JC: I think that the golden years are gone. Some agencies have made it a policy to cut commissions in order to appease their demanding models. The rates are getting worse by the day, and clients know that anything is negotiable. Bookers from all agencies rent a room and a couple of phones, steal a few models and open shop. Rich Oligarchs or Sheikhs are buying agencies as trophies. Young models are rejected if their career doesn’t take off quickly enough. Also, the new technologies available for scouting and for representing models allow just about anybody to act as an amateur model agent. With the economy as tough as it is and with this particular environment in the modeling industry, I think the future of modeling is flat at best but that there will always be a few models who continue to make top dollars. The fact that so many campaigns are still being shot with the supermodels who are now in their mid-30’s and early 40’s tells us, (in spite of the miracles of photoshop,) that it will take a long, long time before the glory days are eventually back. If I were a young man again and had to start a new agency, I would certainly differentiate myself by having, off the bat, a stake in recruitment, promotional projects, and reality-based TV and Internet programs, but I would definitely associate our image with a zest for life, a provocative attitude and the firm belief that classical, traditional beauty is eternal…and will always work regardless of trends.



  1. Alexander says:

    omg julian casablancas’ dad

  2. nandos says:

    This man is a joke who runs scam agencies and also slept with underage models back in the day.

  3. Kate Guston says:

    Oh my! After reading his interview,he is describing the current modelling world into an underworld or something.

  4. haid says:
  5. Alexander Cash says:

    This was such an interesting interview and perspective. I loved reading about everything from his side.

  6. sergio mattos says:


  7. Silva says:

    Amazing interview.
    All the models should read it specially new faces.
    And that’s really a truth : “the firm belief that classical, traditional beauty is eternal…”
    The fashion industry should stop to put in the market young different faces, they quickly fall by the wayside of the consumer public and stylists.I believe to use again models with classical beauty , identifiable the first view is necessary that moment.
    Enough, we don’t need more see androids in magazines and fashion campaigns.
    Women with height of basketball players and androgynous faces.
    The fashion market has become low, cheap, unglamorous, unprofitable for several models and agents.

  8. Marty says:

    I think that whole supermodel era is over to be honest, not that it can be done again I personally just don’t see it truly happen anymore. Karlie,Joan and Cara try try to do but it doesn’t work.

  9. miguel says:

    I agree with Marty.

  10. Alex says:

    Amazing interview!!

  11. miguel says:

    La época de las supermodelos fue increíble, había tantas modelos y tan interesantes y las revistas también, cada día que pasa siento más nostalgia por aquella época. Pero yo creo que esa época fue única e irrepetible, nunca más se volverán a juntar tantas modelos y tan guapas al mismo tiempo. En éste momento eso resulta impensable.

  12. Standupforfashion says:

    AGENTS & MANAGERS LETS MAKE A STAND:I feel that agents and managers need to stop being lazy, get off their asses develop models, negotiate rates without allowing designers, cosmetic companies, and others that utilize models in our industry by slashing rates, the clients have the finds to compensate the models, however when all of these new agencies come into play they don’t know how to negotiate and they will do anything to book the job its called ridiculous. I feel that the Supermodel era can come return,however AGENTS & MANAGERS need to stop making every tall skinny girl a model because realistic only a few have what it takes. A real agent knows how to negotiate and has the best intrest of his or her models without allowing clients to manipulate the agents or agency. Our job is to scout, develop, negotiate and stop riding the coat tails of the agencies name. As Agents & Managers everyone need to do their job and work, not sit on computers surfing the web waiting for the phone to ring. If the agents came together regardless of their agency things can change, I feel that we can get the industry running in full gear again bringing the Glamorous models back to the covers, grabbing more campaigns and more importantly making a firm decision on rates. I know that some agents at agencies don’t know how to negotiate and all models aren’t paid the same. So I advice for those of you reading this lets start by bringing the Glamour & Amazing models back to the covers starting with American Vogue even if they alternate models and actors every other month that would bring the notoriety back to the models and the industry. Come on Agents & Managers lets bring back our fashion industry.

  13. Karen Graham says:

    Amazing, honest and informative interview. Thanks John for being so open and honest about your experiences. You made me love the modeling industry back in the ’80’s and any one who has any sort of career in the modeling industry to this day owes you their thanks. You took models from being back room mannequins to front page stars and your legacy lives on. Gawd, I miss the 80’s…sigh.

  14. Jamie W. says:

    We love you John!

  15. Marty says:

    Standupforfashion says has some great points, I see it in British Vogue, they are starting to use more models on there covers more often. It’s something about American Vogue where people don’t know who models are and mostly likely won’t pick up a magazines because they don’t care about models, magazines now focus less on fashion (specifically American Vogue, not saying it doesn’t have fashion because it does) and more of actress,musicians but I can see it happen it’s just going to take time and a girl who has a great agent and can market her to another level but that’s quite difficult because designers, photographers ARE SO PICKY and over use so many models.,

  16. joe says:

    I think models ability to change agency shows the models competence as a business woman, to strive for better, more competetive rates. Any savvy business person would do this so Mr.Casablancas interest in developing contracts that lock models in doesn’t sound positive for the model. Especially when models are so disposable these days, they last for a few seasons and then they’re gone. This interview was really interesting though! I think agencies and clients alike need to push a more classically beautiful look. Edgy girls have a shorter shelf life because they belong to a certain trend or time in fashion, a classic beauty can last far longer. So it’s unfair on particular girls, sure they can make some money in a short space of time and then they’re gone. Jessica Stam’s worked for everyone from Dior, Lanvin, Italian Vogue to Victorias secret and covergirl. That’s the kind of girl who needs to be invested in,someone who can make money from a range of clients, who doesn’t exist within a particular trend, someone who spells longevity

  17. Mia says:

    Interesting interview, a good read! I personally feel they are too many models & most lack any form of appeal or presence. With too many models, quality is lost. There’s also a lack of individualism, so many girls resemble each other. A model is big for a season then she is replaced by a girl who doesn’t look any different from her. I don’t get it. I partially agree with the comments on traditional beauty. It’s much needed but I would prefer a variety. We don’t need 1000 Kate Moss tribute models.

  18. personalmanager says:

    Thanks for this interview, below are things that everyone of us should be aware of.

    * Managers & Agents need to manage and be more selective

    * Don’t wait for the phone to ring find ( 10 ) amazing girls and focus on BRANDING them. That means each agent is assigned ( 10 ) models that work under them and everyone on the team pushes them until they are ready.

    * Every Agent & Manager needs to come together and get American Vogue to alternate models & actors

    * Agents that don’t book a certain quota needs to be released from their agency contracts

    * Negotiate for the models & the agency, don’t allow customers to take ADVANTAGE and act as if its not in their budget.

    * Branding starts with be more selective, packaging the girl and marketing effectively.

    Girls need to be developed and look like models

    A) Walk into their agencies & castings in heels no exceptions. ” I didn’t say walk the streets ” I hate seeing girls go into castings in flats, who came up with that IDEA ? Models need to make statements and gives the girls more CONFIDENCE.

    B) Groomed: Fresh Faced, without makeup or minimum, a nice pair of heels, a nice hand bag & great simple stylish clothing showing off their body with taste.

    C) Great digitals, a good video and a kick as portfolio.

    Being an agent is more then just sitting at your desk waiting for the phone to ring, get off your asses and reach out to clients and push. Its imperative as agents and managers that we all think outside the box and find ways to bring the love and interest back into the fashion and entertainment industry.

    I hope my input grabs the attention of other agents and managers who feel the same way.

  19. Helgi Ogri says:

    Casablanca’s – The RULER Instructor – Marocan

  20. Gio says:

    Amazing interview! Very informative. Thanks to JC, modelling was taken to a totally different level. He is a true visionary that changed the industry.

  21. EGOR (StarSystem Russia) says:

    You make me believe, we can help our models and protect them in such a crazy business !

  22. Kim Miller says:

    “Linda Evangelista: She was not easy to handle, but she always was loyal and, in my view, was possibly the most talented professional I’ve ever seen in front of a camera.”

    Linda was “difficult” because she stood her ground on her pay rates, assignments, and refused to be pushed around by the powers-that-be. Nowadays, models must be submissive or they’re out of a job. How times have changed.

    Thanks MDC. Informative and revealing interview with John Casablancas. =D

  23. Autoankauf Solingen says:

    That’s a great Articel, thank you for the Information.


  24. Herrbergquist says:

    Inspiring read. All hail longlivety! Impressed.

  25. LEO says:


  26. John Casablancas says:

    I would like to thank, Stephan and Janelle for this great opportunity to share some of my views on the business, past and present.

    I understand that any press has to have some spice and talk about any scandalous aspect of the subject matter. When it comes to dating what some may consider underage models, I plead guilty yet take a lot of pride that I am still friends with all of them, that the last one became my wife and that we have had a very successful marriage for the last twenty years with three beautiful children.
    I am sure you are aware that in the global world in which we live, the paramount importance that is given to age in the US is not considered such a big deal in countries like Brasil or other Latin American and Oriental cultures in general.

    I always admitted to being a free spirit, to have broken any conventional rules and have taken responsibility for my acts. This is why I take so much pride in the fact that, well behaved or not, I honestly don’t think I ever “abused my position as founder”. I think I had what it took to date models and non-models without having to be forceful; probably the writer is mistaking me with some of my ex-partners and colleagues who were involved in the infamous BBC scandal (even the reporter was a scumbag and crook!,) in which I was actually not involved at all. However, I guess that those not-very-complimentary remarks go with the territory, and once again I thank for having reproduced faithfully my answers to their questions.

  27. A.J. Fung says:

    I had the pleasure of working with John and his son, Julian at Elite from 1998-2000. He was a kind man, warm, spirited and a visionary.

    It is true what he said about Gisele & Heidi Klum being the last of the ‘Supers’. The modeling business is an entirely different animal today, but as with all businesses, things evolve.

    I wish John and his family all the best in their future endeavors.

    Great interview, MDX!!

  28. Kate says:

    He’s Great! :)

  29. Lorraine Caggiano says:

    I’ve been John’s personal assistant…and friend…for twenty years, and I will say that it is an honor and a privilege to work with (and for) this man. Besides being incredibly intelligent, extraordinarily charismatic, sweet, charming, honest, fair and caring, he never ceases to put a smile on my face even when he’s driving me nuts! He taught me so much about the modeling business, life, people and the world in general. I’m a lucky gal who has benefitted greatly from being associated with such an incredible visionary and, yes, an icon in the modeling world.

  30. Janet Speck says:

    I am honored and proud to have worked at Elite with John as my boss and so many amazing people. He is truly a great man and he created such a wonderful work environment. He made everyone feel welcome and important. Thank you so much John!!

  31. Bob Noll says:

    Visionary, Icon, Entrepreneur, Innovator; but most importantly, a man who exuded intelligence and integrity. Unfortunately, his type is a dying breed. I find myself quite fortunate that our paths crossed for the number of years that they did and I always hope that our paths will cross again someday.
    John’s contributions were many and frequent and will continue to be, for years to come.

  32. ash says:

    The concept of “Classic” beauty is constantly being reinvented. That’s the big deal about the supermodels. The agents made a girl who was otherwise unconventional, not represented in the media, and turned her into a star, the standard, the new “Classic.”

    Before Gia and Janice, the “ethnic” girl with dark hair and olive complexion was considered an outsider. Not beautiful. But that all changed.

    Agents need to do something new today.

    Today the girls are watered down versions of models we’ve already seen. Stop alluding to the past and create the future. Before Twiggy, there was no one else like Twiggy. Before Iman, there was no one else like Iman. Before Christy, there was no one like Christy.

    What makes someone a supermodel is their ability to be memorable. It’s a girl that gets your heart beating you and sticks in your head whether you like it or not.

    Today the models are pretty. But they also pretty forgettable. They’re also pretty subtle. They’re pretty diluted.

    Creating a supermodel requires bravery from the agent because they’re inventing something rather than following the pace.

  33. Chris Garber says:

    What a pleasure to have been part of the Elite network, with John at the helm, through the 90’s. Such fond memories of a bygone era. Thank you John Casablancas and Jane Stewart for the opportunity. Visionary and iconic.

  34. Bruno Maric says:

    “… although there are so many incredibly beautiful models who have made it to the top, I don’t see anyone that has the glow, the prestige and the notoriety of the original supermodels.” Pretty much.

  35. Dalena Hoang says:

    Thank you John Casablancas for creating a Strong Foundation for all of us over the years. Looking forward to seeing you again in the near future! Warm wishes to you & your family! Muah!

  36. Olesya Shevchenko says:

    John is great! I’m very glad that I know him and happy to work in STARSYSTEM with him!

  37. FashionD says:

    Very enlightening comments, and great article about Mr C, who is quite frankly the Boss of this Industry from the 70’s to present day. Inspiring stuff.
    I have been an agent for 18 years and i certainly dont sit on my arse waiting for the phone to ring and am quite pro-active with my work ethics and ability to ‘manage’ my models, thanking you very much :)

  38. modeloftoday says:

    finally somebody said it out loud. too many bad models, based on the non-excisting experience of the always changing booking teams, damanded by clients who will eventually pay you with expensive toilet paper (editorials). that’s the model industry these days and we all know that you can’t live on images. THINK ABOUT IT PEOPLE!

  39. Adrian says:

    Glad to see the 80’s were the bomb.

    Now, anyone have a take on male models?

    It’s pretty funny, I would get turned down and then the agency will turn and sign some new 17 year old who looks like a baboon who hasn’t eaten for 4 years, then the following season ;just drop him like a burnt potato. for 3 years I always had a “wtf” look on my face. New models would come and go….and I would seriously ask my self, “uhhh this constitutes as a male model?”. But hey, that is the fashion industry for you. Thank god I left at the ripe age of 21 and spending a few months in new york living like a dog with other models.

    Kind of sucks, because men of the 80’s and some parts of the 90’s actually looked like men, when did skinny/pasty white,half head of hair shaved off/giant ears and puffy lips come into play? well, I don’t know. and I am glad I didn’t stick around long enough to find out.

    But seriously, y’all need to give men some love around here too! :p

  40. Adrian says:

    Oh I forgot to add!

    *I would love to hear what people like John would have to say about the current trend of male models and what went wrong with it.

  41. ash says:

    Adrian: Heroin Chic and the Anti-Fashion movement happened

    Also, the rise of the hipster, skater and street scouting happened

    But really, that’s only in high fashion. The machismo male model still exists in the Direct and secondary boards. And there’s Rob now. What’s wrong with puffy lips? I know it’s a traditionally feminine trait but puffy lips=great kisses.

  42. stradivarius says:

    Linda Evangelista said: I allways calculate the product and sales they generates from my image,and my little 10000$ are justifying!
    Who you expect today to demand 10000$ Marine D or some has been from 6months ago?
    Ever since 2006 modeling industry changed. Flare is gone. After the last wave of Elise Crombez, Daria Werbowy, Eugenia Volidina, Julia Stegner, Hana Soukupova,Gemma Ward, Marija Vujovic, Lily Donaldson…Fashion become boring, android and whatever mood models, pretending they are Linda Evangelista and co.
    In the past i used to buy magazines every month. Now what magazine you suggest?? Everything is boring and 90s like. The 90s were 90s, the pinacle of Fashion. Period that you can only copy, but will nevercomeback. There are few girls who truly have the will and dream to be models, such as Valerija Sestic, Chloe Memisevic. But very sadly their interest in fashion, dream and effort is not recognized on level they truly deserve. I used to do photography…Tested models with from various agencies Img,Next,Fashion, Models1, Premier. But whats the point, at the end of the day you realize you work for free. This is because, all agents are simply uninterested, all the time on facebook and pretending they are someone. And all they know just do a freetest… I mean thats why i work as clairvoyance now, also transferred on movies. Lets face it, model agency is dead thing. Actresses got everything they wanted and whats left for the models? First of all, someone need to wipe those girls that run around on the shows without the X factor. I remember age 18 i was, when Gemma Ward arived. Oh Gosh, DEAR GOD WHATA JOY THAT FIRST VOGUE ITALIA COVER OF HERS WAS.

  43. stradivarius says:


  44. EGOR (StarSystem Russia) says:

    Yes, very interesting to know opinion from the biggest persons in model and other close to model business sphere also
    Modeling needed to be developed more, because it is in stagnation / degradation for many many years (15 years as minimum)

  45. Tantana says:

    Such a great article. This part is so true:
    “A model would leave her agency because she was not doing well and needed a change…today, a model will leave her agency because she’s doing so well that she can easily bargain for a better commission deal with a competing agency. Model agents were true personal counselors, business advisors and managers who participated to every aspect of their models’ lives and decisions; whereas today the agencies are more like secretarial services where the most influential people tend to be the bookers, who often use their relationship with the models they are entrusted to hop from one agency to the other!”

    …..”The bookers, who often use their relationship with the models they are entrusted to hop from one agency to the other!”

  46. Adrian says:

    “I know it’s a traditionally feminine trait but puffy lips=great kisses.”

    Cool, are you kissing that magazine paper? or the giant blow up ad? Nope. ;). now if you are…we need to have a talk.

    Yes there is still “MALE models” but they are not adored and shown off like they once were, back then EVERY model looked like a man, Not a few sprinklings here and there. Then the grunge scene smacked the industry across the face. Now high fashion models..something tailored for women, is trying to target men, for what reason…I don’t know.

    But when I think of a fashion house like YSL using little puffy lipped blue eyed blonde hair boy looking guys, It just looks wrong. Typically it is MEN who will have the money to buy their clothes, not a 16-17 year old looking child. The target audience is not being met, and they keep wondering why men’s sales are not as high as the womens.

    Oh and the mens side of the boards are really racist.
    I am middle eastern but look more Italian, and when I would walk into agencies, their eyes would glow! ask me “so are you italian?” … “Nope, middle eastern”..their demeanor changes, flip through my book and say they are not interested, where as their is a multitude of ethnicity with the women. Almost all models on the top 50 board are white boy looking models, with two blacks and two Asians.
    Maybe if Guys got some serious love, there could be a change in that, but so far…I don’t see it happening, racism will continue, and so will our underfed looking ways.

    That’s all. :)

  47. Alex Tinoco says:

    The era will come back! i have faith. I have a DREAM!

  48. Karen Lee-Grybowski says:

    John Casablancas is and has been a visionary, mentor, and friend to me. I am grateful for the amazing experience and wealth of knowledge gained from working with John, the elite models, and the elite team of directors and managers, past and present! Thank You John for you and your vision!!! Love, KL-G

  49. Sonia Barros says:

    John! Muito do que sei e sou devo a você…. Saudades de você e Aline. Do fundo do meu coraçao amo Você. Beijos saudades!

  50. Ramon Pereira says:

    Eu li o livro dele e realmente o cara entende do negócio, foi ele que criou todo este conceito sobre o glamour de ser modelo, o que atualmente não existe, por mais que você faça uma campanha muito boa e editoriais, o esquecimento aparece, são muitos modelos para serem gerenciados, os bookers não conseguem gerenciar todos. As que ainda fazem muito sucesso foram descobertas nos anos 80 e 90. Hoje, as agências têm muita dificuldade para criar top models devido a falta de ética entre as agências. Uma agência cobra um valor coerente com a modelo, o cliente procura uma outra agência onde encontra uma modelo com o mesmo perfil e está mais barata e, assim fica difícil trabalhar, chega uma hora que a agência têm que faturar e acaba vendendo o modelo mais barato. Como neste meio a ética profissional é difícil, este comportamento nunca vai acabar.

  51. Marnie says:

    A True Legend. No current Model agency owner comes close to John.

  52. sascha says:

    Great interview ;-)
    all the best from

  53. miro simonic says:

    I have a chance to meet JC and Lorraine and all the other people in the hey days and was a great experience and wanna thank them both a lot.

  54. CALEB says:

    Killer amazing :)

  55. lida says:

    Back in it’s day Elite set so many precedents that agencies now take for granted. I hope John Casablancas writes a book.

  56. Erin says:

    I’m tired of these old fogies who try and diss the new models. They seem to be upset that their time is over and they just can’t let the eighties and nineties go. Casablancas sounds like a scumbag, he doesn’t support model unions and describes the model agencies as “farms” as though models as less than human. Women are clearly objects to him. I definitely am tired of celebrities on fashion magazines, I want to see more models, but not with the help of this creepy dude.

    Move along bro, move along.

  57. G. Simon Chafik says:

    There are many in this industry..too many-who will, either out of wanting to climb the ladder by defaming/belittling the powerful, visionary talent and trailblazing works of truly gifted agents, scouts-by following others whose only talent is that of affectation..a Venezian Ball mask of “experience”..that shockingly suffices and usurps TRUE talent to those in the position to recruit the best to build their brand–and their talent pool, all because they dont want to pay the talented what theyre worth, or the talent/agents/scouts have “controversial” reputations or dont brownnose just to fit in.

    I have not always agreed with JCs opinions or business tactics..and havent always been diplomatic about my feelings with regards to them. But I have ALWAYS respected what he built..and have always said after one particular interview w him years ago, that he had me pegged in 10 minutes…as no other agent had( Im sure also to this day that he was being as diplomatic as he was capable of in his opinion.)
    It is this innate instinct about people..peppered with …an earned narcissistic twist..that has made him both the revered and reviled trailblazer he is.
    His observations on the “new” model industry are dead on-particularly w regard to newly discovered/young talent-that get dropped if they dont take off straight away…This brought to mind one of the most ridiculous things I ever heard come out of a former top 3 agency owners mouth who I used to work for-(for sake of his macho Italian names)–He said to me in a business meeting-“Simone-do you know what your biggest problem is?..Besides breaking my balls all the time…you see things too far ahead…”…I sat for a minute stunned by the narrowsightedness of his comment-and then when I got my wind back, I replied, “Boss, thats the most ridiculous thing Ive ever heard come out of your mouth!! I dont want to follow someone elses lead-I want to be the should YOU and as should the agency…”…
    JC set the trail for the future of model management and the silhouette of what a great model should
    If the industry could stop the incessant, hypocritical, ugly, shallow, bitchy backstabbing, grudges, vendettas, jealousies….it would be something to behold…
    NO ONE is an ANGEL in this biz…NO ONE…The only “skeletons” this industry should be worried about are the ones in their own closet…
    This is by far, THE most accurate assesment of the industry thus far….
    Gotta stop throwing stones EVERYONE…Theres too much silicone and fillers around…theyll just bounce back at you….
    Bravo John…REALLY!


  58. Anya.S says:

    You’re obliviously either a newbee/wannabee booker at a small struggling agency, with zero knack that NO ONE major wants to hire, a bitter wannabee model that isn’t good enough to get with an agency/or one that just has never booked a job!Or maybe a bitter nasty pain in the ass Stage mother that is so depressed with her life that her daughters lack of success is bumming your trip when you drop a Prozac washed down with a glass of whiskey. You have no FU*KING -no FU*KING clue whatsoever! Get a grip and show some damn respect you idiot!! John Casablancas is a legend in the Model Management business, he created the first world wide network, created Super Models, managed them, discovered them,raised models rates and basically set the new standards that everyone is now enjoying. He is not in any way a scumbag, he is a great person!!
    LEARN, shut up and show respect.

  59. Anya.S says:

    In conclusion, John Casablancas is an icon. Naomi,Linda,Cindy (and all the other great models from that era)… plus Giselle, Heidi and all the rest wouldn’t be around today if John Casablancas didnt create Elite.
    I forgot to say,
    Thanks John.

  60. Robert D says:

    Interesting read.
    I’m in the same mood over the diversity of male models. It doesn’t make sense to me the process of scouting 16-20 year-old white boys that really don’t give a f**k for fashion/modeling. They’ll just take it up for the possible financial benefit, see it’s hard and drop off the face of the earth. And lets be real here, I think if an agency signs someone and genuinely puts work into them, THEY WILL BECOME A STAR(Not saying that there isn’t work on the model’s side). I go to the boards and I’m shocked who’s signed, but they’re getting work. Invest in someone who does have the body requirements, but ease up on this “model look”, “facial structure”. I’ve been trying since 14 to be signed and I’m now 17, I love this industry and modeling/models is so intriguing to me. My entire blog is dedicated to fashion and my favorite models. PASSION like in any other field of work should be recognized first, or atleast I think so. Agencies should open their doors

    And too many models? I don’t think so, in actuality it’s the Top 50 with icons and supers who take all global ads and editorials within magazines. That’s 93+ women?(I didn’t care to add the lists)

    I think what makes a supermodel is a top girl, who can be the runway vixen, the editorial muse, the campaign globber, the mind for success, and genuine care for their craft. The early 00’s girls like Raquel, Daria, Natalia, the mid-00’s girls like Lily, Gemma, Jessica, Sasha, then later 00’s girls like Abbey, Anja, Natasha, Arizona, Karlie, Joan have had the capability to be supers. But what stops them is they are not in the global spotlight or national rather you. 10 year olds know the VS girls because they regularly are on TV and other media outlets. The high fashion girls don’t care to be famous, and that is the only difference between top model and supermodel. Fame and recognition. Karlie is the only girl who can be a super for this generation, doing a webshow for MTv doesn’t hurt and going to national red carpet events doesn’t either. Karlie knows what she’s doing and she will benefit. I would say Joan but she doesn’t seem that interested in it all.

    (Sorry for length. I get excited over these kind of things) x)

  61. Robert Amatruda says:

    Hey John,nice article,we should have hooked up after u retired,I could of helped on the scouting side,I’m still finding talent.i was around you during most of what you talked about and you were the only one who taught me the look great bro.u brought back some good memories for still available and still the best at scouting real talent.RA

  62. H says:

    Not sure what’s more interesting; the actual article or the comments.

  63. poo says:

    Terrific piece. Made all the better by his incredibly candid comment. This guy knows himself, takes criticism head on and, instead of making excuses, lays his cards out, admits his errors and in doing so earns my respect. Very unusual.

  64. G. Simon Chafik says:

    An addendum to my earlier post…
    Re: “..the demise of the Supermodel..”: John was correct..but there is a much larger reason..
    As the recent news story noted, Koch, the Billionaire, won a $12 million verdict against the haute huckster who duped him into buying “a rare vintage from the collection of Thomas Jefferson”-which turned out to be common crap of an unknown origin-all because he was offered “a deal”..and wanted to get the jump on his competitors….It is these kind of “deals”, accepted by the owners/agency directors-whose egos need to be satiated before the needs of the agency does…which allows them to be blinded into making “deals” w any low life, pimp or con….
    With all of the crap out there, like “Americas Next Top Model, “The Face”, “Americas Got Talent”, “X Factor” and “American Idol” has opened up a giant Pandora’s box containing a PANDEMIC of “Delusions of Grandeur” and “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”-that has made EVERY WANNABE saturate the fashion industry, modeling industry, film industry, music and art industries with bootleg talent…which has destroyed both the substance of them and with it-the ability for the public to be educated or understand what REAL talent is.
    A more simple analogy that sums up what has happened to entertainment/fashion/art industry is this:
    If you took a bottle of a rare Petrus wine-and added water to it…sure, there would be more to drink..
    but it would destroy the quallity and allow people to develop a palate that would make them think a Kool w-Aid was worth $40 a glass….
    Sadly, I believe that it will be a long time before we see a great vintage developed from an agency…that wasnt stolen, bought or fabricated…

  65. Renaldo Barnette says:

    Excellent article!! I’m sure the he has a lot more to say!

  66. Ewa Kewenter kärrlander says:


  67. Ainsly says:

    One cool guy indeed. RESPECT to you John.

  68. tjphoto says:

    The interview largely skirts or tactfully avoids all the most controversial issues and allows Casablancas to skate through without challenge. Did these softball questions get lobbed to him by email for him to write out his answers? He admits to no serious errors and denies taking advantage of his position, which is absurd. There’s no mention of his “modeling school” as another scam to make money off aspiring models regardless of their true potential. In short, this is a white wash.

  69. Patty says:

    I was lucky enough to have worked with John Casablancas’s Elite Model Agency in the 1980s.
    He is one of my favorite bosses I ever had… Always respectful, hard working, and kind to his
    staff… &&& Very easy on the eyes, if you don’t mind me saying so.

  70. Olga Shvets says:

    John is the father of the world’s model business!

  71. JW says:

    Interesting commentary,

    Regarding Supermodels those were good times not to be forgotten. Maybe we should focus on what is and making it all it could be.


  72. Mimi says:

    I about to sound very unprofessional, but wasn’t this guy a creeper???

  73. Mimi says:

    Excuse my previous comment, I wont bring that up, I wasn’t there. This article has spurred a very interesting conversation. You mean to tell me that fashion agents did something for their models back in the day?? Nahh.. I find that hard to believe. Modeling is just LUCK, I just can’t make sense of anyone taking credit for a model’s success. All agents are, are people in the way of your career, but you must deal with them so that you can get your comp card sent to an editor or company, cause no one would trust you if you did it from your own home, ( apparently because everyone shorter than 5’8 thinks they are Kate Moss).. ANyway.. All agents do is.. they don’t know what they are doing at all.. They would take you on, then suggest you to change your teeth, change your nose, and they would be more afraid of letting you go to an important request than you would… They are quite an entertaining bunch, but sadly if a model doesn’t see pass this it effects her overall persona and attitude and she is just doomed, regardless of what she had going for her in the beginning… A lot of beautiful models leave not because they don’t have the it factor, but because it is a lost cause. Most of the time this industry is not beautiful or what fashion is suppose to be all about. If your passionate about modeling you just have to be smart and make it work for you, no one else will do that for you. You will learn that the ones who are paying the real big bucks will appreciate an average body weight, not someone with hips less than 35 or who is swimming in a blazer. You also have to look happy, confident and healthy if you want to sell something and most agencies will not contribute to you being either of those things.

  74. Maurice Graham says:

    Great interview, done with class and style in a way that only John could do. I had the pleasure of working at Elite soon after it opened in the 1980 through 1991; and let me tell you this was the best time to be in Fashion even with all the drama with the wars between the agencies. It was the High Life of fashion with Elite leading the way on every level. Everything that I have learned is from being employed at Elite Model Management.

  75. cindy says:

    What ended the supermodel era?
    The same thing that ended the movie star era.
    It’s the whole internet/reality show current generation that has demised the concept of how a real star is made.
    I think Lara Stone of all the current models have that supermodel potential.

  76. Max Vadukul says:

    Hello John &,

    This is a fantastic interview , any way you cut it ,its very honest and insightful ,not the usual dribble .

  77. Bridget Bernhart says:

    John was instrumental in helping me to see that being overly serious about my crft and socially attractive needed an inner truce. He suggested over an early dinner which was an offer meant to sooth my soul.
    His advice to me was: “Why not put your two hands together, look up to the sky and thank God and your parents for what you have already been given….
    In other words, I was rather young, 19 or 20 at best and way too serious, he asked to see my work and realized I was not6 only, cute”, but had some serious talent…
    I am so aware of his attention to what can truly be, I am honored to have been a consideration in his ever revolving professional life.
    e have been in several more professional situations, I really see what I was a tad too uptight about to see for my best interests then.
    Senor` John Casablancas was an incredibly kind and insightful man, a concerned individual for those who truly had the chops. No B.S., “Pas de tout!”

  78. Sareah says:

    Should I be worried about my daughter starting the John casablancas school? After reading SO MANY negative things and hearing from my own model friends of this school being a scam, I’m a little terrified I’ve ruined my daughters career before she ever got started. Does ANYONE have anything good to say??

  79. Natali says:

    R.I.P. I Will always love you! Thank you for all! Спасибо за шанс который ты дал мне ! Вечная память !

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