Posted by Irene Ojo-Felix | October 19th, 2021

The Graduates

James Turlington

Since 2013,’s The Graduates series has been a visual celebration of the model muses who’ve cemented themselves as faces of noteworthy praise in editorial, advertisements, lookbooks, and runways. Through insurmountable rejection and just as many wins, these muses have locked down luxury clients while rising through the ranks from the Hot List to the top working models in the World, during the pandemic no less. Shot in New York through the lens of photographer Jon Ervin, this year’s list stands as a testament to the fashion industry’s tenacity.

Visit his page and click or tap the Lists button to favorite James and keep track of his work.

Photography by Jon Ervin for

Styling – Rebecca Dennett
Model – James Turlington
Photographer Assistant – Vita Burn | Stylist Assistants – Alia West and John Dunham

Editor-in-Chief – Stephan Moskovic
Text & interview by Irene Ojo-Felix
Production – Sasha Grinblat

All clothing throughout – Thom Browne

Genetic inclination aside, having a famous supermodel as an aunt doesn’t hurt in learning about the model trade but in all honesty, James Turlington Carter has been surrounded by fashion since infancy. As a toddler, he and aunt Christy Turlington favored each other so much that he was cast with her in a few editorials and Calvin Klein commercials, shot by Juergen Teller. Linda, Naomi, and Kate would casually stop by when he was younger. Yet originally hailing from Danville, California, James was more interested in baseball, recalling an obsession that started since he was in a crib and almost took him on a different path. His drive led him to pitch for UC Santa Barbara and eventually play professionally with the Los Angeles Dodgers until after dealing with a lingering injury on his pitch arm, he decided to have a career change and announced his retirement. “As a kid who dreamt of playing in the big leagues, I look back on my career and am so thankful to have accomplished the goals I set out to achieve,” Turlington wrote in his announcement post on Instagram.

“Never having a set schedule for work was an adjustment…I was used to having a strict routine so controlling my own was a learning process.”

The story goes casting director Evelien Joos sent images to IMG New York, who using their 20/20 vision, signed him right away, but he still had to prove himself. We’ll skip the model training camp that may or may not have taken place for him to slim down from baseball weight, but his sudden lifestyle change of rapidly rising job options and possible exclusive holds was a major adjustment to James, used to the reliability of a strict baseball pace and regime. “Never having a set schedule for work was an adjustment,” he explains. “I was used to having a strict routine so controlling my own was a learning process.” After a chance meeting on set for Christy’s cover for Vogue Brasil, photographers Luigi & Iango took portraits of James on the fly that put him on the trajectory to top model mastery. His first runway show in September 2019 at Rag & Bone S/S 20 was his official debut on the international modeling scene and he’s been rising through the ranks since. A VMAN cover, appearances in V Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and Paper along with campaigns for Valentino, Tommy Hilfiger, and Ralph Lauren solidified Turlington on the Top 50 list during one of the hardest years to work as a model.

Turlington has also walked for major luxury houses like Balmain, Dior, Armani, and Bottega Veneta but an unexpected appearance earlier this year for Kim Jones’ first attempt at Fendi Couture stands as his most surreal runway moment. “He’s a creative genius and someone who I really admire,” he describes working with Jones. “His attention to detail and the care and respect he shows everyone no matter who they are. Men in couture are great I hope men in fashion continue to expand.” With his olive-toned skin, tall frame, and chiseled features, Turlington has steadily climbed the ranks with work shot by Steven Klein, Sebastian Faena, and Cass Bird leading to a nomination for our Breakout Star of the Year at the end of 2020. Even though he is considered a late bloomer and a future in acting always seems imminent for the cheekbones blessed, Turlington wants to be focused on this new gig for a while with even higher aspirations than billboards and lookbooks. “I’m grateful to work in an industry that allows me to collaborate and be around so many creative people from all different backgrounds.” A Nipsey Hustle fan, the Californian concludes the marathon continues for his next fashion conquest.