Back to the Future with these 90s Model Legends


Top and pants – The Row

Nostalgia is great but the present is much sweeter at least that’s the story with these prime model legends. The 90s muses have been popping up on some of the top runways, billboards, and editorial pages as of late, but the storied paths that led them there makes their resurgence a no-brainer. With visuals by Bryce Thompson and styling from Nick Nelson, Models.com spoke to these model masters to discuss their iconic careers, their present ambitions, and the best advice they can give to stay in the game.

Photographer – Bryce Thompson for Models.com
Stylist – Nick Nelson
Makeup and Production – Angie Parker using Nars Cosmetics
Hair – On Amy Wesson: Cecilia Romero using René Furterer. On others: Charlie Rathbone.
Casting – Ros Okusanya
Models – Amy Wesson, Brandi Quinones, Christina Kruse, Danielle Zinaich, Esther De Jong, and Michele Hicks

AMY WESSON


Dress – Loewe

How did you get your start in the business? Can you describe your first runway season?
I was found in Tupelo, Mississippi – my hometown! I was taken to a model convention when I met with agencies. I eventually came to NYC and signed with Company Managment. I don’t really remember my 1st show season so much but I do remember opening the show for John Galliano. It was a gypsy-inspired show. I just remember being so nervous and it was the best feeling after you walked in one of his shows or someone like Alexander McQueen’s show! Those were amazing times!

What are some of the defining career moments for you?
Some of the defining career moments are working with photographers like Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Steven Meisel, and Steven Klein. Also working for campaigns like Calvin Klein, Versace, and Valentino.

What continues to draw you to modeling?
I’m so blessed to be modeling! The travel and the people you meet along the way are priceless.

Do you have any advice for girls just getting started in the industry?
Be true to yourself!

How would you say the industry has changed since you started?
Social media and digital. When I first started there was a thing called film! LOL :)


Top – Prada

BRANDI QUINONES


Gloves – Carolina Amato

How did you get your start in the business? Can you describe your first runway season?
I actually sought out to be a supermodel. I got my start being at the right place at the right time – I was scouted by a photographer and agency. I said I wanted to model but I would only do it if I had my own apartment in NYC. The next day I moved to NYC with my new NY Agent, my first runway season was beyond! By this time I lived full time between NY and Europe, it was a whirlwind – I did about 16 plus shows.

Growing up did you always love fashion?
Growing up I was all about fashion. Being that my mother was a make-up artist, hairdresser, and a model, I was taught makeup at 2 years old. I remember watching Sesame Street and my mother laid on the couch in front of the TV while I did her makeup. By the time I was 7 or 8, I was doing the fashion shows with her in the nightclub and other big hotels. It was the 80’s. A cool time with an amazing mother.

What are some of the defining career moments for you?
My defining career moments were when I saw those aspirations of my childhood become my reality. Working with the top couture and high fashion designers, walking for YSL, Valentino, Bill Blass, Oscar De La Renta, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Versace, Givenchy, and so many others I can’t even think of at the moment. My cover of Vogue, I always wanted many covers of Vogue and I’m still working in that direction but being that I was the 5th highest paid model in the world…that also defined it very well for me!

Do you have any advice for girls just getting started in the industry?
My advice is to believe in yourself…please believe.

How would you say the industry has changed since you started?
The industry has had some changes and I would say the biggest is not having models on the majority of covers and not being focused on the people who actually are in the business.


Dress – Hensely

CHRISTINA KRUSE


Top and pants – The Row

Growing up did you always love fashion?
I’ve always had a natural curiosity about clothes absolutely, but it wasn’t so much trend related. I couldn’t care less whether or not it is trendy or fashionable at the moment, I love a beautifully designed piece of clothing.

What continues to draw you to modeling?
In my opinion, it is the best job under the sun. To be able to work with so many talented groups of people and create amazing images is an honor. What’s not to like?

Do you have any advice for girls just getting started in the industry?
Do it. As long as it makes you happy and you feel good. Sometimes I wonder about all the complaints and attitudes; I think it’s important to keep in mind that this is a job. There are good days and bad days just like in any other job. There are few jobs where you have the ability to travel the world and be surrounded by so many talented and creative people.


Suit – The Row

DANIELLE ZINAICH


Hat – Jennifer Ouelette | Bra – Fleur du Mal

What are some of the defining career moments for you?
Shooting with Steven Meisel and the covers of Italian Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar! Shows in New York, London, Paris, and Milan are always a time I will remember; there is nothing like it. I’ve had the honor of shooting with so many amazing photographers! I had a lot of great art directors, clients, stylists, hair and makeup artists that believed in me – I’m so thankful!

What continues to draw you to modeling?
I like to be creative with my shapes, poses, and movement. I also love to become a character and take on the persona of an idea! Working together as a team to create a whole story that everyone has contributed to shows a real sense of teamwork and community.

Do you have any advice for girls just getting started in the industry?
Be authentic and stay true to who you are as a person, stick with your beliefs and values. Set yourself up with a backup plan and an education because you never know what the future holds. I went back to school and became a Homeopath and have my own private practice called Remedy Your Health. I treat anything from allergies and eczema to more chronic conditions like autism and cancer, anxiety and depression.

ESTHER DE JONG


Coat- Boss

How did you get your start in the business?
In short, I was studying in Holland and I felt I needed to take a year off before continuing my studies. I had a very good friend that lived in Paris that was studying law and was an au pair on the side, so I decided to visit her in Paris and ended up never going back to Holland to finish my studies. I worked on the weekends to be able to pay for my one-way ticket to Paris and left Holland on my adventure. First, I stayed with my friend in her studio, then youth hostels, and when my money was running out, I joined an au pair agency in Bastille and was sent out to meet (photographer) Annette Aurell and her husband to care for their 2 young children. I was hired and on a trip accompanying Annette and the children for a shoot for i-D magazine to the UK, a model canceled and I stepped in. The rest is history. My modeling career took off with the help of Marilyn Agency in Paris and my booker Sam. And of course, working with Steven Meisel for Italian Vogue right away did not hurt either.

Can you describe your first runway season?
My first runway season was in Milan where I had an exclusive with Jil Sander with Marc Ascoli. I ended up also walking for Prada that season and shot the Prada campaign that year. I remember flying to Milan and going to meet Jil and Marc. I was so new to fashion and never was taught how to walk on a runway. I remember curling my hair and putting light make up for the meeting, which was washed off and combed out right away. I guess you can say I was thrown in the deep end and learned quickly from my mistakes. They worked with me on walking and we fitted many wonderful clothes. In that time in fashion, we actually had many outfit changes and many fewer models on the runway. After that first season in Milan, Paris went very smoothly. Runway seasons were always very busy and I would do 4 or 5 shows a day, over 4 countries in about a month and a half. I have to say, I have very fond memories of it all, the girls, the clients, the hotels, the lovely dinners, and social gatherings. It was a small but amazing and somewhat exclusive group of people.

Do you have any advice for girls just getting started in the industry?
My advice would be not to start too young, especially in this day and age. I believe the younger people are “younger” by definition because of the lack of being out and meeting people due to social media. Stay true to yourself and follow your gut. If you listen very carefully, you always know the right answer deep down, and I have to admit to several mistakes in my life and career to realize that. Save your money and invest in real estate and land. Best thing I ever did. That is how I started my business and followed my dream of breeding and racing thoroughbred horses. And of course, be nice, without a princess attitude. Everybody on the team is there for the same reason as you… to make beautiful images and it takes teamwork to get those.

How would you say the industry has changed since you started?
Financially it has changed a lot. Clients are likely to pay less but, I suppose, all businesses have taken a step back. We were quite spoiled in the 80’s & 90’s. There are also more girls that are working, a bigger pool I guess. Editorial wise everything has to be politically correct because fashion does not want to upset anybody. There are a lot of celebrity/ actress/ actor covers and celebrities in advertising, which took away much work from models. Also, the number of social media followers became a factor in many castings. In my 90s modeling days, we had privacy, which was most likely a good thing. But with social media being very important, it allows many more girls to shine and have a shot at modeling. It allows a whole lot more people that to dream and get inspired, to access fashion images and stories.

How do you view the Internet and fashion?
I believe it is a wonderful platform with a ton of reach that is easily accessible to all. A reach that is good for models, designers and everyone involved in fashion. You can find out who is doing what with a click of a button. Although I remember the days we had to run out to the newsstands to find our fashion stories/advertising as soon as it hit the stands, and of course the beautiful smell of the pages…


Top – Hensely | Pants – Boss

MICHELE HICKS


Dress – Monse

How did you get your start in the business?
I was working the door at nightclubs in NY when people started telling me I should be a model. I went into an opening casting at Wilhelmina and one of the agents took a liking to me. She sent my pics to Steven Meisel’s studio and everything started from there.

Growing up did you always love fashion?
I have always been very into fashion. And I LOVE photography. So being a part of creating images while wearing amazing clothes was a win-win for me.

What are some of the defining career moments for you?
I was obsessed with the Dolce and Gabbana ads and Steven Meisel’s work as a kid. When I booked my first ad campaign with Steven for Dolce it was a dream come true and a defining moment in my career.

Do you have any advice for girls just getting started in the industry?
It is a different time than when I started. The internet and social media have an influence that wasn’t there then. I would just say. Don’t lose yourself. Be you. Don’t try and change who you are or how you look to satisfy others.

6 Comments
  1. I loved it, thank you for this editorial, nostalgia of the time of these faces and their editorials and photos. Brandi Quiñones, Amy Wesson, Christina Kruse, Michele Hicks, Danielle Zinaich, Esther De Jong.

  2. Brandi needs a proper comeback, she still looks great! Also I love how Michele has slowly been getting more in to modeling, someone give her a campaign as well.

  3. Anyway, it’s funny how you call these ladies “legends” when you have the legends ranking. Maybe they’re not legend worthy but I think Christina is quite close to earn an icon ranking. About the icons, it’s wonderful how you finally made Tasha an icon, Isabella I think is close to a legend, Debra as an icon is cool, even if she laid super low for over a decade. Still I keep wondering why you keep dismissing Yasmin Le Bon? She’s worked for over 30 years, she has it all, a rock star husband and a model daughter. She’s recently done runway appearances for Calvin Klein and L’Oreal and a Vogue Paris editorial. Then there’s Amber, she should be a super at least maybe even a legend, as she is a brand herself. She has a rather successful movie career and after 25 years she’s still grabbing Vogue covers and blue-chip campaigns. Then there’s Stella the tireless…

  4. The 90’s were a great time for the Model industry. Old rules were broken, convention was thrown to the wind and we saw a new generation of Models, Agencies and Photographers emerge. Back in the day Elite were without any doubt the masters of the universe but a new breed of agencies stole a bit of their thunder. The 90’s saw the rise of the boutique agency, You had Company Management, Men and Women (later just called Women Management) that turned the business on it’s head by representing girls that were a bit ‘different’, Off beat beauty it was called. A tiny little girl called Kate Moss literally smashed old preconceptions of what a top model should be and many other stars that didn’t fit the old mold
    were created in that era. A new breed of Photographer hit the scene..Craig McDean, Terry Richardson, Inez, Ellen Von Unwerth etc that were backed by ‘edgy’ magazines such as ID and The Face. A former, tired old ‘Catalog’ agency called IMG transformed itself into what it is today. Liz Tilberis made Harpers Bazaar a force. Models looked like individuals. Let’s not forget Marc Jacobs and the grunge or Heroin Chic. God Bless the 90’s! Models were MODELS and not hideous Instagram try hards.

  5. Oh and let me continue my ranting. So many of the “Icons” are scoring top campaigns at 2018 and they’re not on the Money list. Like I’ve hinted before some of them should already be already “Supers” or “Legendary”, but they’re not even on the”Money” list despite their multiple beauty contracts etc. None of this really affects my life but since you’ve started this website based on rankings, I still wish you’d take better care of the subject even if you’re more concentrated on your other content nowadays.

  6. Aaaaaand… then there’s Georgina Grenville, have a look at your own archives what’s she’s achieved this year.

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