Career Lessons From Top Models With Million-Dollar Businesses
Modeling is a fickle business. One day you're at the top; the next, a fresh face becomes the new It girl of the moment. For a select few, modeling is just the start of a successful career. These supermodels have traded the runway for the boardroom, building their own million-dollar empires and proving they're more than just a pretty face. Read on for inspiring career lessons from the world's top model moguls.
One of the original supermodels, Australian-born beauty Elle Macpherson lead the models-turned-moguls movement. Now 51, Macpherson's business prowess has seen her career last well beyond her peers. Her ventures include lingerie line, Elle Macpherson Intimates, The Body Skincare Inc., and WelleCo. Macpherson says the key to success is taking calculated risks. "I think it’s really important to have the courage to try," she told The Glow. "The most successful businesses come from passion, not thinking, Oh god, how am I going to make the most money? It’s more like, What do I really love? I really believe in this. Then there’s authenticity and integrity behind it. Choose with the heart.”
Her top tip: Money shouldn't be your primary motivator. True success comes from passion and integrity—they are the qualities that will make you excel.
When Miranda Kerr announced the launch of her skincare line Kora Organics in 2006, it came as no surprise. Cosmetic companies are commonplace in the modelling industry, but what set Kerr's apart was her clear vision. "For me, the vision for Kora Organics is to become a household name globally—I'd love to see more people educated and aware of the benefits of using certified organic skincare and embracing a much more natural and holistic approach to life," she told Buro24/7. It was a natural step for the Australian model, who was passionate about nutrition well before she earned her Victoria's Secret wings. Kerr was so serious about the brand that she studied as a certified health coach at the New York Institute for Integrative Nutrition to equip herself with the skills to create a product line that didn't just rest on her celebrity image.
Her top tip: Invest in your skills so that you embody the business. Be passionate about your industry by undertaking study or attending industry events to grow your expertise.
With her honey complexion, sun-kissed locks, and unrivaled business acumen, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen is the embodiment of beauty and brains. The model mom topped Forbes's list of the highest-paid models in 2015 with an estimated income of $44 million. That's no small feat for a girl who dropped out of school when she was 14. "I'm not afraid of working hard at anything, whatever it is. I just always want to be the best that I can," Bündchen tells The Daily Mail. Key projects include a lucrative line of sandals with Brazilian footwear brand Grendene and an eco-friendly cosmetics company, Sejaa. "Some people start modeling because they want to be models and they want the parties and the recognition, and then there are people like me," she told Vanity Fair in 2004. "I come from a simple family, and for me, getting into modeling was a chance to make money and create a business."
Her top tip: Work hard and focus on building industry experience. Despite a lack of formal education, Bündchen worked to develop her skill set from practical experience. Her approach to hard work is inspiring: "Everything that's worth it has a price. Life is meant to be a challenge, because challenges are what make you grow."
Television show creator and beauty entrepreneur Tyra Banks isn't showing signs of slowing down. The Harvard Business School alum mastered the transition from model to entrepreneur with ease. She's the creator of America's Next Top Model, launched The Tyra Banks Show, penned a young adult novel, and most recently, started a self-funded cosmetics line called Tyra Beauty. According to Banks, the secret to traversing so many different career changes is to know when it's time to pivot your focus. During a speech at a Wall Street Journal conference, she revealed the key is to move onto your next project before your current one winds down.
Her top tip: Master the career pivot. Stay on top of new opportunities and don't be afraid to take a leap into a new industry. If you feel intimidated in a new role, try Tyra's trick: Stare at a person's forehead rather than make eye contact. According to the model, it'll allow you to focus on the conversation and keep your composure.
Karlie Kloss is yet to make her first million-dollar business, but she's our pick for the next mogul in the making. The Chicago-born model recently announced she was taking a step back from her high-profile Victoria's Secret gig to study at New York University. "I’m incredibly ambitious and have lots of goals within my career that I’m not slowing down on anytime soon," Kloss told Vogue. The cover girl launched a YouTube channel called Klossy, has a charitable food collaboration with Momofuku Milkbar, and has studied at Harvard Business School. Not bad for a 23-year-old. "I am fascinated by social entrepreneurs, people who can take an idea and help it grow into a sustainable and successful business model, but also be able to make a social impact," she says. "I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I’m just trying to learn from everyone I possibly can."
Her top tip: Consider your long-term priorities and adjust your work focus to match. Think about where your current career path could lead and whether that's in line with your aspirations. If not, make the bold decision to alter your path.
Propelled into the limelight by the Kardashian fame, Kendall Jenner is quick to point out she is thirsty for her own success. As the youngest name on Forbes's list of the highest-paid models in 2015, Jenner's career approach is surprisingly modest. "My parents taught me that work ethic is one of the most important keys in life, and I believe it," she told V Magazine. Jenner says she's "very competitive" with herself and is always looking for new and unexplored opportunities. The reality star–turned-model earns up to $2 million per year via her app, and makes up to $300,000 per sponsored social media post.
Her top tip: Leverage your unique skill set. Jenner's projects have changed the idea of a traditional profit model by monetising her social media accounts and creating a direct-to-consumer platform. Work to your individual strengths and look for business opportunities in untapped fields.
Britain's wealthiest model says she had to work hard to prove she's deserving of a place at the boardroom table. "When people see an actor speak, they think they know him or her, whereas I'm just a face or a body to them," she says. In 2015, Moss's two businesses brought in an estimated $4.5 million. Her secret? Constantly finding new projects and anticipating change. "People think your success is just a matter of having a pretty face. But it's easy to be chewed up and spat out. You've got to stay ahead of the game to be able to stay in it," she says. When it comes to her next career move, it seems Moss is trading fashion for interior design. The star has registered Kate Moss Interiors Ltd. and is believed to be working with close friend and interior designer Katie Grove. Whatever her next move, Moss has certainly proven she's a shrewd business woman.
Her top tip: Stay ahead of the game. Entrepreneurs reach their goals then raise the bar higher. Even at the top of her career, Moss revealed she was looking for new ways to build her brand. When you start to feel comfortable and complacent, it's a sign to set a new career goal.
When Heidi Klum left her 13-year modeling career to pursue new opportunities, she says the leap was terrifying, but she never showed it. "Maybe it's cute when people are on stage and say they're nervous, but it's not so cute when you go into a business meeting," she told InStyle. "You have to look in people's eyes and you have to just say, This is what I like to do and this is why I'm here and I believe I'm good at what I do." She was careful not to confuse confidence with arrogance though, and says one of her biggest lessons was learning to listen to feedback without taking offence. "It's not good to think you know it all—I don't think that's cool or smart. I think there's always more things that people teach you."
Her top tip: Find a balance between confidence and integrity. Whether you're pitching a business idea or entering an important meeting, learn to back yourself and be open to constructive criticism.
Have you ever considered changing careers? Share your story in the comments below.