Iman Model Discovery Story
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Unbelievable Ways Top Supermodels Were Discovered


| LAST UPDATE 04/25/2023

By Peral Simons

Any struggling model will note how hard it is to get noticed and recruited by an agency. This list of models, however, took a different route to stardom, getting scouted out in the most unexpected places...

Kate Moss

As one of the greatest models of all time, Kate Moss has the means to cue a private jet on demand. Before making it big, though, she was slumming it in Kennedy Airport, waiting three days for a flight to London.

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It was then, in 1988, that fourteen-year-old Kate was spotted by Storm Management founder Sarah Doukas and her brother Simon. After boarding the same flight, Sarah approached Kate to convince the young beauty to join their model roster. Thankfully her parents agreed, and the rest is history.

Cindy Crawford

It doesn't get more iconic than Cindy Crawford - the ultimate supermodel whose name guarantees limitless sales and high-profile coverage. Crawford owes her fame to a keen-eyed local photographer who noticed her beauty amongst the crowds at her hometown's football game.

Cindy Crawford Model DiscoveryCindy Crawford Model Discovery
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The stranger approached Crawford, asking her to do a photoshoot for him. "My parents were very suspicious of his intentions, of course, so they accompanied me," Cindy explained to David Belasco at USC. "But through him, that started a chain of events that eventually got me to a modeling agency in Chicago."

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Tyson Beckford

Tyson Beckford never had his eyes on the modeling prize. He had always wanted to be an actor until he took a walk through Washington Square Park, and his life was never the same again. During his stroll, he was approached by Source Magazine editor Erek Lauren, who pitched him for a modeling job.

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This one job proved to the industry that he had what it took, and his modeling career was up from there. "Things just started happening ... people started seeing [the magazine spread], especially in New York, because it was a big publication in New York, so ... I got a lot of calls for different jobs all over," Tyson explained.

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Gisele Bündchen

If you've ever feared the social repercussions of eating fast food in the center of your mall's food court, this story will convince you otherwise. The one and only Gisele was tucking into Mcdonald's at the São Paulo mall with friends when a model scout approached her, clearly impressed by how she was eating the burger.

Gisele Bundchen Model DiscoveryGisele Bundchen Model Discovery
Wood via Shutterstock

"We were all so excited, so we went to the mall, and then they found me there," the supermodel told Regis and Kelly. "They said, 'Do you want to be a model' and I was like, 'What?' But then in the end, I thought, maybe I should try that. I mean, there's no other way I can make money at 14 ... So, here I am today."

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Naomi Campbell

If this list has taught us anything, it's that one really can be discovered by modeling scouts anywhere. While shopping with her friends in London's Covent Garden, Naomi Campbell was approached by modeling agent Beth Boldt who handed over her card and told her she could model.

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"[I was] in my school uniform just hanging out, not wanting to go home, taking a long time," Naomi said on YouTube. "A lady came up to me called Beth, and I was quite surprised that she came to me 'cause I was with all my girlfriends who were really beautiful, blonde hair and blue eyes and tall, but she came to me."

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Iman once again proves it's worthwhile dressing up for a casual walk on the street. The University of Nairobi student was working two part-time jobs to pay for her tuition when photographer Peter Beard approached her on the sidewalk. After he asked to photograph her for a magazine, she declined, unfamiliar with the industry.

Iman Model modeling careerIman Model modeling career
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"He said, 'I'll pay you.' And then I stopped, and I said, 'How much?'" Iman told Models by Look. "He said, 'Well, how much do you want?' And all I could think of was the tuition for the university, and I said, '$8,000.' And he said, 'You got it.'" These photos then became the launching pad for Iman's prosperous modeling career.

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Christy Turlington

Christy Turlington was minding her own business, doing what she loved most, when she was swept into the world of modeling. While horseback riding with her sister, the fourteen-year-old was noticed by a photographer who realized she had star potential.

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By the time she reached her 20s, she was working with names like Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, and Donna Karen. The now supermodel, known by her first name alone, has kept up her ties with Calvin Klein, acting as the face of their Eternity fragrance campaign since 1988.

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Paloma Elsesser

While social media has its weaknesses, it can simultaneously be credited for boosting numerous careers. Take Paloma Elsesser, for example, whose incredible modeling journey began in 2015 when she was discovered on Instagram by make-up artist Pat McGrath.

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Stephen Lovekin via Shutterstock

From then on, she was unstoppable, taking over the cover of Vogue, fronting the Savage x Fenty campaign, and appearing on the Glossier billboard. In the Spring of 2020, her fashion credits reached new levels when she walked the runway as a size 14 model for designers such as Fendi, Alexander McQueen, and Lanvin.

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Liu Wen

The first East Asian Victoria's Secret model and the first Asian model to make it to the Forbes highest-paid supermodel list has her parents to thank for it all. Not only did Liu Wen inherit their genetics, which resulted in her outstanding beauty, but they also unintentionally pushed her into the spotlight.

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As Liu explained to Forbes in 2017, "As a kid, I was very tall and always hunched my back. So my parents sent me to modeling camp in hopes it would improve my posture." After winning the competition (and improving her posture in the process), she went on to gain global fame and success.

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Chrissy Teigen

Working at a surf shop has numerous potential benefits. From the beach view to the cute surfers, it's the ideal way to earn some extra cash. For eighteen-year-old Chrissy Teigen, working at Huntington Beach surf shop led to all of this and an unexpected modeling career.

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After she was approached by a modeling scout who noticed her at the surf shop, she was forced to consider a career she had never imagined for herself. "I always wanted to be a teacher or wanted to do something with food," Chrissy told The Daily Beast. "But modeling, I just never thought I could do it myself, really ever."

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Christie Brinkley

Looking after a sick puppy is always a good idea, but for Christie Brinkley, it turned out to be the best decision she ever made. While working in Paris, her puppy fell sick, and the struggling artist entered a local telephoning office to call the veterinarian's assistance...

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"I walked into the telephoning office, and this guy goes, 'I was waiting for you to come back. I'm a photographer, and I've got my first big job. I was thinking you have the look that they described. Will you do it?'" she told WWD. "It was thanks to my puppy that I thought, 'Let me just see what it's like and do one little thing.'"

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Claudia Schiffer

Another '90s ultimate supermodel whose roots go back to an unusual place is Claudia Schiffer. Aged seventeen, Schiffer was dancing the night away at a disco in Dusseldorf when she was scouted. As a young, shy teenager, she had her heart set on being a lawyer like her father, never considering a future in the spotlight.

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However, with her long blonde hair, striking blue eyes, and irresistible pout, fate had other plans, and she was thrown into the modeling world. Not before long, she was the name on everyone's lips, selling out everything she publically held. With a current net worth of $236 million, that was a disco trip worth taking.

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Tyra Banks

Some models are born knowing they have what it takes to be America's next top model. Rather ironically, Tyra Banks fell into the other category of models who needed to be convinced of their star potential. Blissfully unaware of her beauty, she never considered the career until a classmate suggested it.

Tyra Banks Model careerTyra Banks Model career
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"A girl came up to me on the first day of school and was like, 'You look like a model,' and I was like, 'What?' She was the first person to ever tell me that," she explained to Howard Stern in 2011. It wasn't until two years later, when Tyra was 15, that she signed on with L.A. Models.

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Coco Rocha

So many models have their past hobbies and talents to thank for their path to discovery. However, Coco Rocha is perhaps the only one who can say they got their start from Irish dancing. A young Rocha was competing in a dance competition when she was approached by a man who proposed she gets into modeling.

Coco Rocha Model DiscoveryCoco Rocha Model Discovery
David Fisher via Shutterstock

"All of us thought it was some kind of joke," she said. "If you think of a model, you probably think of a gorgeous, beautiful bombshell of a woman — not so much a lanky 14-year-old girl at an Irish dance competition." Despite her hesitation, she attended the modeling convention and got called back by all the agents.

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Ashley Graham

Another supermodel who credits her supermodel career to a mall visit is Ashley Graham. The fifteen-year-old had been strolling through the shopping center with her dad when she was approached by a scout who felt she had the potential to model professionally.

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"[This man] says, 'Hey, you're really pretty; would you want to be a model?' And I was taken aback," Ashley told CBS This Morning in 2017. Deciding to take the stranger up on his offer, she modeled part-time while finishing high school. At age eighteen, she headed to the big city.

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Taylor Hill

There must be something magical about horses because Taylor Hill is another model to have been discovered while working on a ranch. As she stood with her mom tending to the animals, a photographer noticed them and asked if she had ever tried to be a model.

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"I was really young and kind of confused as to what that even meant because I didn't really think I could ever be a model. I was not very confident when I was younger," she explained on YouTube. Deciding to give it a go, fifteen-year-old Taylor did the photo shoot, signed with Ford Models, and never looked back!

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Alek Wek

Talking to CNN, model Alek Wek recalled how she got her big start in the most unexpecting way. She explained she was walking around the local street fair with her friend when an agent approached, taking a picture of her and telling her she had what it took to be a model.

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Steve Wood via Shutterstock

"I was just a little girl, and one day after school — this was after my family fled South Sudan and moved to London — a scout asked me if I wanted to model," she wrote on the IMG Models website. "I gave her my number on a whim, and she actually called." She appeared in Tina Turner's Golden Eye music video for her first job.

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Sofia Vergara

Although she's mostly known for playing Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on Modern Family, Sofia Vergara actually started off her famous career with modeling. As reported by Hola!, the Colombian-born actress was spotted by a photographer while she lay on a beach in her hometown.

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After the stranger suggested she venture into modeling, she was forced to reconsider her life plans. Until then, seventeen-year-old Sofia had intended to become a dentist and never let her mind think of anything else. After finishing school, she decided to give it all a go and never thought of teeth again!

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Jeremy Meeks

Just when we thought we'd heard it all, Jeremy Meeks came in with the most bizarre model discovery story to date. In 2014, Meeks was arrested, and his strikingly handsome mugshot sent waves through the cyber universe. For the two years he remained in prison, his popularity continued to soar.

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Not ones to miss out on a lucrative opportunity, the modeling agencies caught onto the fanfare and Jeremy's good looks and sent modeling contracts his way. By 2017, Meeks was a top model, walking the runway for some of the biggest fashion brands at New York Fashion Week.

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Selena Forrest

There's something in the water over at Huntington Beach, California, because Selena Forrest is the second model on this list to be scouted on its sands. Talking to i-D, Forrest revealed a scout initially recruited her while she was pulled over by a security guard for bringing in alcohol.

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David Fisher via Shutterstock

"I was discovered in the beginning of 2015 at Huntington Beach in California with some family while getting stopped by a security guard to check our cooler," she explained. The agent knew Forrest had what it took to make it big on the runway, and she was soon proven correct.

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If your hairdresser requests to take a photo of you and their mastery artwork, it's worthwhile letting them because you never know who will see it and where it will take you. In 1996, wannabe model Twiggy allowed photographer Barry Lategan to capture her new cut to go on the salon's walls.

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"I went back to Barry ... [after the haircut], he took those headshots, and then I went back to school because that really should have been the end of it. It was a picture of a haircut," she explained in her biography. When a journalist noticed the photos of Twiggy, they interviewed her and boosted her to '60s fame.

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Behati Prinsloo

While most of us run to the grocery store in our pajamas, hoping and praying we won't bump into anyone we know, Behati Prinsloo apparently arrives looking good enough to earn a modeling contract. Checking out the local store while on holiday in Cape Town, she was approached by an agent.

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Suspicious of his intentions, she ignored his proposal, only to be scouted again a year later when she returned to the South African city. This time, it was the daughter of Kate Moss creator Sarah Doukas, and Prinsloo knew it was an offer she couldn't refuse. She was gracing Milan and Paris's runways by the year's end.

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Natalia Vodianova

In a real-life rags-to-riches story, Natalia Vodianova's modeling potential was discovered while selling produce at the market. The now-established model came from humble beginnings in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, and sold what she could to help support her family.

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After establishing herself as a renowned and in-demand model, she ventured into the world of Hollywood. Now, she's using her success to give back, setting up her own charity named Naked Heart. Through this organization, she sends money to impoverished families in Russia, particularly those with special needs children.

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Anna Selezneva

With fair reason, we assumed that only Gisele could be recruited by a modeling agency while eating a Big Mac. But, to our surprise, Anna Selezneva was also spotted for her good looks while hanging out at a McDonald's. For Selezneva, her lucky spot was a Moscow branch - the restaurant's bathrooms, to be precise.

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"A boy of my age comes to me and says, 'Listen, you are so pretty, don't you want to become a model?' she told New York Magazine. "I said, 'I didn't think about it, but if you have a real opportunity to send me abroad— ' He said, 'Where do you want to go?' So, in two months, I was in Paris."

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Lily Aldridge

Considering it was the unlikely spot where she was discovered, there's unlikely to be anyone who is a bigger fan of school carnivals than Lily Aldridge. At age 16, she was spotted and recruited for an Abercrombie & Fitch campaign, where she worked with photographer Bruce Weber.

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"I was a tomboy for years, and suddenly everyone thought I was hot," she told Tatler about her overnight transition. From there, she went on to model for Rag & Bone, Bobbi Brown & Coach. Perhaps her most significant accomplishment, however, was becoming a Victoria's Secret Angel.

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Karlie Kloss

Filled with clothing stores, the mall offers the perfect opportunity for budding models to show off their stylish, garment-wearing skills. Therefore, it's surprisingly become a hub for scouts to find their next clients, as seen in the case of Karlie Kloss.

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After she walked the runway of her hometown's charity fashion show, Kloss knew modeling was her destiny. "I was discovered at 13 in a mall in St. Louis. I had never been on an airplane, actually," she recalled to CBS. Karlie made headlines two years later with her New York Fashion Week debut and has been unstoppable ever since.

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Jourdan Dunn

Unlike Miss Kloss, fifteen-year-old Jourdan Dunn was not in the mall showing off her style and good looks when she was discovered. As she explained to The Guardian, she was actually just "mucking about" with her friends in a Primark store when she was approached.

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The model scout was a representative from Storm Management, the same agency responsible for the triumph, Kate Moss. Following in her footsteps, Dunn also went on to find great success in the modeling world, walking the runway for brands such as Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs.

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Candice Swanepoel

Apparently, it's not just Behati Prinsloo who can swipe up a modeling deal while shopping in South Africa because Candice Swanepoel did it too! The then sixteen-year-old was out shopping at a flea market in Durban when a talent scout approached and told her she could be a model.

Candice Swanepoel career beginningsCandice Swanepoel career beginnings
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As reported by Marie Claire, Swanepoel had been bullied from a young age for her tall and thin body. Now a top Victoria's Secret model, she admitted on her Instagram that it's the ultimate clap-back to her tormentors. "I know it sounds terrible, but it does feel good to show those people," she wrote.

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Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

For those less-lucky souls who don't get picked up by a model scout while eating a burger or waiting for a flight, there's always the old-fashioned work-hard approach. Rose Huntington-Whiteley put in the hours, working behind the scenes until she finally made it in front of the camera.

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"I fell into modeling because I wanted to work in fashion," she told Industrie Magazine. Working for the agency as a tea-maker and fax sender, she had her mind set on being a professional stylist. "I wanted to do styling or make-up. I ended up getting picked up to be a model instead during my work experience."

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Erin Heatherton

Erin Heatherton's casual trip to the beach with friends took a turn for the unexpected when an Abercrombie & Fitch representative caught a glimpse of the young beauty and demanded to know what agency she was signed with. Upon discovering she was unsigned, he set her up for success.

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"Modeling is not a normal career path in Skokie. I was embarrassed that he hadn't asked my friend to model, too, but my friend's mom was there and got his information. Later that year, I was in New York meeting with agencies, and that's when I began with Marilyn," she told Michigan Avenue Magazine. Looks like the journey to success really can be unpredictable!

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