Today's social media influencers making a mint off their beauty and fashion tips owe a debt of gratitude to a certain Fearsome Foursome, even if they don't know their names.
"The Super Models," a docuseries that is streaming on Apple Plus TV, shows how Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista helped usher in an era, one in which those strutting their stuff took control of their careers — and the industry.
"We looked powerful and then we started to believe it," says Crawford in one of the many revealing interviews conducted in conjunction with a high-profile reunion shoot for Vogue.
Convincing others of their power wasn't easy. For decades, models were expected to be seen and not heard, unless they were whispering sweet nothings into some creepy executive's ear.
Several documentaries released this year have already trained a harsh light on the fashion industry's past.
"Pretty Baby," streaming on Hulu, takes a harrowing look at how Brooke Shields had to deal with unauthorized nudes, perverted Calvin Klein ads and even rape. HBO's "Donyale Luna: Supermodel" tracks how racism and drug addiction destroyed a potential star's career. On Tuesday, Amazon Prime will start streaming "The Victoria's Secret World Tour," the company's attempt to distance itself from a reputation of caring only about skinny women in angel wings.
The stars in "Super Models" have their own nightmares to share. Crawford was traumatized when handlers cut off her hair without her consent. A 16-year-old Evangelista flew to Japan, where she was pressured to do nudes.
All four had put their blind trust in older white males. Sometimes it worked out; often it didn't. Evangelista talks openly about her naivete in marrying Gerald Marie, the former Elite Model Management boss who was accused of rape and sexual assault. (The investigation was closed earlier this year due to the statute of limitations.)
But co-directors Roger Ross Williams and Larissa Bills also use their four episodes to celebrate their subjects' victories. In the late 1980s, a new crop of photographers came along and saw models as collaborators, rather than walking hangers. MTV upped their profile, most notably by putting George Michael's "Freedom! '90" in constant rotation.
Models' prices went up — and so did the attention. Not all of it was welcomed.
Evangelista faced immediate backlash for her 1992 statement, "I won't get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day." Campbell's prickly relationship with the paparazzi led to her being painted as a difficult diva. There's a chapter on how they all struggled to stay relevant in the "grunge era."
The models also recognize that they made decisions that may be difficult to understand in the modern era.
Crawford has no regrets about posing for Playboy in 1988, in large part because the magazine gave her editorial control.
It's worth noting that all four of the models served as executive producers for this project, which may explain why there's a lot of time dedicated to past boyfriends.
Not all of "Super Models" deals with weighty issues. There are plenty of moments where the cameras capture the four, now all in their 50s, simply reveling in one another's company. There's a kooky scene in which Evangelista and Turlington try to re-create an acrobatic pose from 1989 with limited success. Crawford appears to be having a ball doing a new version of her iconic Pepsi commercial.
"Super Models" is not just a trip down memory lane. These are women who understand that they were the real influencers.