We’ve seen them on runways, billboards, campaigns… You’d be surprised that for some of these gorgeous leggy models, all it took for them was to go shopping or wait for a bus to get discovered. Read on to find out how some of the world’s most successful models made their way to the front of the cameras.
1) Cara Delevingne
“I’ve been best-friends with Genevieve Garner, daughter of Sarah Doukas [CEO of Storm Model Management] since I was five. Sarah saw me when she came to our school and Gen introduced us. I had never thought about modeling before, and it just happened.”
—The Telegraph, June 2011
2) Karlie Kloss
Long before walking the biggest shows at fashion weel, Kloss walked a charity fashion show in her Missouri hometown. It wasn’t until 15 that she made her runway debut with Calvin Klein.
—CBS, February 2015
3) Joan Smalls
Instead of getting scouted by surprise, Smalls actively pursued modelling in Puerto Rico, where she was born and raised. Though she lost the competitions she entered as a young girl, she earned a much bigger prize later on. After moving to New York, she got her big break walking at Givenchy Haute Couture in 2010, courtesy of Riccardo Tisci.
—H&M, May 2015
4) Doutzen Kroes
When Kroes was an 18-year-old living in Holland, she had sent photos of herself to an agency to earn some extra cash, but was signed immediately. She got her name—and face—on the scene when photographer Steven Meisel shot her for the cover of Vogue Italia.
“I felt super-young coming from the north of Holland, and I went to Amsterdam only once before I went to New York. It was a really big adventure to go there.”
—Telegraph, September 2013
5) Candice Swanepoel
The South African bombshell was unexpectedly discovered while shopping at a flea market. By the time she was 16, she was already modeling in Paris.
—Business Insider, October 2013
6) Jourdan Dunn
Dunn was spotted “mucking about”—not shopping, she corrects—in a Primark when she was 15. She was approached by by an agent from Storm Management, the same agency responsible for discovering Kate Moss.
—The Guardian, April 2008
7) Chanel Iman
Iman says she had wanted to be a model her whole life. After turning 13 she and her aunt visited various modeling agencies around her home city of L.A. In a matter of weeks, she found herself signing with Ford.
8) Coco Rocha
“I was discovered at an Irish dance competition when I was 14. I was sitting with my friends and this older man came up to me and said, “Have you ever thought of modeling?” I actually thought he was one of the security guards or someone who worked at this dance competition, and he was going to tell me to remove my feet from the fancy tables. All of us thought it was some kind of joke — or that this man needed glasses.”
—Buzzfeed, June 2013
9) Malaika Firth
“I wasn’t discovered as such, my mum called Premier Models after seeing The Model Agency on Channel 4 and Carole White, Premier’s founder signed me up straight away!”
—i-D, March 2014
10) Alessandra Ambrosio
When she was 12 years old in Brazil, Ambrosio started taking modeling classes. She continued with the contests and by the time she had turned 14, she was chosen as a finalist for the country-wide “Elite Model Look” competition.
11) Behati Prinsloo
“I was in Cape Town on vacation with my grandmother and grandfather. We went to the grocery store after church and this guy came up to me and asked if I was a model and wrote his number on a piece of paper and my grandfather was like, this is so shady. So we went home and told my parents about it and never did anything. And then the next time I was in Cape Town, Noelle [Doukas, daughter of Sarah Doukas, founder of Storm] came up to me and asked me to come into the agency. So I finally went in and signed with Sarah right there. I spent the summer in Cape Town and it went really well so they shipped me off to London.”
—Fashionista, April 2009
12) Miranda Kerr
The sweet-faced model got her claim to fame when she won a modeling contest for Dolly magazine when she was 13 years old. Afterwards, she moved to Brisbane to finish school and started modeling for Billabong.
13) Gisele Bundchen
Forbes‘ highest-paid model in the world was discovered while shopping in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Considering her killer figure, it’s hard to believe she was spotted while eating a Big Mac (though it does give us hope).
—The Independent, August 2013
14) Naomi Campbell
The runway icon was only 15 when she was spotted by Pennington Models scout,Beth Boldt. She was then sent to one of her earliest shoots, for British Elle.
15) Chrissy Teigen
Her popularity reached near-viral status after she posed for Sports Illustrated, but Teigen was first scouted at the surf shop she worked at in Huntington Beach, California. Even then, she was not convinced. “For someone as insecure as I was, it didn’t seem possible,” she told Vegas magazine.
16) Linda Evangelista
“I took a modeling course in my hometown, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. It was sort of a scam. In order to work as a model, you had to pay for the classes. My mom paid for me. They sent me there at 16, and I was chosen by a Japanese agency to go over to Japan for the summer to work. My parents were strict Italians who didn’t let me go out past 10 o’clock, and I had to choose between going out Friday or Saturday night and was not allowed to have a boyfriend. But they said okay. I got there and it was a catastrophe. They wanted me to take my clothes off and shoot me naked. It was a nightmare and I panicked and basically the Canadian Embassy helped me out. I was there about two days and went home, saying, “I don’t want anything to do with this ever again.” But how I got my start was that my modeling agency insisted I enter the Miss Teen Niagara Pageant.”
—Interview Magazine, September 2013
17) Kate Moss
Renowned model scout Sarah Doukas found a 14-year-old Kate Moss squabbling with her father at JFK Airport in New York. Doukas got on their flight to England and approached them in-flight as soon as the seatbelt sign turned off.
—Business Insider, April 2015
18) Anna Ewers
“My first runway show was for Alex and it was amazing. I remember going to the casting for Balenciaga. I was so nervous. I drove to Paris just for him…I was not supposed to do fashion week! Then he picked me up, I don’t know where. He was like, “I want this girl.”
—V Magazine, Winter 2014/2015 (she’s talking about Alexander Wang)
19) Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
“I’ve wanted to design ever since I can remember and I fell into modeling through wanting to design.”
—Telegraph, July 2012
20) Julia Nobis
“It was a little bit awkward. I thought she was just going to ask me for directions but she asked me if I was I model. Who knew a bus stop could be a place of magic?”
—Sydney Morning Herald, January 2011