Cindy Crawford's swimsuit calendar shoot in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in 1991.
Season: 3 Episode: 8
Title: Swimsuit Edition
Original Airdate: 5/15/91
Appearances: Helena Christensen
RISE OF THE SUPERMODEL: CINDY CRAWFORD'S 1991 CALENDAR SHOOT
There are a handful of key branding milestones in Cindy’s career as a supermodel: the Pepsi ads, the workout tape and the swimsuit calendar. In this clip, we go on location for her calendar shoot in Cabo San Lucas with Marco Glaviano (photographer), Ronnie Stam (hair), and Carol Shaw (makeup), and get a peek behind the scenes. Cindy is as unaffected as ever. She recounts the dietary restrictions of prepping for a swimsuit shoot and complains good naturedly about the heat. She quips that one of the bottoms is way too tiny and pointedly remarks that a swimsuit that looks cheap in real life can photograph beautifully. Cindy also takes a moment to distinguish the different responsibilities of a shoot that she herself commissions versus a regular paid gig. Half of the calendar's proceeds went to fund leukemia research; today, copies can fetch anywhere from $50-$100 on eBay.
The photographs are pretty T&A-heavy. There are a lot of suggestive poses—“backshots” with thongs that generously feature Cindy’s posterior; seriously small bikinis; a topless denim look; and some see-through mesh one-pieces. Cindy’s hair is flipped in a deep side part and tousled with a little saltwater crunch. It’s funny because by this point in the show you know Cindy’s face well enough that you can watch it transform from her regular, talking, House of Style face to her "model" face.
This is also one of the moments where you recall how major Cindy was. Girl is insanely hardbody. Sure, she's thin but it's her muscle tone in those hiiiiiiiiigh-cut late-’80s-early-’90s bathing suit bottoms that's mind-blowing. You can’t really compare it to the musculature of any working model today. It's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue-esque but even more... honed.
The reason why this shoot is a big deal is because the calendar is such a savvy business move. It recognizes how fickle the high-fashion industry is by broadening her appeal exponentially. Even amongst supermodels, this is what makes Cindy exceptional: She knows that hanging in the back office of a garage or the wall of a college kid's dorm does not preclude selling the romance of a $30,000 evening gown. It’s not about getting bullied by an d-bag photographer and pushy stylist on the set of a men’s magazine shoot. This is a multiple-page advertisement for Cindy by Cindy. “For this kind of thing, because it’s my project, it’s my calendar… I want to see the Polaroids,” she says. “We don’t shoot until Marco and I have agreed that we both think it looks good.” The images are timeless. Marco explains, “I believe that this type of photography, even though they may seem simple now and pin-up-y or whatever, years from now they’re going to weather and age better than the other pictures we do, which are maybe more artistic.”
+ WATCH CINDY'S CABO CALENDAR SHOOT
RISE OF THE SUPERMODEL: HELENA CHRISTENSEN
Model Helena Christensen in Paris in 1991.
Helena is sort of like Claudia Schiffer, in that it feels weird to have ever had to introduce the Danish supermodel to fashion fans. For a lot of us, she rolled into our lives in the black-and-white Herb Ritts music video for Chris Isaak’s multiplatinum “Wicked Game.” In it Helena appears near-naked and writhes around in the sand with a super sprung Isaak. The imagery is bewitching and the chemistry bonkers. “She walked up on the set and our eyes made contact,” remembers Isaak. “It was like there was an open book: Everybody read it and said, 'There is a magnetism between these people.'" The three-day shoot in Hawaii came after Helena modeled in Paris for two years, but before that, the 5’ 10” beauty was huge on the pageant circuit. Helena Christensen was crowned Miss Denmark and went on to represent her country at the 1986 Miss Universe pageant.
In fact, if you break down all the supermodels’ CVs and pedigrees, it’s like they’ve been engineered by a secret society of master eugenicists. Being the hot girl in a major video and being a beauty queen is cool but she's also a master linguist. “A model from South America taught me Spanish,” she says. “When you’re from Denmark, you learn a lot of languages because no one speaks Danish. You learn English, German, French. And then I speak Swedish because I’ve got lots of Swedish friends and it’s quite similar. It’s great to be able to speak languages in this business.” She'd also go on to become a respected photographer, open a store in the West Village (Butik), and be appointed creative director of Nylon magazine. No. Big. Deal.
Helena seems appealing and approachable here. She talks about her love of vintage clothing (her mother owned a vintage clothing store in Denmark) and looks unpolished. Whether it’s a post-beauty queen grunge period or her youth, Helena wears simple clothes, looks a wee bit wan and has mussed hair. She looks unkempt and totally badass.
+ WATCH THE HELENA CHRISTENSEN PROFILE