Agent's 'supermodel' vision transformed runway
John Casablancas, the brash upstart who transformed the modeling business in the late 1970s when he founded the Elite agency and turned its young beauties — including Linda Evangelista, Gisele Bundchen and Naomi Campbell — into celebrities, died on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro. He was 70.
Casablancas, who lived in Miami, had cancer, said his executive assistant, Lorraine Caggiano.
When Casablancas ventured into the modeling business in the early 1970s, the super-agents were Eileen Ford and Wilhemina Cooper, who took an old-school approach, providing chaperones for their models and tucking them into bed at a reasonable hour.
In 1977, Casablancas moved his operation from Europe to New York City with a very different approach.
“We gave them huge amounts of money, and we gave them names and personalities. We let them give interviews. Suddenly, they became a dream for the larger public. They became supermodels,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2000.
The main difference between his approach and Ford's, he told an interviewer, was “Ford was a prude, and I was not.”
Through the 1980s and '90s, Casablancas' vision gave Elite a coveted roster of talents who became household names and earned extravagant fees. Evangelista famously quipped that models at her level “don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day.”
Casablancas came to regret his role. In 2000, when he sold his share of Elite, he lashed out at the “spoilt trouble-makers” he had made famous.
“I hate them all,” he said, singling out Bundchen as “a monster of selfishness” and Heidi Klum as “a German sausage without talent.”
When he left, the agency had 500 models whose bookings brought in $100 million a year.
Along the way, the dashing Casablancas lived the high life he encouraged his models to pursue. He made no secret of his love of beautiful women, dated many of his much-younger models and partied hard.
His retirement was hastened by a scandal involving the president of Elite Europe, shown in a 1999 BBC documentary propositioning a young model for sex. Casablancas was not implicated but left the agency the next year.
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.