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The Story Of The Monster Who Created The Modern Modeling Industry

Updated June 14, 2019 39.2k views10 items

John Casablancas founded one of the world's best-known modeling agencies, Elite Model Management, in 1972. Five years later, he started an agency in New York and soon went global. Through Elite Models, Casablancas discovered models like Stephanie Seymour, Cindy Crawford, and Naomi Campbell, essentially inventing the concept of a "supermodel" in the process.

But as is the case with most industries, modeling carries a seedy underbelly, and Casablancas was a spurious proponent of discrimination against women and borderline child exploitation beneath his facade of craft and glamour. In addition to his positive influence on modeling, there were numerous scandals involving John Casablancas, especially as his predatory relationships with his modeling talent became clear. As a middle-aged man spending most of his time around beautiful women, Casablancas acted the part of a degenerate behind the scenes while using his modeling agency as his glamorous playground. 

Casablancas passed in 2013. Quite telling is the fact that none of his high-profile former clients — the world's first supermodels — made statements or came to pay their respects. He'd not earned it.

  • His Third Wife Was 17 Years Old When They Married


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    John Casablancas married Aline Wermelinger in 1993. The model was one of Casablancas's own creations and was 17 years old at the time — her new husband was 50. Wermelinger had participated in an Elite's Look of the Year in her native Brazil the previous year. She was, by her own admission, "deeply religious and virginal." In the contest, she had even told the judges about her favorite book of the Bible.

    Casablancas and Wermelinger had a short courtship, dating for only three months before Casablancas went to Brazil to meet her family. He called their chemistry "electric" but also admitted "I’m not saying the relationship will last forever. But who knows?" Aline and John were married until his passing in 2013.

  • He Went On A Insult Binge Against His Supermodels

    Casablancas retired from the modeling industry in 2000, one year after a BBC documentary came out that depicted Elite Models as racist and exploitive, challenging Casablancas' integrity and legacy. He moved to Brazil with his young wife, Aline.

    After he left, he didn't hold back from talking about the women he had worked with over the years. He called Naomi Campbell "odious" and expressed happiness at having fired her, labeled Gisele Bündchen "a monster of selfishness," and identified Heidi Klum as a "talentless sausage." 

  • His Relationship With A Teenaged Stephanie Seymour Ended His Second Marriage

    When Casablancas was 41, he began an affair with the teenaged Stephanie Seymour – reports claim she was either 15 or 16 at the time. Seymour met Casablancas at a modeling competition and, although he was married to his second wife, Jeanette Christiansen, at the time, he and Seymour soon began a relationship that lasted for two years. Their affair led to Casablancas's divorce from Christiansen – a former model and 1965's Miss Denmark – in 1983.

    Casablancas described Seymour in a manner that provides insight into his overall demeanor. He told Prince:

    "[Seymour is] a girl of extremes...and the way she developed – there’s a quality that developed about her that is this incredible sensuality that a woman-child has, a true woman-child … her voice is a child’s, her attitudes, the way she holds her feet and her hands are those of a child, at the same time with an incredible sensuality to it. And that mixture was and is so explosive … This was something like a forbidden fruit for both of us."

    Casablancas also said that Seymour was the only woman "that really broke my heart.”

  • Casablancas Was Constantly In The Company Of Women

    Casablancas, called "one of the creepiest people I have ever met" by one observer, was constantly surrounded by women, a circumstance of his own design. When he was at his agency, he would always make it a point to drop in and visit models during their interviews, talk to their mothers, and generally gawk at whatever beautiful women he could find. Casablancas had an uncanny ability to draw lines between they types of women in his life, however. He treated his models as though they were brainless dolls while acting as though the employees at his agency were nonsexual servants.

    Casablancas was aware that his relationships with women could be misconstrued by the public. According to Casablancas, he "had friendships with these girls that are sometimes very flirtatious friendships... people imagine what they see is the public part of what goes on privately. It is not." His male friends saw it another way, suggesting that his need to be around women was "almost to the point of being ridiculous. He's insecure about being alone."