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The Story Of The Monster Who Created The Modern Modeling Industry

Updated June 14, 2019 41.0k 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.

  • He Used To Party With Donald Trump And Provide Him With Models

    John Casablancas and Donald Trump used to run in the same circles. In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against Trump, an incident involving the two men and several models came to light. At a dinner party both men attended in 1996, Casablancas provided models for the event. The men at the party reportedly requested

    "...the models walk on the table so that they could peek under their skirts and comment on whether they were wearing underwear. They also remarked on what the women’s genitals looked like." 

    Trump's interest in the modeling industry ostensibly grew. He owned his own modeling agency, known as Trump Models, between 1999 and 2017. The agency closed amid claims of human trafficking and "modern day slavery" in regards to the treatment of the models he represented.

  • He Held Wet T-Shirt Contests At Xenon, The New York Nightclub

    During the early 1980s, John Casablancas made partying part of his job. He went on record as saying that he preferred "a model that parties a little too much to a model that doesn’t party enough" and provided plenty of opportunities for models to make an impression.

    After he was turned away from the popular nightclub Studio 54, Casablancas decided that he'd focus on Xenon, another hotspot in New York City. He threw several parties at Xenon, sending t-shirts from Elite Models as invitations, which the women wore when they attended. The models would show as much skin as possible while wearing the shirts, but one night, after Casablancas had a temporary pool installed for the occasion, the party turned into a wet t-shirt contest. On another occasion, he had a pajama party of sorts where models wore nothing but lingerie.

  • John Casablancas Thought His Own Daughter Had 'A Great Little Body'

    In preparation for her profile on John Casablancas for New York Magazine in 1988, reporter Dinah Prince observed the modeling scout and agent with some of his biggest talent. She watched Casablancas interact with famous models like Iman, Andie MacDowell, and Carol Alt, and she saw him chime in to try to take part in their conversations. 

    The three women were discussing their families, so Casablancas told the group about how his daughter, Cecile, had been asked by a photographer to model for him during a trip to Ibiza the previous year. Casablancas then told them that he tried to get $2,000 for the shot because "she's got a great little body."


  • He Was Hot For Both Stephanie Seymour And Her Mom

    John Casablancas told New York Magazine that he noticed Stephanie Seymour's mother before he ever noticed the future supermodel, recalling that she was "absolutely ravishing" and "much more interesting" than her daughter. It doesn't seem like anything happened between Seymour's mother and Casablancas, but the 41-year-old was, to the teen Seymour, her "first everything.

    Stephanie's mother was highly encouraging when it came to her daughter's modeling career, helping her get her father's permission to go to Paris, Rome, and Acapulco. When she finally broke the news of her relationship with Casablancas to her father, he simply suggested she was making a mistake. Casablancas swooped in and charmed Seymour's father and, according to Stephanie Seymour, "convinced my father that he loved me more than anybody in this world."