15 Surprising Ways Supermodels Were Discovered

15 Surprising Ways Supermodels Were Discovered
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Part of the magic of supermodels is knowing that however many years ago, they were mundane, ordinary people like us, until they were plucked from their hometowns unexpectedly and thrust onto the catwalk. Supermodel discovery stories are the epitome of rags-to-riches tales, and we can never get enough of them. And though stories about how the next It-girls were discovered in supermarkets are now dwindling (largely due to social media), there are still a ton of surprising and entertaining supermodel discovery stories to look back on.

MORE: Kendall Jenner Fires Back at Criticism That She Doesn’t ‘Work as Hard’ as ’90s Supermodels

We rounded up the most unusual places and times supermodels were discovered, from the famous ’90s face who was discovered shucking corn to the iconic cover girl who was found in an airport. Ahead, find out how models such as Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Coco Rocha, and Kate Moss made it big, and who knows? Next time you’re at a surf shop, keep an eye out for the modeling agent who might make your career.

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Kate Moss Runway
Kate Moss

Kate Moss, a 14-year-old schoolgirl from England, was waiting with her father, a travel agent, at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City when renowned model scout, Sarah Doukas, spotted her. Moss and her father had been waiting three days for standby seats to England, so Doukas didn't bother them when she saw them arguing at the front desk. When they made it onto the plane, Doukas waited until the seat belt sign turned off before she immediately introduced herself. Soon after, Moss signed with Doukas's agency, Storm Models.

"As soon as the seat belt sign switched off, we rushed over," Doukas told Business Insider.

Photo: Getty Images
Cindy Crawford Runway
Cindy Crawford

A teenage Cindy Crawford was pollinating corn in her hometown in Dekalb, Illinois, when a local newspaper photographer took a picture of her mid-act, according to ABC News. The picture became so popular that Crawford entered renowned modeling scout John Casablancas's "Look of the Year" contest in 1982, which launched her career.

Photo: Getty Images
Naomi Campbell Runway
Naomi Campbell

When she was 14, Naomi Campbell was strolling through Covent Garden, a shopping plaza in London, with a few friends after school on a warm day in April when a woman, who happened to be Beth Boldt, the head of Synchro Model Management, came up to her and asked if she had ever thought about modeling.

However, when Campbell told her mother about the interaction, her mother immediately shot the possibility down and told her to focus on school. Secretly, Campbell went to see Boldt herself. Eventually, her mother warmed up to the idea and let her model as long as she finished school.

"When I told my mum, she wasn’t into the idea at all. We’d all heard horror stories of girls being approached, paying huge amounts of money to have pictures taken and then getting nowhere," Campbell wrote in The Guardian. "Eventually, Mum decided I could model, so long as it didn’t interfere with my school work or exams. "

Photo: Getty Images
Christy Turlington Runway
Christy Turlington

At 14, Christy Turlington was discovered while horseback riding in Florida, where she lived at the time, which led her to picking up small modeling jobs in Miami. When she turned 18, she packed her bags and moved to New York, where her modeling career took off. “I was like, ‘See ya. The world is big; I’ve got places to go,'" she told Wall Street Journal.

Photo: Getty Images
Gisele Bundchen Runway
Gisele Bündchen

Gisele Bündchen’s mother put her in modeling school to improve her posture. But that's not where she was discovered. One day, while hanging out with friends from modeling school, Bündchen was approached by a modeling scout at a McDonald's in a food court in Brazil, her home country. “This guy came up to me and said: ‘Do you want to be a model? Come with me to the agency right now,’” Bündchen told The New York Times.

Initially, Bündchen persisted. She was supposed to go with her friends to the Playcenter a popular amusement park in Brazil, that day. The scout eventually persuaded Bündchen to come with him, though.

“The guy said, ‘Oh, I promise you when you come to the agency in São Paulo, I’ll take you to the Playcenter there,’” she said. “And you know what? He never took me there!”

Photo: Getty Images
Claudia Schiffer Runway
Claudia Schiffer

At 17, Claudia Schiffer was discovered at a disco nightclub in Düsseldorf, Germany, not too far from where she grew up. The experience helped Schiffer overcome insecurities with her height, though she still had fears that, even after she was signed and flown out to jobs in big cities, it could all be taken away from her.

"For a long time after I was discovered, I felt they must have made a mistake. Any moment now they'll say, 'Excuse me, you've got to go back to Germany, it's all wrong,'" Schiffer told The Guardian.

Photo: Getty Images
Coco Rocha Runway
Coco Rocha

Coco Rocha was sitting with a friend at an Irish dance competition when a modeling scout, who she thought was a security guard, approached her and asked if she had ever thought about modeling.

"I was sitting with my friends, and this older man came up to me and said, 'Have you ever thought of modeling?'" Rocha wrote for BuzzFeed.

"If you think of a model, you probably think of a gorgeous, beautiful bombshell of a woman—not so much a lanky 14-year-old girl at an Irish dance competition," she wrote. "I was laughing hysterically, but secretly I was also kind of excited that someone thought I, of all people, could be a model."

Rocha told the man, who was the father of another dancer, to talk to her mother, who immediately turned the opportunity down. After seeing the man again and again at competitions, Rocha's mother gave in. Soon after, Rocha got her makeup done at a MAC counter and posed for her first-ever photo shoot.

Photo: Getty Images
Chrissy Teigen Runway
Chrissy Teigen

Chrissy Teigen was 18 when she was approached by a photographer at a "little surf shop" in Huntington Beach, California, about becoming a model. Initially, she had plans to become a chef, but put those on the back burner to try modeling.

Knowing she wasn't a high-fashion face, she started off with small catalog jobs before moving to Miami where she learned that she could have a successful modeling career without being a "runway girl."  "That’s where I got hope that you could make money just kind of being not a runway girl," Teigen told The Daily Beast.

Photo: Getty Images
Candice Swanepoel Runway
Candice Swanepoel

When she was 15, Candice Swanepoel was discovered at a flea market in Durban, South Africa, not too far from where she grew up, according to her profile on IMG Models. By the time she turned 16, she was modeling in Paris with big-name fashion brands.

Photo: Getty Images
Behati Prinsloo Runway
Behati Prinsloo

When she was 16, Behati Prinsloo was discovered at a grocery store with her grandparents by the daughter of Sarah Doukas, the scout who discovered Kate Moss, while on a trip in Cape Town, South Africa. By September of that year, Prinsloo made her runway debut at Prada and Miu Miu shows in Paris and Milan, according to People.

Photo: Getty Images
Erin Heatherton Runway
Erin Heatherton

When she was 18, Erin Heatherton traveled from her hometown in Stokie, Illinois, to Miami for a college trip to the University of Miami. While walking on the beach with a friend, Heatherton was scouted by an agent from Abercrombie & Fitch who lunged out of his cab to chase down Heatherton and ask if he could represent her.

“No one had ever asked me about that before,” she told Michigan Avenue magazine. “Modeling is not a normal career path in Skokie. I was embarrassed that he hadn’t asked my friend to model, too, but my friend’s mom was there and got his information. Later that year, I was in New York meeting with agencies."

Photo: Getty Images
Jourdan Dunn Runway
Jourdan Dunn

Jourdan Dunn was shopping at Primark, a popular U.K. retailer, in Hammersmith, London, with a few friends when she noticed a woman who kept eyeing her as browsed through sunglasses. "There was this woman who kept looking over at us. I was like, 'Does she think we're going to steal sunglasses?'" Dunn said on "The Jonathan Ross Show."

The woman eventually approached Dunn and asked if she had ever thought about modeling. Skeptical at first, she told her she hadn't until the woman handed her her card, which read Storm Models, the same agency that represents Kate Moss.

Photo: Getty Images
Jasmine Tookes Runway
Jasmine Tookes

Growing up with a mom who is a celebrity stylist, Jasmine Tookes was always in and out of showrooms. She was discovered at 15 years old while hanging out at a showroom appointment waiting for her mom. Not too long after, she was signed to an agency in Los Angeles.

"I always had an interest in fashion because my mom is a celebrity fashion stylist. I grew up being on set or in showrooms," Tookes told The Cut. "I was actually discovered while at a showroom appointment and was immediately sent over to an agency in L.A."

Photo: Getty Images
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley Runway
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley initially had dreams of becoming a fashion designer but fell into modeling after she was constantly surrounded by the fashion world. "I've wanted to design ever since I can remember, and I fell into modeling through wanting to design," she told the Telegraph.

Photo: Getty Images
Lily Aldridge Runway
Lily Aldridge

Lily Aldridge’s modeling career began at 16 when she started modeling for Abercrombie & Fitch. Her first-ever job was with fashion photographer Bruce Weber. Soon after, she started booking jobs with other companies, such as Victoria's Secret, where her career took off.

Photo: Getty Images

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  • Kate Moss Runway
  • Cindy Crawford Runway
  • Naomi Campbell Runway
  • Christy Turlington Runway
  • Gisele Bundchen Runway
  • Claudia Schiffer Runway
  • Coco Rocha Runway
  • Chrissy Teigen Runway
  • Candice Swanepoel Runway
  • Behati Prinsloo Runway
  • Erin Heatherton Runway
  • Jourdan Dunn Runway
  • Jasmine Tookes Runway
  • Rosie Huntington-Whiteley Runway
  • Lily Aldridge Runway