Elle Macpherson turns 60: Six moments that have marked the life of ‘The Body’

She has been sober for 20 years and is more focused on her business ventures than on exploiting the nostalgia of the supermodel era. Unlike many of her colleagues from that time, such as Naomi Campbell or Linda Evangelista, the Australian has stayed away from the spotlight and the catwalk

Elle Macpherson
Elle Macpherson at the 2024 Australian Open on January 28, 2024 in Melbourne.Daniel Pockett (Getty Images)
El País

Sixty years ago today, Elle Macpherson was born in Cronulla, a residential area 12 miles south of Sydney, Australia. “The first time I did runway I was about seven years old, with my mother’s sister, who was a model. I hated it. I never wanted to be a model, I wanted to go to law school and I wanted a job that I felt was reliable and stable and had a steady income and was something I could expand, grow into,” she recalled last November in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar.

But a year before starting law school, when she was 17 years old, she decided to take a gap year that would forever change the course of her life. She ended up in Aspen, Colorado, where she was noticed by a representative from Click Model Management agency, who suggested that she move to New York. She agreed. After that decision, she became one of the top models that marked the 1980s and 1990s — the women who need no last name: Claudia, Naomi, Linda, Cindy. And also Elle, but in her case, more than her name, she is recognized by her nickname: “The Body.”

On the occasion of her 60th birthday, we review some of the milestones that marked the life of the legendary model and one of the most important women in the fashion industry.

The body

Elle Macpherson poses in a swimsuit in 1990 in Los Angeles (California).
Elle Macpherson poses in a swimsuit in 1990 in Los Angeles (California).CBS Photo Archive (CBS via Getty Images)

“I realized early on that I was never going to have the waif-thin fashion body. I was six-foot tall, 36 hips, 36 bust and broad shoulders from swimming all my life,” Macpherson told Vogue Australia in 2019. In the interview, she discusses the start of her career, explaining that it was difficult for her to fit in: she was a young woman with an athletic build that was far from the look that dominated the catwalks of the time.

But everything changed thanks to Sports Illustrated. She starred in the magazine’s iconic swimsuit special up to five times. In fact, the Australian was on the cover in 1986, 1987, 1988, 1994 and 2006, breaking a record that no one has yet surpassed. After her three consecutive front covers in the 1980s, Time magazine in 1989 published an extensive report on Macpherson, who also appeared on its cover. Indeed, it was the prestigious American magazine that coined the nickname by which she became known across the world: The Body.

Reading it for the first time, Elle Macpherson saw the perfect opportunity to build her own brand. And she wasted no time in registering the name. “It was a funny catchphrase, then it kept going and going — I turned it into a business,” she told journalist Jonathan Ross in 2010.

“My nickname has never bothered me; not even when it started. Being The Body has not been restrictive for me because it helped me make a living, so... thank you!” the model added in an interview with EL PAÍS in 2012.

A brief acting career

Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer and Elle Macpherson in an episode of 'Friends.'
Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer and Elle Macpherson in an episode of 'Friends.'NBC (NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

While her career in fashion was taking off, she also made the occasional foray into film and television. And not just in any old role. In 1990, she appeared (very briefly) in the film Alice by Woody Allen, although she is best remembered for her role in the film Sirens (1994), by John Duigan, where she appears completely naked. She also had a role in Joel Schumacher’s 1997 film Batman and Robin.

But, without a doubt, her most popular character was Janine Lacroix, the roommate and fleeting partner of Joey Tribbiani in the hit show Friends. In the series, it was common for famous actors to make cameos: Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Reese Witherspoon, Danny DeVito and Brooke Shields were just some of the stars that appeared on the show. But MacPherson did not have just a cameo, she starred in five episodes. And there could have been more. Apparently, the producers gave her the opportunity to continue the role, but she was living in London at the time and turned down the offer.

Why did she stop acting? The model herself answered this question in an interview with the Australian edition of Vogue magazine in 2019. “But you know, in 10 years’ time, I’ll say one of two things: I wish I’d made this movie or I wish I’d spent more time with my child. One of those things is really going to hurt me. The other won’t hurt me so much.”

Business vision

Elle Macpherson, Claudia Schiffer, and Naomi Campbell at the bar the supermodels founded.
Elle Macpherson, Claudia Schiffer, and Naomi Campbell at the bar the supermodels founded.Ron Galella (Ron Galella Collection via Getty)

According to CelebrityNetWorth, Macpherson has an estimated fortune of $95 million. Virtually from the beginning of her career, Macpherson had great business vision. In 1994, she founded her own company, Elle Macpherson Inc., producing her own series of calendars and workout videos. They were a hit: who wouldn’t want to know how The Body stayed in shape?

She also launched a lingerie collection called Elle Macpherson Intimates, which was a success in the United Kingdom and Australia. In 2005, she launched a cosmetics line, called Elle Macpherson The Body, which no longer exists.

In addition to these business ventures, Macpherson was also as presenter of the talent competition Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model (where she also served as executive producer) between 2010 and 2013, and, in 2012, she hosted the first season of Fashion Star in the United States. In 2014, she also co-founded the dietary supplement company WelleCo, whose flagship product, The Super Elixir, lists Kate Moss among its biggest fans.

Among her business successes, there is a notorious failure: Fashion Café, a restaurant that opened in 1995. Macpherson fronted the establishment with other supermodels, following the idea of Planet Hollywood, but it did not survive to see the new millennium.

Twenty years sober

In September 2023, Elle Macpherson surprised her followers on Instagram — where she has 734,000 followers, a far cry from the millions who follow Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford — by posting a photograph of an Alcoholics Anonymous badge that announced she had been sober for 20 years.

Recently, in an interview with an Australian media outlet, the supermodel decided to open up about her decision to give up alcohol. “I stopped drinking in 2003 because I felt I couldn’t be fully present in my life and it was a wonderful springboard of getting to know myself on a deeper level,” she said. “This was a decision that I’ve never regretted.” She explained: “Although it required discipline and persistence, the bottom line is you can’t be well and present in your life if you’re not present and well, and alcohol doesn’t really support that. It’s very difficult to get to know yourself if you’re numbing yourself.”

Son follows in her footsteps

Macpherson had two children with French financier Arpad Busson: Arpad Flynn Alexander, born in 1998, and Aurelius Cy Andrea, born in 2003. Due to their parents’ work, the two grew up between New York, London and the Bahamas. And they also spent a lot of time backstage at fashion shows. Maybe that’s why Cy, the youngest of the two, has taken to fashion. By age 20, he had already appeared in various fashion magazines (including Glamour, Inside and Elle magazine, where he appeared with his mother), landed advertising campaigns and signed with a modeling agency. Even so, for both her sons, the important thing is their studies. And although Cy enjoys fashion, the truth is that he has also followed in his father’s footsteps: according to LinkedIn, he is currently studying finance.

A penultimate runway show

Elle Macphearson at a show during the Melbourne Fashion Festival, March 4, 2024.
Elle Macphearson at a show during the Melbourne Fashion Festival, March 4, 2024.Naomi Rahim (WireImage)

Elle Macpherson returned to the catwalk in 2024, 16 years after her last show. She starred in the Triumphant x PayPal Runway, which was held during Melbourne Fashion Festival last March. “So good to be back home supporting Australian designers,” she said in a message on Instagram.

She thus joined names like Claudia Schiffer, who walked for Versace in September 2023, during the Milan fashion week, and Linda Evangelista, who did so in September 2022, for Fendi. Macpherson’s return to the catwalk was less talked about, for a smaller show, and more for a good cause than to boost her career. The truth is, The Body doesn’t need to make a comeback, because she never really left. She just stopped being in the limelight, deciding it was more lucrative to be behind it.

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