The recent sighting of former model Kate Fischer brought back some memories for me, and the fabulous Aussie models that dominated the magazines in the 1990s.
I was an assistant at Australian Vogue at the time when we first featured Kate, who emerged during the dreary “waif” period, looking quite the opposite – she was bosomy and sexy and the readers absolutely loved her.
There were a slew of gorgeous girls in the ’90s that were used time and time again, who represented a special type of Aussie beauty – athletic, curvy, healthy and happy, and who radiated vitality as opposed to a more manufactured European sexiness.
Elle Macpherson, of course, embodied this ideal – when I think of Elle I see a beach, a bikini, a hat and a grin (and maybe a day-glo fishing knife strapped to her flawless tanned thigh).
Anytime she flashed her toned midriff on the cover, Cleo sold out. Vogue also discovered a 14-year-old Kristy Hinze (age wasn’t such an issue back then) but she was shot in a non-provocative style that focused on her fresh, natural beauty, swimming, laughing or horse riding.
What was different about the Australian supers back then? They smiled. They looked happy to be by that pool in that pretty dress.
Put that in contrast with the grunge period to come, where placing a supine skeleton in an oil slick in an abandoned car park was considered the height of chic.
Jenny Hayman, with her short-cropped blonde hair and long gangly limbs, was another Vogue favourite in the ’80s and ’90s, almost always photographed grinning from ear to ear and looking like she was about to get up to some serious mischief.
Sarah O’Hare, now Murdoch, was also one of the great beauties of the time, with her glowing skin, thick blonde hair and, again, beautiful smile.
These girls gave off an earthy, good-natured sexiness that was, and is, quintessentially Australian and continues in models and actresses such as Jen Hawkins, Megan Gale and Margot Robbie.
They may be on the red carpet in a ball gown, but they’ve probably come straight from the beach and there may still be some sand in their shoes. It’s an Australian thing – we don’t like airbrushed, bird-thin, snobbish perfection.
At heart we prefer the really, really hot girl next door who is also nice to your family, likes your dog and is happy to have dinner at the pub.
In the ’90s there were also the more serene, classic beauties such as Anneliese Seubert and Emma Balfour, who were certainly in high demand and even more so on the European circuit (Seubert was a long-time favourite of John Galliano and walked the couture runways in Paris for almost a decade).
We’ve continued to produce genealogical miracles since – Alyssa Sutherland, Gemma Ward, Miranda Kerr, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Catherine McNeil to name just some.
But the time may have come where the earthy, Aussie bikini babe is no longer the dominant ideal. Diversity has arrived and it’s here to stay.
There are the beautiful Indigenous models such as Sam Harris and newcomer Charlee Fraser; pink-haired Fernanda Ly, the pale, renaissance beauty of Maddy Stubbington and Lily Nova, the edgy cool-girl androgyny of Julia Nobis and striking Sudanese-Australian models Yaya Deng and Duckie Thot.
The fashion and beauty industry has finally removed its blinkers and thankfully there is room for everyone, no matter your heritage or how many neck tattoos you have.
But there is always one thing that an Aussie model must remember if he or she wants to remain popular here at home. Whatever you do – don’t become “up yourself”.