Major Scandals Involving Supermodels That Are Seriously Sketchy

This feature discusses substance misuse, sexual abuse, racism, ableism, and animal cruelty.

In recent years, the fashion world has been accused of being a hotbed of sexual abuse and seediness, with many industry players coming forward to bravely speak their truth. Although the industry has been embroiled in myriad scandals, it's not always unscrupulous designers, sleazy photographers, and shady businessmen who are responsible for said impropriety. Indeed, many supermodels have also been at the heart of these causes célèbres.

Throughout the decades, there have been innumerable supermodels, from the iconic likes of Naomi Campbell to the more recent incarnation of influencer models like Kendall Jenner and the Hadid sisters. From an early age, supermodels are trained and poised to become so-called clothes horses to display the garments of high-end designers. As such, they are often perceived as unattainable idols, otherworldly figures from an industry that attracts — and indeed, cultivates — fantasy images. They wine and dine with the world's elites, often hooking up with A-list celebs and becoming tabloid fodder in the process. The exposure of supermodels to the public eye will, therefore, inevitably lead to an eye-popping scandal or two. In many instances, models' lifestyles, as glamorous as they may appear on the surface, can ultimately be destructive and prove self-sabotaging. 

With power comes great sketchiness, and it's often the case that the rich and privileged use that power for their own gain. We revere the luxurious fabrics these models promote, but beneath that fabric can be a human being who is just as fundamentally flawed as anyone else — as these seriously sketchy scandals involving supermodels have often proved.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Doutzen Kroes caused a storm with her anti-vax remarks

Dutch supermodel Doutzen Kroes first rose to fame in the mid-to-late 2000s, walking the catwalk for luxury designers as well as lingerie brands such as Victoria's Secret. Although her public profile has remained low-key over the past decade, she emerged from obscurity in 2020 to voice some rather controversial opinions.

Several celebs have come out as anti-vax in recent years, and Kroes is among them, spouting COVID-19 conspiracy theories in the process. On Instagram, the model wrote a longwinded, conspiratorial post in which she said she had many questions for those in power regarding the pandemic. She was also accused of propagating the fallacy that vitamins could be used to combat the virus and claimed that the media and pharmaceutical companies were purposely controlling the population through fear. Then, in 2021, she explicitly voiced her opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine, writing, "I will not be forced to take the shot. I will not be forced to prove my health to participate in society."

Kroes was condemned for her stance, though she did find an ally in fellow supermodel Gisele Bündchen, who commented, "It saddens me to see all the judgment and the lack of empathy in so many people's hearts. Hate is not the answer." But as critics pointed out, Kroes was spreading dangerous misinformation about vaccines, which are both safe and effective in the fight against viruses. Meanwhile, outlets like Quote called her out for her hypocrisy in receiving COVID-19 relief money while disseminating falsehoods concerning the virus. 

Heather Mills' damning divorce from Paul McCartney

Despite once being hailed as a trailblazer for disabled models, the name "Heather Mills" is now synonymous with her disastrous and scandalous divorce from Paul McCartney. After four years of marriage, the power couple called it quits in 2006. Although reps initially claimed that the split was amiable, theirs would become one of the ugliest celebrity divorces in history.

In the lead-up to divorce proceedings, Mills made a number of contentious remarks. She threatened to release a tape supposedly showing her ex mocking her disability, and she famously quipped that divorcing McCartney was worse than losing her leg. Meanwhile, Macca's team claimed that Mills mistreated him. "In the end, he got sick and tired of her trying to control him," a friend alleged, per The Independent.

Mills initially asked for $250 million of the musician's fortune, which the presiding judge, Hugh Bennett, dismissed as exorbitant, instead awarding the model a princely $48.6 million in 2008, per 19 News. He also disregarded Mills' claims that she was entitled to McCartney's Beatles-era earnings, arguing that her evidence was inconsistent. "But to suggest that in some way she was his 'business partner' is, I am sorry to have to say, make-belief," Bennett said, per Reuters. "I wholly reject her account that she rekindled the husband's professional fame (after his first wife's death) and gave him back his confidence." Following the highly publicized divorce, she was hailed as one of Britain's most hated women, something that critics deemed emblematic of misogyny.

Jourdan Dunn was accused of promoting teen pregnancy

British model Jourdan Dunn has done much for representation in the fashion industry. At a time when the modeling world was woefully lacking in diversity (and arguably still is), Dunn was breaking down barriers, becoming the first Black woman to appear solo on the cover of British Vogue in over a decade in 2015. Despite these achievements, there once was a time when she was generating headlines for her private life, rather than her professional merits.

In 2009, an 18-year-old Dunn appeared on the cover of Teen Vogue while pregnant, leading to a major backlash. Editor-in-chief Amy Astley justified the decision, arguing that the magazine's readers were mature enough to be exposed to the heated issue. However, the cover caused considerable controversy, with many accusing both Dunn and Teen Vogue of promoting teenage pregnancy. "Fourteen and 15-year-olds reading it don't have an idea how hard it is for most single mothers having babies. She's got resources," argued Jill Taylor, a gender studies professor, per PennLive. Meanwhile, Valerie Huber, of the National Abstinence Education Association, remarked, "Teen parenting isn't glamorous, even if you are a teen model."

In an interview with Fashion Magazine, Dunn addressed the backlash and praised designer Jean Paul Gaultier for supporting her at a time when others sought to cast judgments (she walked the catwalk at Gaultier's 2010 Spring-Summer show while seven months pregnant). "For him to celebrate and embrace me at that moment was pretty cool," she reflected.

Kate Moss and the coke scandal

Although she now enjoys a relatively low-key profile as an iconic modeling vet, Kate Moss was once the bonafide bad girl of the catwalk. The supermodel cooked up a storm in 2005 when she was caught using cocaine by undercover reporters for The Daily Mirror. Subsequently, she was dropped from numerous lucrative sponsorships. "I take full responsibility for my actions," Moss said, per The Guardian. "I also accept that there are various personal issues that I need to address and have started taking the difficult, yet necessary, steps to resolve them." She went to rehab in the aftermath of the scandal.

At the time, Moss was in a highly publicized relationship with Pete Doherty of indie darlings The Libertines, and the pair were likened to a Y2K Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen by Vanity Fair. The couple was hounded by the press, with paparazzi frequently following them around London as they looked disheveled, supposedly after some hard partying. In his memoir, "A Likely Lad," Doherty admitted that he and Moss had an unhealthy relationship. "It became a running battle, really, that relationship," he wrote. "It was always the same, for all those years: highs and then crushing, violent lows."

In 2022, the supermodel addressed the scandal during an appearance on the radio show "Desert Island Discs" (via The Guardian). "I felt sick and was quite angry," she reflected. "Because everybody I knew took drugs. So for them to focus on me, and to try to take my daughter away, I thought was really hypocritical."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Claudia Schiffer's doggy drama

When German supermodel Claudia Schiffer relocated to the U.K., few could have predicted that the move would lead to such contention. At the heart of the controversy were Schiffer's dogs, whom locals accused of being highly dangerous.

In 2006, her pups allegedly attacked other dogs and folks who walked past the model's home in Bury St. Edmunds. "We first received a complaint in December that one of the dogs had bitten another dog," a police spokesperson said, per East Bay Times. "More recently, a local parish council has received a number of complaints to say that dogs are still 'running wild.'" Subsequently, police cautioned the model over the attacks, warning that further violence would result in prosecution.

However, the doggy drama did not end there. In 2018, Schiffer's German Shepard was accused of mauling a pregnant sheep to death and injuring two others. "Claudia was deeply concerned her dog would have to be put down," a local told The Sun. "She and [her husband] are mortified about being thought of as irresponsible dog owners." Police released photos of the dog standing over the corpse he had savaged, leading to the sheep's owner losing thousands of dollars in vet fees, as well as the money he was hoping to make from the ewe's babies. Schiffer agreed to compensate the farmer for his losses. "Once a dog has got a taste for it, it will do it again" the farmer told Farmers Weekly. "... A dog should have a proper owner and be properly trained," 

Jean Shrimpton and that controversial white dress

Considering all the outrageous fashion faux pas that have graced the red carpet throughout the years, it's hard to fathom that a mini dress was once enough to generate a major scandal. But the 1960s was a very different era indeed.

Back in 1965, Jean Shrimpton, who has been celebrated as the world's first supermodel, rocked the fashion world when she attended the Melbourne Cup Carnival wearing a white dress that — gasp — exposed her knees. Even more controversial was the fact that the British beauty didn't cover her legs with tights or stockings. "There she was, the world's highest-paid model, snubbing the iron-clad conventions at fashionable Flemington in a dress five inches above the knee — NO hat, NO gloves, and NO stockings!" blasted an Aussie newspaper at the time, per CNN. Sure, the dress was actually rather long by today's standards, but at the time it was scandalous due to the conservative sensibilities of the era.

In a prudish society, it was unheard of for women to expose their legs above the knee, not least at a prestigious sporting event. "The furor in Melbourne caused controversy as much for the length of her hemline as for her general disregard for stuffy protocol," Mary McGowne, of the Scottish Style Awards, told The Scotsman. "... She dared to be different and her look epitomized the spirit of the liberal revolution." Subsequently, the model is credited with revolutionizing fashion and effectively launching the minidress.

Linda Evangelista's love child scandal

French billionaire businessman Francois-Henri Pinault famously began dating actor Salma Hayek in 2006, tying the knot three years later. But it was revealed that Pinault cheated on Hayek with supermodel Linda Evangelista, subsequently fathering a love child, son Augustin, who was born in 2006. Worse still, Evangelista and Hayek fell pregnant with the billionaire's children at the same time, making this drama sound like a plotline straight out of "The Bold and the Beautiful."

When queried about the identity of her child's father, Evangelista remained evasive, and it wasn't until 2011 that the tea was finally spilled. According to legal proceedings, Pinault was accused of having dumped Evangelista once she fell pregnant and urging her to have an abortion. "After some initial happiness, he told her he wished she would terminate the pregnancy," her attorney said, per Daily Record. "She said she would support herself since he made it perfectly clear he had no wish to." Pinault said that he did not support his son financially because Evangelista never asked him to. Charming. Accordingly, she requested $46,000 a month in child support. The case was settled out of court in 2012.

Discussing the scandal with Love (via Jezebel), Evangelista dismissed claims that she was seeking further fame by making the private matter public. "I need to protect [my child]," she said. "I never ever used my son for publicity. He'll have his say one day if he wants it. He'll have the last word. He has time to defend himself."

Carla Bruni and Laeticia Casta slammed the MeToo movement

Despite the MeToo movement being a condemnation of pervasive sexual misconduct in the workplace, not everyone was keen to embrace it — women included. In France, a number of prominent female celebs, including veteran actor Catherine Deneuve, wrote an open letter condemning the movement. Such sentiments were echoed by supermodels Carla Bruni and Laetitia Casta.

In the former case, the erstwhile French First Lady claimed that sexual abuse is unheard of in the fashion industry. In an interview with InStyle (via Yahoo!) in 2017, she was asked for her thoughts on Harvey Weinstein and the MeToo movement and had a rather odd hot take. "That doesn't happen in fashion," she claimed. "I never had a photographer or designer do that, never ever. Most agents are protecting girls because they have to work." She was swiftly criticized for the remarks, with detractors arguing that the pervasive sexual abuse within the fashion world is an open secret.

Similarly, Casta critiqued BalanceTonPorc, the French version of MeToo, in a 2018 interview with Corse-Matin, bizarrely stating that she's a woman, not a feminist. "It is not in aggressiveness that we will make things move forward, it is not in hatred of man," she declared, as translated by Google. She was called out for the remarks, with some highlighting her hypocrisy for once posing with a t-shirt emblazoned with the words "We should all be feminists." Subsequently, outlets like Les Inrockuptibles speculated that she sported the slogan tee not out of conviction, but self-promotion.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Naomi Campbell's violent past

Though she has mellowed in recent years, Naomi Campbell once had a bad girl rep. In 2000, she admitted to assaulting her assistant, Georgina Galanis, two years earlier, per BBC. The presiding judge spared Campbell jail time, citing her lack of a criminal record and the fact that the supermodel expressed remorse over her actions. But then seven years later she pleaded guilty to assault after throwing her phone at her housekeeper, though she insisted it was an accident. She was sentenced to community service.

The following year, she was again sentenced to community service — and fined thousands of dollars — for kicking and spitting at British Airways staff after her suitcase was lost. Subsequently, she was banned from flying with the airline. The model claimed that the incident was spurred by an alleged racial slur uttered by airline staff. "I was called a racial name on that flight and that was part of my reaction," she told Sky News (via Today). "... I don't think that's really fair, do you?" (British Airways released a statement denying the allegations). 

In an interview with Oprah, she expressed remorse for her past behavior. She also suggested her anger problem may have been rooted in the feelings she experienced after her mom left her to pursue a career as a ballerina. "It comes from another type of emotional disorder because it's not just, 'I don't get what I want. I throw,'" she explained, dismissing accusations that she's a diva. "It comes from, I think, an abandonment issue."

If you or a loved one has experienced a hate crime, contact the VictimConnect Hotline by phone at 1-855-4-VICTIM or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services to help. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

Lara Stone and the blackface scandal

The fashion industry has a shameful history of racism. For instance, per Time, the late Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld was repeatedly accused of making racist statements — a fact that prompted backlash for the 2023 Met Gala which used him as its theme. Back in 2009, French Vogue inexplicably thought it a good idea to put Dutch model Lara Stone in blackface for a photo spread. The shoot was styled by Carine Roitfeld and shot by Steven Klein and showed Stone with her naturally pale skin in one shot and in full blackface in another. Understandably, the photos caused a major furor.

The Cut argued that Vogue attempted to circumvent its lack of diversity by casting the supposedly curvaceous Stone (she was a size 4 at the time), as opposed to actually hiring models of color. "No black or Asian models made the cut. But they hired Lara — and her curves — in the spirit of inclusiveness, right?" As Essence noted, the issue's theme was supposedly a celebration of supermodels, yet there was no mention whatsoever of Black supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Chanel Iman. Meanwhile, Jezebel argued that the photos were a pernicious continuation of traditional blackface — "Painting white people black for the entertainment of other white people."

Unfortunately, despite the backlash, Vogue didn't learn its lesson. Almost a decade later, Gigi Hadid appeared on the cover of Vogue Italia in apparent blackface. However, unlike Stone, Hadid did apologize for the offensive shoot and claimed that her skin had been darkened with photo-editing software.

Heidi Klum partied with Ghislaine Maxwell and Prince Andrew

Before being exposed as a sex trafficker, Ghislaine Maxwell had many famous pals, having partied with those from the highest echelons of showbiz. Seeing as Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein frequently infiltrated fashionable events, it's inevitable that they'd cross paths with supermodels.

Following sordid details about Maxwell's sexual abuse ring, it was revealed that Heidi Klum hosted a Halloween party in 2000, which was attended by both Maxwell and Prince Andrew, who was later accused of abusing one of Epstein's underage victims. The supermodel was photographed happily posing with Maxwell and Andrew in the so-called "Hookers and Pimps"-themed gathering.

In an interview with Grazia, Klum addressed the photographs of her cozying up to the problematic pair but stopped short of condemning them. In fact, she admitted that she had nothing but fond memories of her time with the disgraced Duke of York. "It was my very first party and I was very excited to meet a prince," she recalled. "To be honest, I had 50 friends there ... I have no idea who invited them or him. Obviously, you get more press when someone like that comes, so I was pleased, but others arranged it. And he was nice as far as I could tell." Asked whether her opinion of the royal had changed in the wake of accusations of sexual abuse, the supermodel remained ambivalent. "It's hard to know what to think," she said. "The story is still unfolding and I'm watching it just like you."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova praised Putin

Natalia Vodianova found fame in the mid-2000s, quickly becoming a multimillionaire supermodel after scoring sponsorship deals with Calvin Klein and L'Oréal. But the Russian model has caused controversy throughout the years due to her apparent support for Vladimir Putin. In a 2014 interview with Vogue, she praised him for hosting the Paralympics and remained dismissive of Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula. "I must say I had great admiration for Putin because he was present at the opening and closing ceremonies," she said. "I hoped that [his] actions [in Crimea] wouldn't steal the moment of this important event."

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, she expressed her sympathies for all those involved, stopping short of condemning the Russian government. "As a mother, my heart goes out to all mothers who are suffering the consequences of recent events in Ukraine and everyone affected by this conflict," she wrote on Instagram. Critics called her out for failing to criticize the government and refusing to take sides. Moreover, she omitted the words "war" and "invasion" from her post, which was perceived as silent support for Putin. She has not commented on the conflict since.

Although she was condemned for her silence, others argued that her actions should not be interpreted as support for the war. Indeed, as we have seen with myriad critics of Putin, it can be fundamentally unsafe for Russians to denounce the president, as doing so can lead to imprisonment, per the Mirror.

Elle Macpherson's odd relationship with an anti-vax quack

Doutzen Kroes isn't the only supermodel who's been spouting anti-vax hot takes. In 2017, it was revealed that Elle Macpherson was dating the highly controversial anti-vax conspiracy theorist Andrew Wakefield. Per The Guardian, Wakefield was stripped of his medical license in his native U.K. in 2010, and is widely regarded as a quack who was exposed for fraud after purporting that the MMR vaccine causes autism. Moreover, he has been accused of ableism for suggesting that autism is something that ought to be prevented or even cured.

Once a highly esteemed supermodel, Macpherson's public image has been tarnished due to her association with Wakefield. Subsequently, she has propagated anti-vax conspiracy theories herself and appeared at the Doctors Who Rock Awards, which honors those associated with pseudoscientific movements. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, she appeared at an event honoring Wakefield and praised her partner for his latest anti-vax movie. "You made this film during [COVID-19], and it's interesting because it's such beautiful, sacred timing when you watch the film," she said, per the Daily Mail. "... It's so pertinent and so relevant ... for it to come in this divine time where vaccination and mandatory vaccination is on everybody's lips." 

She was highly criticized for the remarks. Dr. Tony O'Sullivan, a pediatrician, argued that Macpherson's spread of misinformation would lead to the deaths of millions. "I think people are entering dangerous waters when they have scant knowledge about vaccinations against science and dedicated scientists," he told the Daily Mail.

Did Selita Ebanks break a fellow model's nose?

There have been many model feuds throughout the years, but most of these quarrels involved throwing shade as opposed to actual punches. But in 2012, supermodel Selita Ebanks was accused of inflicting violence upon Telemundo model Liza Irizarry after a fight broke out at a Miami nightclub. 

Irizarry claimed that the model broke her nose after she greeted Ebanks' boyfriend, Terrence J., with a peck on the cheek. "When she saw me, she said, 'Don't be kissing my man,'" Irizarry told Daily News. "I said to myself, 'So what, that's my friend.' That's when she hit me on the nose. I went to swing back — that's when all her friends jumped in." She claimed that Ebanks and her pals began throwing punches and pulling her hair. Thereafter, she alleged, she was hospitalized and required surgery.  Irizarry's attorney claimed that Ebanks utilized her supermodel status as a means of supposedly getting away with the alleged assault.

The YBF published photos of Irizarry's apparent injuries, showing bruises on her arms and minor signs of damage to her nose. Accordingly, she launched a lawsuit against the model. Ebanks' lawyers and management team said that the accusations were fictitious. "Selita Ebanks was not involved in a physical altercation in Miami. This story is false," her management told the YBF. Moreover, the nightclub at which the incident is supposed to have occurred stated that they were unaware of any such altercation taking place. The outcome of the lawsuit remains unknown.