The Shady Truth About These Famous Models

If a model's official job is to simply pose and sometimes walk down a runway, how can anything bad happen? Some use their celebrity for a good cause, like Karlie Kloss' camp to teach young girls how to code. But other times, shady behavior casts a different light on these celebrities. In fact, the once-most-famous modeling job in the world, that of a Victoria's Secret Angel, hosted its fair share of shady models.

Does being a shady model run in the family? Some supermodels built a reputation of angry attitudes in real life despite their smiling faces for the cameras. And few found themselves in trouble with the law. The failed Fyre Festival particularly hurt the reputation of several models, including Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, Emily Ratajkowski, and Kendall Jenner, who were all "hired to promote the music festival on social media," per Harper's Bazaar. Jenner received a reported $250,000 for one post that was "enough to elevate the buzz about the event." For her role, the model settled a lawsuit for $90,000. Sometimes it doesn't pay to be really, really ridiculously good looking.

Who is your favorite model? What do you consider their best and worst moment? Grab your most fashionable visor because it's time for the shady truth about these famous models.

Bar Refaeli misdeeds caught up with her

Bar Refaeli, one of Israel's most famous celebrities, landed her big cover in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. She even appeared in a bikini on the side of a Boeing 737 in a campaign between Sports Illustrated and Southwest Airlines. Things seemed to be going well between hosting Israel's version of The X Factor and co-hosting the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. And no, Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams didn't sing to her. Then in 2020, news broke of shady business practices by the Refaeli family. The model received "nine months of community service" for tax evasion, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Courts handed Refaeli's mother, Zipi, an even stricter sentence of "16 months in prison."

Reportedly, the case centered "around the celebrity model's worldwide income and the family's attempts to downplay her ties to Israel." During Refaeli's world travels, including a long-term relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio, she didn't claim taxes on her residence in Israel. The court claimed the Hollywood couple "did not qualify as a 'family unit,' and therefore she could not claim his U.S. residence to avoid paying the full taxes she owed." Zipi faced the worst punishment since she acted as Refaeli's agent and didn't properly report her daughter's income. Even more, the mother fraudulently signed documents to further cloud how much income the model accrued.

Tyra Banks' behavior came back to haunt her

Tyra Banks is way more than just a model — she helped paved the way for Black models in 1996 with her appearance on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue (via Newsweek). By that time, she was already acting — her first gig being The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Then in the early 2000s, Banks struck gold. As a co-creator and the host of America's Next Top Model, Banks watched the series achieve massive success. The series aired "in over 150 countries and has spawned more than 40 international spinoffs, in countries from Australia to Cambodia," according to The Atlantic. The show lasted 24 seasons, in part to Banks' tough-love mentality as a coach to the show's models.

Looking back at the series, several publications and fans noted the series did not age well. In part for the host's questionable decisions and mean attitude towards contestants. One criticized moment was when "Banks pretended to be homeless for a day" and "made all the girls do a homeless themed shoot," via Twitter. Another clip showed the host bashing one of the models with a gap in her teeth. "Do you really think you can have a CoverGirl contract with a gap in your mouth? This is all people see," Banks said while pointing to her two front teeth, Today reported. Banks agreed with the criticism and admitted on Twitter, "those were some really off choices."

Naomi Campbell's big career and big attitude

Is a photo shoot as easy as just looking at the camera? British model Naomi Campbell earned a reputation for making life not-so-easy for those around her. Even Tyra Banks, who herself received criticism for being too mean, once admitted she was "very scared" of Campbell (via People). 

According to The Guardian, Campbell "acquired a reputation for being surly, formidable, downright difficult." Other celebrities as famous as Oprah and Barbara Walters criticized the model as being "a petulant diva" and "a bully." For example, Campbell doesn't hold back her opinions about other stars, like when she said Nicki Minaj and Cardi B aren't iconic. And it's not only verbal jabs directed at others. Four times, Campbell has been convicted of assault. One, "for throwing a phone at her assistant, another at her housekeeper, for kicking a police officer and for hitting a paparazzo with her handbag." 

Despite the shady side, there's no denying her modeling skills. As a veteran of over 30 years in the industry, she is still a legend on the runway. In 2019 she closed Saint Laurent's show in Paris, right by the Eiffel Tower, WWD recapped.

Gigi Hadid's tasteless photos led to drama

As the third oldest child in a famous family, Gigi Hadid started modeling earlier than you may think. According to Marie Claire, when she was only two years old, Hadid modeled for Baby Guess. Her status only increased, leading to photoshoots in Sports Illustrated and eventually walking the runway for famous brands like Chanel and Marc Jacobs. But the model also received criticism outside of her modeling career, like in 2017 when she "was accused of racism after a video shared on Instagram Stories showed her pulling her eyes back while holding up a cookie in the shape of Buddha" (via The Independent). Hadid issued an apology but would face even more backlash the following year.

As reported by Time, Hadid's appearance on the cover of Vogue Italia looked suspect. Readers noted that in the photoshoot, Hadid had "a noticeably darker skin tone ... drastically different from what she looked like in real life and other editorials." The press criticized "Hadid and the publication for doing blackface." The model once again apologized for her role in the scandal.

Perhaps motherhood will soften out the shady side of this supermodel? Hadid and her boyfriend, Zayn Malik from One Direction, announced their first child was due in the fall of 2020.

Bella Hadid's actions infuriated others

As the youngest girl in the family, Bella Hadid became a model just like her sister Gigi. And similarly, she worked her way to become one of the most sought-after faces in magazines and on the runway. With all this press, it's natural she's spread her influence. But Bella also associated herself with shady characters. Most famously, the disastrous Fyre Festival. Bella, along with other famous models, promoted the event. But when the music festival failed to happen and received negative press, Bella tried to distance herself from the entire scenario. The model claimed in a since-deleted tweet (via USA Today) that she "trusted this would be an amazing (and) memorable experience for all of us, which is why I agreed to do one promotion."

Not done with controversy, Bella sparked negative comments after posting a photo at the airport in 2019. On her Instagram story, the model appeared in a terminal "with her heeled boot on the window, appearing to kick the tails of planes painted in the colors of the UAE and Saudi Arabian flags," InStyle reported. Some people took offense to the positioning of her foot and claimed the pose "disrespected the Middle East." Bella posted an apology on Twitter and claimed she never noticed the plans in the background. She added, "I would never mean to disrespect these airlines, let alone these amazing countries."

Kendall Jenner picked the worst possible ad to star in

Most people were first introduced to Kendall Jenner as a young girl on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Not to be overshadowed by her superstar siblings, Jenner paved her own path as a supermodel. All the while, she claimed that she preferred a more private life, especially in the dating department. She told Vogue, "I think it's because I'm not like all my other sisters, who are like, 'Here's me and my boyfriend!'" And yet, she's been not-so-secretly linked with several NBA stars like her siblings. Her amorous connections included Ben Simmons and Blake Griffin, plus a rumored fling with Devin Booker, as revealed by Screen Rant.

The supermodel faced her biggest backlash after starring in a cringe-worthy Pepsi ad. "The ad, posted to YouTube on Tuesday [April 2017], shows attractive young people holding milquetoast signs with nonspecific pleas like 'Join the conversation,'" The New York Times recounted. All parties in the ad appeared to be smiling and happy. Then at one point, "a police officer accepts a can of Pepsi from Kendall Jenner, a white woman, setting off raucous approval from the protesters and an appreciative grin from the officer." 

Pepsi pulled the ad, but Jenner didn't publicly comment, instead chose to reveal her reaction to the backlash on an episode of KUWTK. "Obviously, if I knew that this was going to be the outcome, I would have never done something like this," she said while sobbing.

Kate Moss has a controversial life motto

If you could have a quote tied to your name, what would it be? Unfortunately for model Kate Moss, her one-time comment created an immediate backlash and stuck with her name. Her mantra: "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." The quote was first published in a 2009 interview with WWD, and people were quick to call out the apparent advocacy for eating disorders. "My friend used to say it," Moss told Megyn Kelly on Today. "Because you know, we were all living together, and we'd go for the biscuits and go, 'Oh, nothing tastes as g ... ' It's a little jingle," she added.

Moss is also remembered as the face of "heroin chic." According to The Guardian, the phrase refers to the "mid-90s style of fashion photography that was accused of glamorizing super-skinny, strung-out models." And the model lived true to the name. As reported by Vanity Fair, the British press posted photos of Moss using cocaine, leading to "lost contracts from Burberry, Chanel, and H&M reportedly totaling close to $4 million." In her 40s, Moss admitted that those party days were a thing of the past. "'I'm a good girl," she told Kelly. "I take care of myself now."

Cara Delevingne partied a little too hard

Known for her signature smoky eyes, British model Cara Delevingne is in the news for many reasons. For one, her high-profile girlfriends. As openly pansexual, she dated musician Annie Clark (stage name St. Vincent), and then she dated actress Ashley Benson from Pretty Little Liars for years until the couple split in 2020 (via Variety). Don't forget her high-profile friends, such as Taylor Swift and "The Squad," either. 

That being said, Delevingne has also stirred up controversy along the way. Like the one time, she and actress Michelle Rodriguez were the fans you'd hate to have in front of you at a basketball game. As reported by Page Six, the two became rowdy on the sidelines at a 2014 NBA match. Their offenses included making out, awkward selfies, and smoking. Allegedly, "nearby spectators laughed at the sideshow, noting that it was clear to everyone they were 'wrecked.'" And supposedly, security had to step in when the model "kept trying to get on the court to take pictures."

As a fellow Brit, Delevingne also created a few enemies when she made pointed comments about the beloved Spice Girls. According to The Sun, the model explained that she loved the music group, including Geri and Baby, "but who liked Posh Spice?" Referring to the future Victoria Beckham, Delevingne added that people "said I looked like her and I said 'That's not cool, that's really mean!'"

Kate Upton's hypocritical statements

In 2012, Kate Upton "skyrocketed to fame after she appeared on the cover of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue," according to Shape. This turned the young woman into one of the most famous faces in modeling. But with the rapid fame, Upton discovered that not all the attention was positive. As she told Skimm'd from the Couch (via Shape), much of the discussion about her body "was negative, and even the positive stuff was really creepy." Even more, allegedly, "several major news outlets [debated] whether or not Upton was 'fat.'" Though the model faced unfair criticism and body-shaming, Upton herself criticized others. Particularly, Kim Kardashian. 

As recounted by Cosmopolitan, Upton threw shade at the Keeping Up with the Kardashians star. In 2016, Upton posted a Snapchat story of herself "posing with duck lips." In the photo, Upton "included the caption, 'I look like a Kardashian, nose job and all.'" 

The origin of the diss may be in part because Kardashian's husband, Kanye West, dissed Upton years earlier on a Vanity Fair cover while speaking to Power 105's The Breakfast Club. The model posed as Marilyn Monroe in the issue, but West told the radio show (via Cosmopolitan), "Kate Upton ain't Marilyn Monroe. Kim is Marilyn Monroe."

Gisele Bündchen's passionate remarks

Brazilian bombshell Gisele Bündchen used her good looks to jump to the top of the fashion world. In 2016, Forbes reported that she was the highest-paid model in the world with $30.5 million, in part due to "lucrative fragrance and beauty deals with Chanel and Carolina Herrera." And that's not even mentioning her famous husband, football legend Tom Brady. This couple is not only financially powerful but also make up one of the most beautiful pairs in the world. But her signature smile quickly turned around when supporting Brady in the Super Bowl. In 2012, the New England Patriots led by quarterback Brady famously lost to the underdog New York Giants. After the game, reporters caught up with the model as she left the stadium. Bündchen criticized everyone on the team, excluding Brady. "My husband cannot f*****g throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time," she said, according to ABC News.

It's not the first time Bündchen sparked controversy with her comments. While speaking with Harper's Bazaar UK (via HuffPost) in 2010, the starlet said, "I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months." After the backlash came pouring in, the model had to clarify, claiming her remark was just an opinion. And she added, "I understand that everyone has their own experience and opinions and I am not here to judge," (via Harper's Bazaar).

Claudia Schiffer's sketchy early work

In 1987 at a Düsseldorf nightclub, an agent discovered a blonde, German bombshell — Claudia Schiffer. She went on to become one of the most famous models ever. Or, you may just recognize her from Love Actually. To get a sense as to Schiffer's stardom, as Cosmopolitan noted, the model earned a reported 200,000 British pounds for her 60-second cameo in the film. And while the movie is full of saccharine-sweet love tales, Schiffer's controversial past was almost the opposite.

First, in a 1994 Chanel show in Paris, the model shocked audiences. She strutted in a dress that displayed a "verse of the Koran across the chest," per Independent. Members of the Muslim community were insulted, and one claimed the act was "an insult to our religion." If that's not all, a Paris newspaper called the scandal "the Satanic Breasts." Creative director Karl Lagerfeld apologized for the insensitive dress.

Then, Schiffer once again found herself amidst drama alongside Lagerfeld. In a 2008 photoshoot for a Dom Perignon champagne ad, the model appeared in blackface and an afro. Even worse, in other photos, "Schiffer appears as an Asian woman, Marie Antoinette, and a secretary," The Cut reported. And who was behind the camera? Lagerfeld. According to Schiffer's representatives, "The pictures have been taken out of context. The images were designed to reflect different men's fantasies." The rep also claimed the photos "were done very creatively and they are some of Karl Lagerfeld's favorite images of Claudia."

Heidi Klum's TV missteps

Following in the footsteps of Claudia Schiffer — another famous German Model — Heidi Klum rapidly climbed in the modeling world. In her biggest accomplishments, she was the first Victoria's Secret Angel to wear the $12.5 million fantasy bra, and in 1998, she landed her own Sport's Illustrated cover for their annual swimwear issue. She later transitioned into reality TV as a host on Project Runway and as a judge on America's Got Talent. But her time on both series led to a few shady moments.

Some viewers felt the model was mean spirited on Project Runway. For example, Entertainment Weekly noted that she once called a contestant's creation "butt-ugly." The supermodel added that the design looked "like two bad dresses glued together," and a "dirty old rug." Continuing to pile on the insults, Klum felt the creation appeared to be "inspired by your grandmother ... and it shows."

In the judge's seat on America's Got Talent, fans criticized Klum for one particular action in 2020. According to Independent, Amanda LaCount, a 19-year-old contestant, talked about her struggle as a dancer because people claimed her "body type 'didn't fit'" the activity. The young woman pursued her love of dancing and landed on national TV. But after LaCount started her routine, Klum quickly buzzed "no" to the dancer. "Viewers on Twitter expressed their strong disagreement with Klum's decision to buzz LaCount, with some viewing it as an instance of 'bullying' and 'body-shaming,'" according to the article.