The Supermodel’s Superhero

Photo: Todd Selby

Five years into his retirement in Rio and Florida, John Casablancas has been lured back to Elite, the agency he launched in the seventies. Amy Zavatto talked to him about his plans to revive it.

The modeling world has lost much of its luster since you retired. What happened?
When I left, we just finished creating the last two supermodels, Gisele Bündchen and Heidi Klum. And here I am five years later, and the two last supermodels are Gisele and Heidi. So I can legitimately say that after me, nothing happened. The business has become extraordinarily dull.

How will you usher in the renaissance of the supermodel?
When I first came to New York—30 years ago—circumstances were so similar to what they are now. The conservative political environment. Actresses in Hollywood’s star system were famous, and models were just models. We started creating the myth behind the looks. That can be done anytime.

Name one model who could be the next Gisele.
Linda Vojtova from the Czech Republic. She’s got the smarts, the face, slightly angular yet harmonious, and a body that can take her straight to a Victoria’s Secret contract.

Did you find yourself scouting for talent in Ipanema?
I’m always looking, and I’m very fortunate: I have a wife who enjoys it. I’m the positive eye—I look at a woman and say, “Isn’t she gorgeous,” and then my wife says, “Big knees, short neck.” She’s the destructor! And I spent an enormous amount of time defending myself against lawsuits.

You mean the class-action suits models filed about price-fixing and enduring secondhand smoke.
It’s a farce. All I see is six, seven, eight models—has-beens who never were—who are part of that class action.

Three of your children are 9 or under. If one wanted to be a model, would you approve?
If I thought they could do well. There’s nothing worse than a mediocre modeling career. I have a son [Julian, of the Strokes] who’s a rock star. And I’ve probably been more against rock than modeling.

What advice would you give the aspiring model?
Be yourself—but a revised version of yourself.

And the aspiring agent?
Never expect anyone to say thank you.

The Supermodel’s Superhero