Elite modeling agency founder John Casablancas, 70, who died Saturday of cancer in Rio de Janeiro, ushered in the era of the supermodels with beautiful, sexy women who dominated the cover of Vogue in the 1980s, earned extravagant fees and became pop-culture celebrities. Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford are a few of the models he made famous.
But Casablancas came to regret the dramatic changes he brought to the modeling business.
“We created our own monsters,” he told the Observer of London in 1994 of the young women he turned into household names. “We took them so high up they started getting attorneys and business managers and acting management companies. We lost control.” His disputes with top models, including Campbell and Gisele Bundchen, who defected to a rival agency, became tabloid fodder.
He left Elite in 2000, the year after a sex scandal involving one of his executives and a young Elite model, but he didn't leave the modeling business. He devoted himself to his newest girl -- a virtual model named Webbie Tookay, created by a company he led called Illusion2K.
Webbie Tookay, he said at the time, could star in Internet campaigns and electronic games. She was "the perfect model," he said, because she would never gain weight and, best of all, "she does not abandon her modeling agency for anything."
As a business, "it never got off the ground," Casablancas' executive assistant Lorraine Caggiano told The Times this week. But for the man who said he got fed up with supermodel egos, it was a fantasy worth having.
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