Supermodels Make Their Beauty a Million-Dollar Brand

Whoever said models weren't smart?

The top 10 earning supermodels worldwide raked in a total of $112 million last year, up 30% from the year prior, according to These beauties are not only cashing in on their looks, but marketing themselves through various endorsement deals, television spots and clothing lines—renewing the public's interest in luxury items, even in a down economy.

Gisele Bundchen, Heidi Klum, and Kate Moss took the top three spots on the Forbes list this year. Bundchen took the number one spot with $45 million in earnings, nearly twice what she made last year. Forbes reported that Procter & Gamble saw a 40% increase in Latin American sales of Pantene shampoo after signing Brazilian-born Bundchen as its spokesperson.

Heidi Klum came in at number two, with $20 million in earnings, due in part to her success as host of the reality show "Project Runway." She also added a clothing line and children's show to her resume in 2010. Klum ended her 13-year stint as a Victoria's Secret Angel last year, according to Forbes.

Kate Moss earned $13.5 million last year in part due to her designing deal with British retailer TopShop.

Cliff Courtney, executive vice president and Chief Strategy Officer of Zimmerman Advertising, said these three models have built up their brands over time, and the more definitive a brand becomes, the more it is worth.

"What typically doesn't change is people getting paid for their genetics," Courtney said. "It's no different for LeBron James or Giselle Bundchen—people have been touched with this special talent, and they're getting paid for it."

Supermodels also are more likely to have international appeal than actors and athletes. And they may have super powers, according to Courtney they can sell top line products even during an economic hail storm.

"The supermodel phenomenon isn’t a domestic phenomenon," Courtney said. "The more people are down, the more they look to grab onto anything that makes them feel better. It's out of balance with their income, but it’s making them feel better—this one iota of luxury can make them feel like a million dollars."

Established models like Giselle, Heidi and Kate, may not be as young as they used to be, but they bring with them experience and their "brand persona," Courtney said. This persona accounts for the vast difference in pay range between supermodels and those who are just getting started out in the industry.

"The premium today is based on brands," he said. "There are a million beautiful people in the world, so why does Giselle Bundchen rise to the top? She has taken on a brand persona that is worth more than her particular beauty. I can find a pretty girl, but that’s just another pretty face."