Credit: John Shearer/WireImage.comGiven that some of the most beautiful actresses in the world hail from Canada -- including Elisha Cuthbert, Rachel McAdams and Pamela Anderson -- it stands to reason that the Great White North would also be a breeding ground for inordinately gorgeous models. Starting with Linda Evangelista -- one of the very first so-called “supermodels” -- and progressing all the way to current flavor-of-the-month Jessica Stam, Canada has spawned a host of illustrious and thoroughly unforgettable models that have made an indelible impact on the industry.
Compiling a list of just 10 such figures isn’t easy; there are literally dozens of women to choose from, all of whom have managed to contribute significantly to an exceedingly fickle industry. But we think we’ve come up with a group of ladies that, for better or worse, have become emblematic of Canada’s reputation for cranking out ridiculously good-looking models.
Irina LazareanuSaint-Hubert, Quebec
Born in Romania and raised in Quebec, Irina Lazareanu's sheltered existence was shattered when she was sent to London as a teenager to study ballet at the Royal Academy of Arts. It was there that Irina encountered a young musician named Pete Doherty, and -- after joining his band, Babyshambles, as a drummer -- she became close with his girlfriend Kate Moss. Kate encouraged Irina to give modeling a try, and it wasn’t long before she was popping up in campaigns for designers like Chanel, Versace and Anna Sui. Her modeling career has been exceedingly busy ever since, and although she’s currently recording an album of folk songs, Irina doesn’t look to be giving up the fashion business any time soon (Kate recently named Irina as the face of her new Topshop clothing collection).
Andi MuiseNorth Bay, Ontario
Though she enjoyed a typical Canadian childhood up to the age of 14, Andi Muise suddenly found herself living out every young girl’s dream after she was discovered shopping at a local mall. Andi quickly began popping up in a variety of local ad campaigns, and it wasn’t long before her burgeoning career necessitated a move to New York City. There, Andi started booking gigs for major brands like FCUK, Urban Outfitters and Emporio Armani, and made a name for herself with a pivotal appearance at Victoria’s Secret’s 10th Annual fashion show. In 2006, Andi returned north of the border to participate in her first Canadian spread ever (for Fashion Magazine) and even allowedFashion Television to document her daily routine for a special episode. More recently, Andi walked 11 shows in New York during the spring ’07 season and appeared on the final show of Project Runway’s second series.
Tasha TilbergChilliwack, British Columbia
Raised in a small town just outside of Vancouver, Tasha Tilberg’s normal, down-home childhood came to an abrupt end once she hit puberty. It was then that Tasha -- along with her friends and family -- came to the realization that she possessed the kind of beauty that society idealizes, and it consequently seemed like a good idea to give modeling an honest try. Tasha quickly landed a contract with the prestigious NEXT Model Management firm -- home to such superstars as Milla Jovovich and Petra Nemcova -- and it wasn’t long before the would-be model was booking gigs for companies like Versace, Bloomingdale’s and Fendi. Although Tasha’s career encountered a small bump a few years ago after she sued NEXT for mishandling her income, she has certainly bounced back with a vengeance by signing with IMG (which also handles Heidi Klum and Gisele Bundchen). And while Tasha’s work generally keeps her in the United States, she has remained close to her Canadian roots and sporadically pops up in homegrown magazines and advertisements
Daria WerbowyMississauga, Ontario
Born in Poland and raised in Mississauga, Daria Werbowy was known as a tomboy during her adolescence -- though that changed once she hit puberty and began to transform into the striking beauty she is today. Daria got her start after a friend’s mother suggested she give modeling a try, and following a first place win at a national beauty contest, it wasn’t long before various agencies were competing to sign her. She eventually settled with Elite Models, and Daria soon found herself posing for such prestigious clients as Prada, Versace and Gucci (she has also appeared on the cover of over 60 fashion magazines). Daria’s profile increased exponentially following a recent multi-year deal to become the face of Lancome’s Hypnose fragrance, and she reportedly now charges upward of $20,000 for a single appearance on the catwalk. Her long-term plans include retirement from the modeling world at the age of 25 (which she’ll hit in 2008), and possibly opening a gallery in her hometown of Mississauga.
Jessica StamKincardine, Ontario
Hailing from a small coastal town north of Toronto, Jessica Stam’s childhood was shaped primarily by her religious family and their frequent visits to their local church. It was a fortuitous encounter with a respected agent (at a Tim Horton’s, no less) that Jessica first became aware of her potential, and -- with the support of her parents -- she subsequently moved to New York to give modeling a real shot. Jessica’s early days in the city were uneventful and difficult, but that all changed after famed photographer Steven Meisel spotted her one fateful afternoon. Steven, who had previously turned fellow Canuck Linda Evangelista into a star, took Jessica under his wing and began to place his ingénue in campaigns for such high-profile clients as Versace and Prada. Jessica has, in the years since, managed to one-up herself in terms of achievements; in 2002, she won the Los Angeles Model Look Search; she made her film debut in 2004 with a starring role in Agent Orange, a short by Tony Scott; and Jessica walked an astonishing 64 shows during the 2006 Ready-to-Wear spring season.
Heather MarksCalgary, Alberta
Given the decidedly unglamorous nature of Heather Marks’ early years, it’s virtually impossible not to be impressed by the astonishing level of fame she’s achieved in a relatively short amount of time. “When I was younger,” she says, “modeling was something I never wanted to do. I was more of a tomboy and not into the fashion world at all.” Heather’s career kicked off when she was just 12 years old, following a victory at Calgary-based Mode Models’ Model Search contest, and she’s been working steadily ever since. Heather has appeared in advertisements and shows for companies like Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana. In 2006, she walked alongside such notable names asGisele Bundchen and Adriana Lima during the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. And although she’s now based out of New York City, Heather makes it a point to visit Calgary whenever her exceedingly busy schedule allows it. “I love coming home and seeing my friends,” she says.
Stacey McKenzieToronto, Ontario
Though born in Kingston, Jamaica, Stacey McKenzie’s formative years were spent primarily in Toronto, Ontario. By the time she was a teenager, Stacey made the decision to give modeling a try -- though it became increasingly clear that nobody in the Toronto market was terribly interested in her distinctive looks. She subsequently moved to New York City, where she eventually landed a spot at the prestigious Elite Modeling Agency (home to world-renowned personalities like Tyra Banks, Frederique Van Der Wal and Josie Maran). Stacey’s inexperience quickly transformed her first few weeks in New York into an interminable ordeal, and she moved back to Toronto to finish up her education. In the years since, Stacey has walked runway shows in London, Paris and Italy, and has worked for such prestigious designers as Tommy Hilfiger and Todd Oldham. Recently, Stacey returned to her hometown to act as one of the judges on the first season of Canada’s Next Top Model.
Shalom HarlowOshawa, Ontario
Born and raised in a suburban bohemian environment, Shalom Harlow’s childhood was a far cry from the glitz and glamour that she currently enjoys on a day-to-day basis. The daughter of hippie parents, Shalom harbored dreams of becoming an astronaut and certainly never paid much attention to the world of fashion (she would often wear clothes her mother knitted for her). Shalom’s path to modeling superstardom was forged when she was just 16 years old, after a scout spotted her at a Cure concert in downtown Toronto. She subsequently traveled to Montreal and appeared in a photo shoot for Elle’s Quebec edition. It wasn’t long before Shalom was booking gigs for such well-known icons of fashion as Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs. Shalom has also stepped outside of the modeling world from time to time, most notably as the cohost of MTV’s House of Style, and as an actor in films such as 2001’s Head Over Heels and 2003’s How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
Rachel RobertsVancouver, British Columbia
Rachel Roberts’ stunning looks have been in place virtually since puberty, and it’s consequently no surprise that she chose to pursue a career within the modeling world. She worked her way up the ranks slowly but surely, and by 1998, Rachel could be spotted within the pages of such magazines as Elle, Glamour and Vogue. Rachel made a name for herself shortly after by agreeing to take on the role of official model for skin-care line Biotherm, and she also appeared in ads for increasingly high-profile labels such as Victoria’s Secret, Banana Republic and Ralph Lauren. 2002 proved to be Rachel’s most lucrative year to date, as she found herself acting opposite no less than Al Pacino in a sci-fi comedy called S1m0ne. Rachel’s onset affair with director Andrew Niccol eventually blossomed into a full-blown romance, and the two -- who were married that same year -- have since started a family of their own.
Linda EvangelistaSt. Catharines, Ontario
Given that Linda Evangelista belongs to that core group of women for whom the term “supermodel” was coined -- alongside Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell -- it’s not terribly difficult to justify her place on this list. Linda kicked off her career at the tender age of 12, and by the time she was in her late teens, she had established herself as one of the most sought-after models in the fashion industry. Linda’s status as a trendsetter was cemented in the late ‘80s, after she famously chopped off her luscious locks and women the world over subsequently began wearing their hair short. And in 2003, Linda -- due in no small part to her ongoing commitment to AIDS research -- was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame. There’s little doubt that she remains one of the most prominent and flat-out legendary fashion figures to emerge from the Great White North.
strike a poseWe defy any Canadian not to feel proud after perusing this list; each of the women profiled has not only managed to put their own unique stamp on an increasingly homogenous industry, but they’ve also been able to keep their individual identities strong. None of the aforementioned ladies lives up to the bubble-headed stereotype that one associate with most models, as all of them have refused to be defined by their work within the fashion business. Oh Canada, indeed