These days, it’s no secret that Instagram followers equal dollar signs: Bloggers and influencers can earn anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 per sponsored post, per WWD. However, not everyone with a huge following actually chose that Instagram life: Today a model's social presence can make or break a booking. While the supermodels of the ’90s enjoyed a clear separation between their personal and professional lives, runway veteran Joan Smalls underscores that line has become increasingly blurred. "They had this mystique about them, but it’s a different generation," she told Refinery29 at the launch of Karl Lagerfeld Paris' exclusive capsule for Lord & Taylor. "People now want to know more about you in order to feel connected." The importance of having a solid fan base became clear when Gigi Hadid joined Kendall Jenner this year in the top five on Forbes’ list of highest-earning models. (Smalls also made the cut.) Not to discredit their modeling chops, but their combined Instagram following of 91.6 million surely had something to do with those earnings. Companies looking to sell out their collections rely less on how many eyeballs they reach with billboards and more on how many scroll past on iPhones. Lagerfeld has been championing Hadid and Jenner at both Fendi and Chanel; now he's recruiting two more Insta-stars to feature in his namesake label's campaign: Smalls and rising model Hailey Baldwin. As with Hadid and Jenner before her, Baldwin's social media fame somewhat preceded her modeling career. (The familiar last name didn't hurt, either.) However, Baldwin gives the O.G. supermodels props for their ability to create these personas and followings without social media. “Obviously, they didn’t have [Instagram] back in the day, but there’s a beauty about that, too,” she explained. “That they were able to be who they were just by even word-of-mouth, or just their photos, or newspaper.”
Though this generation of models still needs to take a good photo and have a fierce runway walk to make it to the big leagues, social media has clearly redefined the job description. Putting the "super" in supermodel now seems to require a certain number of followers and, from the models’ perspectives, a little less privacy. “There are definitely a lot more eyes on you because of that,” Baldwin told us. “But I think it’s also beneficial: It’s become a tool for us to be able to showcase our personalities, and to be able to showcase what our lives are aside from our modeling careers.” But social media isn't the only thing that differentiates the '90s models from the new wave, according to Smalls. "It was about a muse: They would fit the collection to the girl, not the other way around," she said. Still, we’ll continue to get personal with the models on their platforms because, as Baldwin notes, the appetite is basically insatiable: “It’s never enough for people these days. They all want more, more, more, more, more.” In our defense, these models' off-duty is so cool — can you really blame us?