TODAY   |  April 20, 2012

Kim Alexis: Retouching ‘puts pressure’ on women

Kim Alexis, Kelly Emberg, and Elena Davis, among the first women to be called “supermodels” in the ‘80s, chat with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie about how the modeling industry has changed since their careers began and those crazy ‘80s fashions.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now at 8:10 with a group of women worshipped by men and admired by other women. we're talking about the iconic supermodels of the '80s. we're going to talk to three of them in a moment. but first nbc's janet shamlian has a look back. janet, good morning to you.

>> savannah, good morning. the term supermodel was born in the 1980s . these beautiful women took the industry by storm and they became instantly recognizable. beautiful and iconic. from glossy magazine covers to high fashion runways, these familiar faces of the '80s were quite simply the original supermodels. they defined an era. many were known by one name, and one name only. brooke, cheryl, christy, carol, kelly .

>> beauty times 100. everything is amplified about these girls. they were tall. they were voluptuous. they were larger than life .

>> reporter: in the age before gloss their pictures were slashed across magazines. sports illustrated launched many a career with the groundbreaking swimsuit issue. but it evolved that's famous faces became brand names and ended up selling more than clothes. supermodels like kathy ireland leveraged their brand. and of course, there were the commercials. and music videos . with each camera click, their popularity grew. rivalling even some of the biggest names in hollywood.

>> people wanted to know everything about them. who they were dating. where they came from.

>> reporter: all the attention delivered big paychecks and sometimes even bigger egos. who could forget linda evangelista 's infamous quote, we don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day. it all paved the way for the cover models of today, just l, barbara, miranda kerr , and brooklyn decker . a new generation on a runway of fame made possible by the supermodels of the '80s. so where are these famous faces now? it may not be the cover of vogue but most are still in the spotlight whether it be running their own business, on television, and many are involved in charitable causes.

>> three of those supermodels of the '80s are with us now. we've got alana davis , kelly enberg and kim alexis . good morning to all of you.

>> good morning.

>> needless to say you are still beautiful. let's take a look back. i mean when we hear that term supermodel, i wonder, do we even have supermodels anymore? is that an extinct term? what do you think, kelly ?

>> well, i think there are more actresses that are doing the fashion, the beauty ads and stuff like that. you see them on the covers of all the magazines now. so i don't know. i mean, there's not that many models now. i mean, there's a few. but you know, in our day we were on all the covers.

>> i think to be a supermodel you first had to be a model. and i think people are jumping and missing that stage. so you had to be a model and you had to be multifaceted. and there's not a lot of ways for a model to be multifaceted because the actresses took the covers.

>> right. and i think, though, the difference between the people who -- the girls who have achieved that supermodel status now have branded themselves. and i think that's something very different that wasn't done in the '80s. like now they're actual brands and they have businesses and enterprises and that's different.

>> what was it like back then, we loved the report from linda evangelista , we don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day. was it really like that?

>> well, we dnt didn't say that.

>> not for us.

>> way worked really hard, too. we did covers and cover girl or whatever, but we also did all kinds of catalogs.

>> and lest people think it's just about your beauty, which you obviously have in abundance, what makes a good model?

>> i think somebody who is really good at business administration . i mean, you know, you can't -- you're beautiful, it's a product though. you have to be able to follow up on your agents, and be on time for jobs, and you know, establish yourself as a reputation of being, you know, on time professional, and you know, like any other business.

>> a lot has changed in this business. kelly one thing you said, really interested me. you said there's so much retouching now that that ideal of beauty is even more unattainable.

>> absolutely. i think with digital cameras and stuff. we just got hand retouched the covers and they didn't really retouch the editorial. today i think they retouch everything.

>> and that puts pressure on you more?

>> that puts pressure on women in general who watch us who think that we're perfect and they're not and they're never going to be that way. we don't want people to feel that way. rereally, you know, the body image and worrying about being perfect. nobody's perfect. we don't feel we're perfect.

>> you're all in your 40s and 50s now.

>> grandmother.

>> and you're a grandmother. you make it look so good. what are your secrets to staying so healthy and so fit and looking so good?

>> for me, i think it's really just having a very full life. you know, i work, i have a foundation that delivers bottled water to the american homeless. i am waters foundation. and i have a family. and it's full and it's balanced, and you know, and then of course, exercise and not too many cookies.

>> you all have kids, too. would you want your kids to go into this industry?

>> i have a son who is looking into it now, bobby. he's 22. and i had my older son when he was 19, he went down to miami and tried and said it's not for me.

>> my daughter ruby did a little modeling. she's a singer.

>> looking back what do we think now about the '80s fashions?

>> oh, the shoulder pads --

>> they're going to come back in then, you know.

>> i like it.

>> those shoulder pads --

>> big linebackers.

>> we were all in it together. thank you so much. good to see you.

>> thank you.