The Friday Five: Models on the mic

by Fiorella Valdesolo (Brooklyn)

New York Fashion Week is officially over, but all that nonstop catwalking has left us with models on the brain. And while everyone’s used to seeing celebrities dabble in second careers, there’s something about the way models do it that’s especially fun. Some act, some design—and some try their hand at music. Even though there are a number of aspiring musicians among the current model crop, we’d like to look back at five of our favorite models to ever hit the mic. Turn it up!

1. KAREN ELSON
Some may think that the porcelain-complected fiery redhead didn’t delve into music until marrying White Stripe Jack White, but Elson had already been performing with the New York–based cabaret-style theater troupe, The Citizens Band, since 2004. After a number of cool collaborations with other artists (she covered the Serge Gainsbourg hit “I Love You, Me Either” opposite Cat Power in 2006), Elson eventually released her first solo effort, The Ghost Who Walks, in 2010.

2. VANESSA PARADIS
Way before this moon-faced, gap-toothed beauty was cuddling up to Johnny Depp, she was one of France’s most popular teenage sensations on the stage and the runway (Chanel’s, most famously). Paradis is certainly the most prolific model turned musician: Her first single, “Joe le Taxi” (1987), made her a star at age 14, and she has a total of nine albums under her belt. And there are no signs of her letting up: She went on tour just last year.

3. MILLA JOVOVICH
This singularly beautiful Russian-born catwalker has also managed to achieve major success as an actress, designer and musician. Her only full-length studio album, The Divine Comedy (1994), was critically acclaimed, and rightfully so: Her voice and lyrical style felt like the perfect mash-up of Annie Lennox, Sinead O’Connor and Kate Bush (with a Ukrainian twist).

4. CARLA BRUNI
A regular runway presence in the early ’90s alongside mega-stars like Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista, this Italian-French model always had her sights set on a career beyond the catwalk. Bruni officially retired from modeling in 1997 to pursue music, eventually releasing a debut album, Quelqu’un m’a dit (2003). Since then, she has completed two more albums and, oh right, become the first lady of France.

5. TYRA BANKS
The model turned mogul responsible for teaching the world to “smize” tried her hand at singing in 2004 with the single “Shake Ya Body.” The video features contestants from the second cycle of America’s Next Top Model, as well as a lot of—you guessed it—amazing body shaking.

Honorable mention: JEAN PAUL GAULTIER

True, he doesn’t exactly qualify as a model turned musician, but I couldn’t resist including Monsieur Gaultier in the mix. Besides being a true design great (this is the man responsible for the cone bra, people!), he also dropped one weirdly catchy dance track in 1988 called “How to Do That.” (Its official name in France? “Aow Tou Dou Zat,” hehe).