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What makes a model no longer just a model but a supermodel? What needs to happen for us to call them super?

By: Hillary, Clearwater, Florida

A.B. Replies: Well, there's a general acid test. Call up any random, lumpy-faced salt-of-the-earth type living anywhere between California and New York. The preferred candidates will be men living in lean-tos or shacks, people who whittle, people who whittle in a shed, people who live near "cricks," men who do not yell but holler and people who use exclamations like Ajax!

Once you have cornered such a person on the telly phone, ask if he has heard of Cindy Crawford. The answer will be yes. Now try quizzing him on Daria Werbowy, Natalia Vodianova or Karolina Kurkova. The hayseed will inform you that, no, he hasn't heard of those people because he ain't no pinko commie bastard who hates freedom. And he simply will hang up.

He will hang up because none of those other girls are supermodels.

A supermodel is only a supermodel if she is a household name in Jebediah's Britches, Idaho. A mere model--even a girl who works constantly, like Werbowy or Vodianova--will never be super until that status comes.

Regular models can work just as often as supermodels--but only a mannequin with a larger-than-life persona and an obsessive media following can be called super. Just take a look at W, a magazine so obnoxious you cannot help but stare at it. W seems to use the same girl over and over again in its editorial shoots: a doll-faced Australian kid named Gemma Ward.

If you're a fashion fan, there is no escaping that Tweety Bird-faced girl with the zombie stare and the bazillion-dollar lips. But still, Gemma Ward is not a supermodel; she has pulled none of the media-friendly stunts necessary to achieve that title. Otherwise, Clovis down at the Feed 'N' Seed would know who she is.

Nowadays, we have very few supermodels--girls with personalities as big as their paychecks. Except for the occasional magazine shoot, the supermodels seem to have disappeared--made themselves extinct. Kind of like dimetrodons, if dimetrodons had flamingo legs, chicken arms and tiny little necks you could snap in half just by thinking about them.

"The idea of a supermodel or a top this or that...no one [in the fashion industry] is really into that anymore," says Susan Cernek, associate fashion news editor for Elle magazine.

The high era of the supermodel was in the late '80s and early '90s, when fashion people were obsessed with high drama, high shoulder pads and sin. There was Linda Evangelista, who chopped off all of her hair, became a magazine cover girl almost instantly and then infamously crowed that she "didn't get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day."

There was Stephanie Seymour and her nasty, headline-grabbing feud with her former boyfriend, Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose. And there was dear Naomi Campbell, the terrifying amazon who threw things.

Now, fashion editors tell this B!tch, the idea of a supermodel has disappeared along with the decadent era that brought them to infamy.

"The era of the supermodel was a period of super glamour: big hair, amazing physiques and big smiles," Elle's Cernek tells this B!tch. "It was really a period of debauchery and excess. Now all that would seem superfluous."