• Been involved in modeling since 1986; signed her first modeling contract in 1988
• First modeling job was Revlon’s “Most Unforgettable Women in the World” campaign (1986). First magazine cover was the October 1987 issue of Italian fashion magazine Lei
• Current active modeling campaigns include L’Oreal (1998-present), Cavalli Card (2009), Donna Karan Cashmere Mist and Cashmere Resort (2009), Isabel Marant (2009), Maison Michel (2009), Mariella Burani (2009)
• Recent modeling campaigns include Samsonite Black Label (2008), Paris department store (2008-2009)
• Is represented by: Next Model Agencies (Paris, France); IMG Models (New York, USA)
From the time Milla Jovovich was only in her pre-teens, both she and her mother Galina Loginova were convinced Milla’s place was in the entertainment industry spotlight. According to a 1989 Metro interview with Milla, her mother was part of her transformation to an international star from the very beginning:
I’ve grown up in the industry, since my mom was in it. She’s taught me from her ways. Everything she does, I’ve tried to imprint on my own face. It’s something only we have, that we share, a little mother-daughter thing she has passed on to me.
Her modeling career took off in 1986 – two years prior to the release of her first feature film – with the Richard Avedon-photographed Revlon “Most Unforgettable Women in the World”-campaign, in which she appeared alongside Alexa Singer and Sandra Zatezalo. A year later, she was photographed for her first ever cover feature for the October 1987 issue of Italian fashion magazine Lei. Milla recounts how she was discovered in the Fall/Winter 2009 issue of Purple Fashion:
Olivier Zahm: Wasn’t it [renowned photographer Richard] Avedon who discovered you?
Milla Jovovich: No, it was Herb Ritts. Actually, it was the photographer Gene Lemuel. […] He took my first test pictures. He showed them to Herb in LA and the next day Herb hired me for the cover of Lei, the Italian magazine. I was 11. Then Avedon hired me for Mademoiselle. There was a big controversy about that. But it all took off from there — I posed for Scavullo, Peter Lindbergh, and all the guys — all when I was 11, 12 and 13. I never posed nude, but it was still controversial. Christian groups harrassed Avedon, claiming he was shooting child pornography. Mademoiselle didn’t want to put me on its cover, but Avedon said if they didn’t he’d never work for them again. He really supportd me in the beginning, really jump-starting my career.
The 1987 Lei cover spark-plugged Milla’s modeling career. In January 1988, Milla was again featured on the cover of the Italian fashion magazine, followed by small features in magazines such as the French Elle, and cover features in magazines such as Seventeen (June 1988) and The Face (March 1998), until she was again photographed for the cover of Lei in October 1988.
At that point, Milla was only 12 years old — and already in search of a modeling agency. She told Metro 1989, “My mom also thought it would be a good idea to get some modeling composites shot. […] So we sent them to Prima, and I guess Jeffrey liked the pictures. They signed me.”
In 1989, Milla was again picked up for a cover feature and photo spread by the popular teen fashion magazine Seventeen (July 1989), before being featured in a Lolita-themed photo spread opposite actor Harry Dean Stanton in the May 1990 edition of the prestigeous French Vogue, as photographed by Peter Lindbergh. Seventeen picked her up again for another cover and photo spread for their April 1991 issue, and by the end of the year, she had appeared in issues of e.g. Mademoiselle, Sassy, the French Max and Elle US.
However, though having accomplished more than most already in her early teens, Milla’s modeling success did not come to her without a price. Her Revlon advertisement campaign of 1986 sparked a controversy and intense debate among contemporaries as to whether or not she and models her age were too young to be in the industry. Milla, however, stood very firmly behind her decision, and told Metro magazine in 1989:
“Yeah, I’ve heard that [“some would argue that a thirteen year-old should be playing with Barbie dolls, not posing as one”]. I say, if they have children, let them play with Barbie dolls. Don’t criticize me. I love what I’m doing. I don’t like playing with dolls. I don’t agree with them one bit. And I get very angry when I hear that — that my mother is pushing me and stuff. That’s not true. I love the industry, I love the business.”
Though Milla has later spoken against underage modeling, she explains her decision at the time was financially motivated — the Jovovich family was strugging in America, and had to make a living somehow.
Then, suddenly, her modeling career came to a halt. Despite having achieved so much by the early 90′s, in her mid-teens Milla decided to quit modeling. Her decision was career-motivated — in 1997, looking back on her early modeling days, she told Oneworld magazine:
“For me, it [modeling] was such a distraction. I couldn’t play the guitar. I couldn’t write. I didn’t have time to read scripts. I didn’t have time for acting classes. I didn’t have time to nurture myself to be amazing at what I was doing. So I wasn’t doing anything well. I wasn’t concentrating on one thing. […] In this business there is always the new fourteen year old girl, the new fresh face. You just can’t compete.”
However, a few years later, Milla returned to modeling and the runway once more – “There was a lot of personal, financial stuff that made me go back to it”. Though acting remained her first priority, by the time her film career began to take off with Luc Besson’s Sci-Fi cult hit The Fifth Element in 1997, Milla had already been featured on the cover of hundreds of notable fashion magazines, including Vogue, Elle, Glamour and Cosmopolitan, not to mention her impressive resume of advertisement campaigns. As she began garnering more and more attention, in 1998, Milla’s modeling career would reach a new level. In addition to features in magazines such as Buzz (May 1998), W (May 1998) and Photo (March 1998), she signed a modeling contract with the French cosmetics company and beauty mogul L’Oreal, whose spokesmodel she remains to this day. According to Forbes magazine, she was the highest paid supermodel of 2004.
Although Milla continues to prioritize her acting career over modeling, she has by no means remained idle in the fashion industry. In addition to modeling for her fashion label Jovovich-Hawk, Milla has more recently appeared in ad campaigns for Chanel (2007), Mango (2006-2007), GAP Holiday (2008), Paris (2008-2009) and Samsonite Black Label (2008). Her newest advertisement campaigns include Maison Michel, Isabel Marant, Mariella Burani and Donna Karan. She has furthermore appeared in Vogue Italy, China, Russia, France and Germany, Harper’s Bazaar Russia and US and Elle France and Italy — in 2009 alone. She was also photographed nude for the Fall/Winter 2009 issue of Purple Fashion — her first nude editorial in more than 10 years.