Elle Macpherson ; born 29 March 1964) is an Australian model, actress, and businesswoman, known for her five cover appearances for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in the 1980s and '90s, and once in the 2000s, and as the founder and public face of a series of business ventures including Elle Macpherson Intimates, a lingerie line, and "The Body," a line of skin care products. According to Forbes, she is worth around £60 million.


Early lifeEdit

Macpherson was born in Cronulla, Sydney, the daughter of Peter Gow, a former president of Sydney rugby league club, the Cronulla Sharks.[1] Her mother Frances worked as a nurse before she married. Elle grew up in Killara, a North Shore suburb of Sydney, and attended Killara High School. She is the eldest of four children. Macpherson’s parents divorced when she was 10, and she moved with her mother and two siblings. Her mother remarried, and a mistake registering at a new school meant that her name was changed from her father's, Gow, to her stepfather's, Macpherson.[2]Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag. Before starting college, she visited the United States with the intent of spending her gap year modeling in order to pay for her university education. Macpherson traveled to New York, where she initially signed with Click Model Management. It was to be the beginning of a 25-year stay.

Her career properly began in 1982 with a television commercial for Tab Cola that established her as a "girl next door" figure in Australia. [3]

She subsequently visited Japan, where she worked as a photographic model. During this visit she shot a number of topless adverts for Japanese press, and made her first TV appearance on a Princess Tenko network special.


As part of an attempt to sell the special to the Australian networks, McPherson was hired to add some "aussie glamour". The show began with MacPherson being produced inside a tank of water in a silver bikini, and then vanished in the Ashra levitation. Later in the show MacPherson, dressed in PVC hotpants, a black bikini top, and a leather jacket, played a "biker girl" in a routine where Princess Tenko took on a gang of thugs. After MacPherson had tried to have the magicienne crushed by spikes on the Table of Death, the tables were turned and she was hypnotised and beheaded with a guillotine by the magicienne. The next segment featuring MacPherson was the most controversial - dressed only in silver bikini bottoms, which she appatrently removed once in the box, she was placed into a cardboard box which was then stabbed with swords by Princess Tenko. Because of MacPherson's nudity, this segment was omitted when the special aired in the US, and has rarely been seen since. Finally there was a segment in which MacPherson, wearing her silver bikini again, placed Princess Tenko in the Zig Zag Girl and was then herself placed into World's Largest Card Trick in which she was sliced into four using giant playing cards.

Her nationwide exposure in Japan led to more work there and in Australia and South-East Asia, and growing interest in the US. By 1986, Time Magazine had already put her on the cover (with a feature entitled "The Big Elle"); she had by that time also been featured on the covers of Elle, GQ, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Tatler, and Playboy.

With significant recognition among the press and fashion establishment, Macpherson set about trying to achieve recognition among the public at large. She made a number of appearances at major public events in 1984, including parties connected with the Winter Olympics in Yugoslavia, and the selection of Advance Australia Fair as the national anthem of Australia. She was asked to participate in David Copperfield's 1984 TV special, and filmed a number of sequences for the show. The opening of the show was to show a bikini clad Macpherson posing in front of the Sydney Opera house, before being covered in an Australian flag, and produced in the TV studio from beneath an American flag. A subsequent sequence would show Macpherson being turned into a 2-D image by a "magic camera", and having her clothes changed before being restored. Finally, Macpherson would be put back into her bikini, and sawn in half, before being transported back to Sydney - but only her top half would make it, with her legs apparently left in the studio. Unfortunately the initial rushes were disliked by the network, who instead pushed for singer Bonnie Tyler. Due to the delays which this caused, Copperfield had to settle for a routine levitation trick - leading to his Flying over the Grand Canyon stunt.

Despite some set backs, 1985 saw Macpherson with worldwide name recognition, which she cemented her by frequent appearances in Elle Magazine, where she appeared in every issue for six straight years. During this time she married, when she was 21, Elle Creative Director Gilles Bensimon, but the age difference (20 years) proved too great and they divorced six years later, in 1989.

Eventually she gained even more exposure through Sports Illustrated magazine’s annual swimsuit issue. She appeared on the cover a record five times, in 1986, 1987, 1988, 1994 and 2006. Her popularity had reached such a level that Australian government offered her a post on its tourist commission as an unofficial ambassador.[4]

Business careerEdit

In the 1980s, together with Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, and Cindy Crawford, Macpherson became part of the first generation of supermodels. Among this elite grouping, however, she began to display a singular ability to create and manage her own business properties. In 1994, she shocked the modeling world by parting from her prestigious agency, Ford Models, to work more lucratively for her own company, Elle Macpherson Inc. This company would serve as a financial and organizaional base for her later endeavors.[5]

She soon went on to produce her own highly popular series of calendars, each of which was accompanied by a making of television program in 1992, 1993, 1994. She used this success as a springboard to create the "Your Personal Best -- The Body" series of workout videos.

Macpherson later diversified her portfolio of businesses, and in 1990 launched her eponymous lingerie collection Elle Macpherson Intimates in partnership with Bendon Limited Apparel. Intimates met with remarkable international success, becoming the single best-selling lingerie line in both Great Britain[6] and Australia[7] Breaking the mold of many spokesmodels, Macpherson took an active role in the development and management of the company, serving as Chief Marketing Officer and later Creative Director. While nursing her second child, she spearheaded the development of a signature maternity bra line.[8] Intimates has retained a high brand recognition into the 2000s, appearing as a featured brand on America's Next Top Model.

More recently she created her own label of beauty products: Elle Macpherson - The Body. She has launched or served as spokesmodel for campaigns by Boots[9], Invisible Zinc[10], and Hot Tuna[11].

The BBC series The Money Programme aired a documentary which followed the supermodel turned entrepreneur Macpherson through her day-to-day business as she continued to develop her international lingerie business.

In March of 2008, Elle signed a 3-year spokesperson deal with Revlon. She has since been featured in print and advertising campaigns.[12]

Elle Macpherson is currently signed to G2 Entertainment.

Acting careerEdit

Macpherson made her movie debut playing an artist's model in the 1994 Sirens, which starred Hugh Grant, Sam Neill, Tara Fitzgerald, Kate Fischer and co-starred Portia de Rossi. Macpherson gained 9kg (20lb) to disguise her athletic frame for the period role.[13] After Sirens, Macpherson followed with a 2-year series of acting roles, appearing in films such as Woody Allen’s Alice, Batman and Robin alongside George Clooney, The Edge with Anthony Hopkins, and The Mirror Has Two Faces with Barbara Streisand.

In 1999, Macpherson appeared in five episodes of the United States sitcom Friends as Joey's roommate and girlfriend, Janine Lecroix. Macpherson went on to film Jane Eyre with William Hurt and has also appeared alongside Ben Stiller and Sarah Jessica Parker in If Lucy Fell. Her most controversial acting is the Showtime cable network miniseries A Girl Thing in which she plays a woman experimenting with bisexuality alongside Kate Capshaw.

Extortion attemptEdit

On July 12th and 23rd 1997, William Ryan Holt and Michael Mischler burgled Macpherson's Los Angeles home while she was on business in Chicago. The pair stole an estimated $100,000 worth of jewelery, $6,000 in cash, and nude photographs. The two were arrested on 4 August 1997.[14]

Mischler, 29, admitted one count of attempted extortion and one count of burglary. He received a six year, eight month sentence. Holt, 26, a former Air Force serviceman and a military inmate on parole, admitted one count of extortion and was sentenced to a year in jail.

Humanitarian and philanthropic workEdit

Macpherson is a European Ambassador for RED, an initiative set up by Bono and Bobby Shriver to raise money and awareness for the global fund to help eradicate AIDS for women and children in Africa; she is also an ambassador for UNICEF. [15] In her native Australia, she is an ambassador for the Smile Foundation, which helps the families of children with rare diseases and organizes government research grants.

Personal lifeEdit

Macpherson met Gilles Bensimon in 1982 on a shoot for Elle Magazine. The couple married in 1985 but divorced after 8 years together in 1989.

Macpherson has two sons with her former long-term boyfriend, French financier Arpad Busson: Arpad Flynn Alexander Busson (born 14 February 1998) and Aurelius Cy Andrea Busson (born 4 February 2003), known as Flynn and Cy respectively. The couple started their relationship in 1995 and were engaged in August 2002 but separated in July 2005.

Macpherson currently resides in the United Kingdom, where she raises her children.

Macpherson is a vegetarian. She speaks French fluently, and is conversational in Italian and Spanish.[16]


Year Film
1990 Alice
1994 Sirens
1996 Jane Eyre
If Lucy Fell
The Mirror Has Two Faces
1997 Batman & Robin
The Edge
1998 With Friends Like These...
2001 A Girl Thing
South Kensington

Further readingEdit


  1. timeout magazine "Colourful Sydney Identity #50" - November 19, 2008 edition
  2. Template:Citation
  5. The Daily Mail, Sunday You Magazine, September 15, 2002, p. 28-33:

 “The Elle calendar became a worldwide hit and a new version has been produced twice since, while her 1995 video, Your Personal Best Workout: The Body, was also a bestseller."
  6. The Sunday Times Business, March 23, 2008, p. 17: “Macpherson, supermodel-turned-lingerie queen, has made that her leitmotif. Elle Macpherson Intimates range is the biggest selling brand of fashion lingerie in Britain.”
  7. Tatler, July 2002, vol. 297, num. 7, p. 98-107
: “We’re going through Elle’s underwear. This is what she does. She designs knickers and bras. She’s very good at it, very successful. It makes her more money than modeling, and Elle’s made a lot of money modeling.”
  8. Wall Street Journal Europe, Style Journal, Winter 2006 Edition, p. 36-42: "And so, Macpherson made the transition from spokes model, to designer and chief marketing officer for the growing product line. The company credits her with the ideas for many products, including its successful maternity-bra line, which Macpherson designed while nursing her second child.”
  12. 03/080327-elle-for-revlon.aspx
  13. Elle Macpherson - Biography
  14. The Smoking Gun,
  15. GQ Australia, Winter 2006, p. 90-99: 

“I am working on projects like my ex’s education program [ARK, a charity that funds schools for needy children world-wide], with Bono and the American Express RED project - which is all about poverty and AIDS support - and UNICEF’s breast-feeding program.”
  16. Wall Street Journal Europe Style Journal, Winter 2006 Edition, p. 42

External linksEdit

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