"The Body" and the Brains Behind Elle Macpherson
Written by Emily Butcher, WDM Staff Writer
She may be known as “The Body,” but Elle Macpherson has something most of her supermodel girlfriends are lacking: the brains to boot.
Fiercely business savvy, Macpherson’s successful modelling career has been supplemented by lucrative ventures into lingerie, skin care products, work out videos, and forays onto the big screen and small screen, including a newly debuted NBC show. Forbes recently estimated the entrepreneur’s worth at US$60 million.
Though Macpherson’s nickname was crowned after she first graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1986 – totalling five smoking hot SI covers in a span of 20 years – her initial interest in modelling was spurred by studious motivation. As a young law student at Sydney University, Macpherson decided to use her good looks to fund her pricey textbooks and headed to the place where all the attractive young things go for a shot in the glossies: New York City.
The one year detour blossomed into a contract with a modelling agency and Macpherson quickly began sculpting her wholesome bombshell/girl-next-door image with an attention-grabbing Tab diet soda commercial. Exploding to become a household name soon after, Australia is proud to call the icon one of their own native Aussie beauties, offering Macpherson the position of unofficial ambassador with the tourist commission.
After decades of celebrated centrefolds, Macpherson began exploring alternate business venues, from playing Joey’s girlfriend on Friends to launching Elle Macpherson Intimates, the top selling lingerie line in Great Britain and Australia.
Already acting as the host and executive producer for the Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model spin-off, the 48-year-old’s latest move has seen her adopt the role of host and celebrity judge on NBC’s new series Fashion Star. The show, which debuted on 13 March and has now been picked up by networks in Canada, Australia, Korea, Latin America and the Middle East, will give “14 unknown designers the chance to win a multi-million dollar prize to launch their collections in three of America's largest retailers: Macy's, H&M and Saks Fifth Avenue.”
While Project Runway wannabes are nothing new, the show’s slogan, “Watch it today. Wear it tomorrow” promises to shake things up by catering to the everyday shopper, making newly designed pieces available to the public the very next day.
"The clothes are jeans and t-shirts and leather jackets," said Macpherson, promoting the show during a press conference in the French Riviera. "We're not talking ball dresses to wear to Cannes, we're talking stuff that people wear every day."
Whether or not the show will be a success has not to be determined, but Macpherson’s mass appeal, easy smile and ageless curves can’t hurt show ratings. And for all the model-turned-successful-business-entrepreneurs out there, the message sings loud and clear: it takes more than just a pretty face to make it in the cutthroat industry that we call fashion.
Business Chief Legend: Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek
Ask Singaporeans who Ho Ching is, and the majority will answer the ‘wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’. And that’s certainly true. However, she’s also the CEO of Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, and one of the world’s largest investment companies.
Well, she is until October 1, 2021, as she recently announced she would be retiring following 16 years as CEO of the investment giant.
Since taking the reins in 2004, two years after joining Temasek as Executive Director, Ho has gradually transformed what was an investment firm wholly owned by Singapore’s Government into an active investor worldwide, splashing out on sectors like life sciences and tech, expanding its physical footprint with 11 offices worldwide (from London to Mumbai to San Francisco) and delivering growth of US$120 billion between 2010-2020.
Described by Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng as having taken “bold steps to open new pathways in finding the character of the organisations”, Ho is credited with building Temasek’s international portfolio, with China recently surpassing Singapore for the first time.
As global a footprint as Ho may have however, she has her feet firmly planted on Singapore soil and is committed to this tiny city-state where she was not only educated (excluding a year at Stanford) but has remained throughout her long and illustrious career – first as an engineer at the Ministry of Defence in 1976, where she met her husband, and most notably as CEO of Singapore Technologies, where she spent a decade, and where she is credited with repositioning and growing the group into the largest listed defence engineering company in Asia.
It’s little wonder Ho has featured on Forbes’ annual World’s Most Powerful Women list for the past 16 years, in 2007 as the third most powerful woman in business outside the US, and in 2020 at #30 worldwide.
But it’s not all business. Ho has a strong track record in Singapore public service, serving as chairman of the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research and as deputy chairman of the Economic Development Board; and is a committed philanthropist with a focus on learning difficulties and healthcare.
As the pandemic kicked off, she not only led active investments in technology and life sciences, with German COVID-19 vaccine developer BioNTech among the most recent additions to Temasek’s portfolio, but through the Temasek Foundation – the firm’s philanthropic arm which supports vulnerable groups close to Ho’s heart, handed out hand sanitiser and face masks.
So, you would be forgiven for thinking that at age 68, Ho might simply relax. But in March 2021, just as she announced her retirement from Temasek, Ho joined the Board of Directors of Wellcome Leap, a US-based non-profit organisation that’s dedicated to accelerating innovations in global health. Not ready to put her firmly grounded feet up yet it seems.