Stella Tennant was one of the top supermodels of the 1990s, captivating the fashion world with her aristocratic beauty and androgynous style. Though she reached stratospheric heights in the modeling industry, Tennant came from a privileged background and had an unconventional path to superstardom. Before taking the fashion world by storm, Tennant pursued an education that prepared her for a potential career as a sculptor.
Quick Facts About Stella Tennant
- Born in 1970 into Scottish nobility as the Honorable Stella Tennant
- Granddaughter of Andrew Cavendish, the 11th Duke of Devonshire
- Rose to fame as a model in 1993 after being featured in British Vogue
- Known for her androgynous look and unconventional poses
- Walked runways for Versace, Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein and more
- Retired from modeling in 1998, later returned in 2012 for special shows
- Married French photographer David Lasnet in 1999
- Mother of four children
- Struggled with mental health issues and died by suicide in 2020
From Scottish Aristocrat to Supermodel
Stella Tennant spent her early years on her family’s sprawling estate in the Scottish Borders. As the granddaughter of the aristocratic Duke of Devonshire, she was born into a life of privilege. Her family divided their time between homes in England, Scotland and New York.
Tennant attended the exclusive St Leonards School for Girls in Scotland. She later went on to study at Marlborough College in Wiltshire, England. Even as a teenager, her tall, slim physique and chiselled bone structure caught the attention of modeling scouts. However, Tennant did not initially pursue modeling as a career.
After finishing school, Tennant embarked on an art foundation course at Kingston Polytechnic. She later studied sculpture at the Winchester School of Art. Tennant excelled in her sculpture studies, forging an initial career path as an artist rather than a model.
Her modeling career took off unexpectedly in 1993 when she was scouted for a British Vogue shoot. The photographer spotted the 23-year-old Tennant at a friend’s wedding wearing a long black dress and leather jacket. Her striking looks in those candid photos launched Tennant’s modeling career.
Walking the Runways for Fashion’s Biggest Names
Over the course of the 1990s, Tennant walked the runways for the world’s top designers. She became a muse for Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel. She also modeled for Versace, Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Calvin Klein and more.
Tennant was known for her ability to combine elegance and androgyny. With her nearly six-foot frame, cropped hair and unconventional poses, she broke the stereotypical mold of the curvaceous, feminine supermodel. Tennant also appeared in ad campaigns for Calvin Klein, Chanel, Hermes and other major brands.
Her modeling career skyrocketed Tennant to supermodel status alongside Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington. She graced the covers of French, British and Italian Vogue as well as Harper’s Bazaar, W and Numéro.
Retreat From the Spotlight
In 1998 at the height of her fame, Tennant abruptly retired from modeling to focus on raising her four children. She largely eschewed the spotlight during her break from modeling. Tennant retreated to a more low-key life in the Scottish countryside with her husband.
However, the fashion world still had not gotten enough of Tennant. She returned to modeling in 2012 at age 42 for a one-off Chanel couture show. Tennant’s surprise reappearance on the runway electrified the fashion crowd.
She later made selective returns to the runway for designers like Alexander McQueen and special retrospectives honoring her 1990s heyday. Even in her 40s, Tennant commanded attention with her striking looks, aristocratic poise and enigmatic personality.
An Enduring Legacy in Fashion
Stella Tennant leaves behind an enduring legacy as one of the original supermodels. She straddled the worlds of high fashion and British aristocracy. Her indelible image redefined beauty standards by popularizing androgyny in the 1990s.
Though Tennant stepped back from modeling to focus on motherhood, her influence can still be felt. She inspired a generation of models that came after her. Today’s fashion world continues to celebrate Tennant’s game-changing career and timeless style.
Follow Stella Tennant’s Legacy on Social Media
- Stella Tennant on Instagram – See highlights from her modeling career
- British Vogue on Instagram – Tennant appeared on many iconic Vogue covers
- Calvin Klein on Instagram – Follow the brand’s tributes to Tennant
- Alexander McQueen on Instagram – Tennant walked in McQueen’s provocative shows
- Karl Lagerfeld on Instagram – Look back at Tennant’s Chanel shows
FAQs About Stella Tennant
Who were Stella Tennant’s parents?
Tennant’s parents were The Honourable Tobias William Tennant, son of the 2nd Baron Glenconner, and Lady Emma Cavendish, daughter of the Duke of Devonshire.
How tall was Stella Tennant?
Tennant was 5 feet 11 inches (180 cm) tall, which was unusually tall for a 1990s supermodel.
Where did Stella Tennant live?
Tennant divided her time between homes in Scotland, England, France, and New York throughout her life.
How did Stella Tennant die?
Tennant died by suicide in December 2020 at age 50. She had struggled with mental health issues for several years leading up to her death.
How many Vogue covers was Stella Tennant on?
Tennant appeared on around 20 Vogue covers over the course of her career, including several French, British, and Italian Vogue covers.