From High Fashion to Big Screen: 12 Models-Turned-Actresses


Last year, the summer’s breakout action hit Mad Max: Fury Road cast no fewer than four former models in the ranks of its core cast: Abbey Lee Kershaw, Riley Keough, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and, of course, the film’s star Charlize Theron. It’s become something of a well-worn cliché in the industry, as has admitted former model Dree Hemingway (“I’m a walking cliché: I’m a model and an actress,” she confessed in an interview with W in 2013), but the transition affords more opportunity to young women than the short lifespan of a runway model. With acting chops and a strong strut to match, these actresses are breaking down the boundaries between runway and red carpet. Here, a look through some of our favorite model-actresses to grace the pages of W.


Abbey Lee Kershaw walked for Valentino and appeared in campaigns for Versace and Calvin Klein. She was just one of the myriad breakout faces of 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, which featured more than a share of model-actresses (including star Charlize Theron).

“Abbey Lee Kershaw’s Inner Wild Child,” photographed by Mark Segal, styled by Sally Lyndley; W magazine April 2015.


More recently, Abbey Lee (she’s dropped her last name for this second phase of her career) stars alongside Elle Fanning in the fashion world-set Neon Demon.

“Abbey Lee on ‘Neon Demon’ and Why Modeling Isn’t ‘Humane,'” photographed by Victoria Stevens, styled by Caroline Grosso; W magazine June 2016.


Riley Keough starred in Dior and Tommy Hilfiger campaigns before she turned to acting. Though she’s no longer the face of Dior, she still shows up front-row at the brand’s shows periodically.

“Riley Keough’s Bold Moves,” photographed by Mark Segal, styled by Sally Lyndley; W magazine March 2015.


Charlize Theron spent a brief stint modeling in Europe and dancing in New York before moving out to Hollywood to make it as an actress.

“Charlize Theron Takes It to the Max,” photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, styled by Edward Enninful; W magazine April 2015.


Brit girl Agyness Deyn was a model-of-the-moment in the late ’00s, but more recently she’s embarked on a big-screen career with credits including the remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher.

“Style Maker,” photographed by Peter Ash Lee, styled by Lindsey Frugier; W magazine May 2014.


Actress Dree Hemingway nabbed campaigns for Gucci and Valentino before her feature-length film debut in Sean Baker’s Starlet.

“On the Verge,” photographed by Platon, styled by Patrick Mackie; W magazine January 2013.


The Walk’s Charlotte Le Bon modeled for eight years in early adulthood. The actress didn’t forego the fashion industry entirely, though; one of her biggest breaks to date was a role in the Yves Saint Laurent biopic, aptly titled Yves Saint Laurent.

“Charlotte Le Bon’s Sunny Future,” photographed by Robert Maxwell, styled by Michelle Cameron; W magazine October 2015.


Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière worked with Outlander and Money Monster star Caitriona Balfe for her Cannes Film Festival wardrobe — the actress, now a screen force to be reckoned with, started out as a runway model for Chanel, Michael Kors, Dior, and Balenciaga, and like many model-actresses, her fashion ties still run deep.

“Caitriona Balfe Talks ‘Money Monster’ at the Cannes Film Festival,” photographed by Victoria Stevens; W magazine May 2016.


Though actress Amber Heard isn’t often remembered for her modeling work, she was a Guess Jeans campaign star before she broke into the big-screen business.

“Look Twice,” photographed by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful; W magazine June/July 2014.


Model, actress, and artist, Rebecca Dayan does a little bit of everything.

“Rebecca Dayan’s Virgin Vault,” photographed by Charlie Rubin; W magazine August 2015.


Japanese actress Rila Fukushima’s first major modeling gig was in 2004 — a Dolce & Gabbana campaign — but now she’s more recognizable as an on-screen force. She appeared in 2013’s Wolverine and recently landed a part in the upcoming adaptation of the beloved anime series Ghost in the Shell.

“It Girl, It Trend,” photographed by Lauren Dukoff, styled by Lindsey Frugier; W magazine June/July 2013.