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Why do female models make more than male models?

Published On: Oct 11 2013 12:40:05 PM CDT
KRDO NEWSCHANNEL 13

ABC News -

It's a man's world, except in the world of making money as a fashion model. According to a new ranking from Forbes magazine, male models are still making a fraction in annual salary when compared to their female counterparts.

Forbes magazine, which tracks the wealth of celebrities, politicians and other influential figures, this week released its list of the world's highest-paid male models. According to the report, the 10 top-earning male models raked in a combined total of $8 million from September 2012 to September 2013 -- about one-tenth of the $83 million the 10 top-earning female models earned during that time.

At the top of this year's list was Sean O'Pry, a 24-year-old from Kennesaw, Ga., and the face of several major campaigns, including Versace, H&M, Hugo Boss and Giorgio Armani. O'Pry made an estimated $1.5 million, which is a pittance compared to the $42 million that Gisele Bundchen, the world's top-earning female model, made in that 12-month period, according to Forbes.

When "Nightline" spoke with O'Pry today, he didn't seem to mind making less than the Brazilian bombshell.

"I'm not going to be complaining about not making $42 million. ... At the end of the day I'm very, very blessed with what I do," O'Pry said. "I don't have to wear high heels and I don't have to wear bikinis, so I mean, more power to the ladies. I'm very happy with my career."

Coming in second on the Forbes list was 33-year-old British native David Gandy, a favorite face for Dolce & Gabbana and Lucky Jeans. He raked in an estimated $1.4 million in earnings in the past year, whereas his No. 2 female counterpart, the Australian beauty Miranda Kerr, made an estimated $7.2 million.

So why do female fashion models at the top of the industry make more than the guys?

Larry D. Woodard, president and CEO of Graham Stanley Advertising and advertising columnist for ABC News, said the reasons are similar to why men's sports is a much larger industry than women's sports.

"People love the WNBA but they are just not in it as much as the average guy in the fantasy football league," Woodard said. "In fashion, women are really involved in a way that men aren't involved. ... [They] pay more attention to it. ... Women even care about couture fashion even if they can't buy it, but they want to look at it and understand it."

The men's clothing industry rakes in roughly $400 billion worldwide, but the women's clothing industry worldwide is worth about $621 billion. Female models at the top of the fashion industry have multi-million dollar contracts whereas the men largely are hired for photo shoots, Woodard said.

"Women are at the top-tier professional level when it comes to doing fashion," he said. "It's the only place where women outpace men to the degree that they do."

So the reason Gisele is a household name, but not Sean O'Pry, Woodard said, is because of sheer star power within the industry where women reign.

Again, like in sports, "there are some fabulous golfers out there but the TV ratings go up when Tiger Woods plays," Woodard said. "So when [Tiger Woods] is playing, it doesn't take away from other people's skills ... just their notoriety."

For male models, attaining supermodel status has been challenging for years, something David Gandy also knows first hand.

"It's an accolade to be a female supermodel or to be a female model," Gandy told "Nightline" in a May interview. "They get paid an incredible amount of money, and they get a lot of coverage and people know their names and guys never did that. They did well but they never said they were models."

Gandy, half jokingly, credited actor Ben Stiller's title character in the movie "Zoolander" for putting a hilarious spin on the male model. In the movie, Stiller plays Derek Zoolander, a dim-witted, vain, self-centered male model in a comedy that zeroed in on every cliche and stereotype of the male modeling world.

Gandy said modeling was difficult for him at first. He started off doing catalog shoots at a time when even male models were expected to be ultra-thin and look almost feminine.

"I came into the industry with the Dior guy -- very androgynous, skinny guys were the moneymakers in the industry," he told "Nightline." "I didn't follow the crowd. I didn't follow the trends. I bucked the trends. Everyone was saying, 'You need to be skinny, you need to be skinny.' Your legs need to be thinner, and I am not a skinny guy."

Gandy is arguably one of the most successful male models ever, but he was a bit modest about that "supermodel" title.

"I would sort of just rather be called at the top of the game," Gandy said.

ABC News' Ely Brown contributed to this report

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