Iconic '80s Scandi model Brigitte Nielsen talks returning to the runway

By Christian Allaire

Photo: @realbrigittenielsen

“At 60-years-old, honey, I had to get used to the seven-inch platforms for a second,” the Danish model said

Yesterday in Los Angeles, Balenciaga’s pre-fall 2024 show was staged on Windsor Boulevard, with the Hollywood sign serving as the runway’s backdrop. It was a fitting show location, given Demna’s new collection paid tribute to L.A. culture and street fashion (naturally, Y2K-style velour tracksuits and shopping bags from status grocery store Erewhon made an appearance). The casting of the show, meanwhile, was just as much of a thrill as the scenery: Walking in the show were stars such as rapper Cardi B and legendary ’80s model and actor Brigitte Nielsen, who marked her major return to the catwalk. “I’m starting over again,” Nielsen told Vogue. “I’m 60, and starting modelling again – who would have thought?”


Of course, the Danish model is no stranger to navigating the high-fashion world. Back in the ’80s, Nielsen rose to fame when she began modelling for iconic fashion photographers such as Greg Gorman and Helmut Newton. “Helmut asked so much of you – you were not just a hanger,” reminisces Nielsen. “He really made you a part of the story that he had in mind when he was shooting his pictures.” Nielsen also walked the runway for designers such as Thierry Mugler, including his now-famous 1992 retrospective show in which Nielsen walked the runway in crutches. “Thierry Mugler was one of the best,” says Nielsen. “I had been filming [a movie] and had an accident on set where my foot got twisted, so I had to have a brace on. Thierry was like, ‘No problem, it looks fabulous with the crutches.’ We spray painted the crutches and out I went, feeling like a million dollars. That’s what great artists do—you make a moment out of a moment.”

Walking for Balenciaga this weekend, Nielsen admits she did have to do some preparations to get back into modelling mode. As a fan of the label and its comfort-minded clothes, Nielsen was drawn to working with Balenciaga to make that comeback happen. “It was very, very exciting. Demna has a great outlook – his young street fashion is fabulous,” says Nielsen. “He wants people to feel special being normal and comfortable. Even though the simplicity is there, you feel striking.” Her runway look – a tight black turtleneck with black jeans – was “very Brigitte Nielsen,” she says. “I like anything stretchy and body-clinging. I want to always feel like I’m being hugged.” The ensemble was punctuated with a pair of sky-high, over-the-knee boots. “I will say: At 60-years-old, honey, I had to get used to the seven-inch platforms for a second,” says Nielsen. “Helmut Newton always said you can never be tall enough. Plus, there’s nothing better than having people look up at you.”

I wanted to walk with an attitude of confidence. That's basically my middle name. Life is [all about] taking a walk with confidence and courage.

Brigitte Nielsen

Given walking in a fashion show means that all eyes are on you, Nielsen also adds that she treated the runway cameo as a sort of performance art. Together with Demna, she landed on a walk that was deliberately powerful and strong. “I wanted to walk with an attitude of confidence,” says Nielsen. “That's basically my middle name. Life is [all about] taking a walk with confidence and courage.” During the show, the model also felt empowered to see such a diverse cast walking alongside her. “In the '80s, [models] had to be young and slim,” says Nielsen. “Today you can be a woman be in your sixties, and still be doing the runway. The diversity of ages and sizes is so wonderful [to see] – I really think this is the new us.”

You can expect Nielsen to make some more modelling appearances soon, too. “It’s a new chapter my life,” she says, “and I’m embracing it!”