Elle Macpherson was born Eleanor Nancy Gow in Cronulla, New South Wales, the daughter of Peter Gow a former club president of Sydney rugby league club the Cronulla Sharks, but grew up in Killara, a suburb of Sydney and attended Killara High School. She is the eldest of four children; the Australian celebrity Mimi Macpherson is her sister. Her parents divorced when she was fourteen, and her mother later married Neil MacPherson. MacPherson then changed her last name to her stepfather's. She studied law for one year at the University of Sydney.
While on holiday in Tasmania, Macpherson was discovered by Francis Grill and signed to Click Model Management. Macpherson became an international star through her appearance in Elle magazine. She appeared in every issue for six straight years. During this time she married (at age 21) Elle creative manager Gilles Bensimon. Eventually she gained even more exposure through Sports Illustrated magazine's annual swimsuit issue. She appeared on the cover a record five times, (1986, 1987, 1988, 1994 and 2006). Rising in popularity, her exceptional body measurements (36-25-35) were the reasons for her nickname "The Body"-a tag that was to become her brand. She also released a series of successful calendars and modeled for lingerie giant Victoria's Secret.
On 26 April 1999, the post office of Antigua and Barbuda issued a sheetlet of eight different $1.20 postage stamps with images of Elle Macpherson - the first time that any post office had issued stamps to honour a Super Model.
After she was signed to Click Model Management, Elle Macpherson appeared for the first time in australian TV ads. She soon gained popularity, but what definitely launched her career is her covers of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. During her modeling career, "The Body", as her nickname tells, became one of the most famous and successful supermodels of all time. She modeled for lingerie giant Victoria's Secret, graced covers for Time Magazine, magazine, magaine, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and Playboy magazine just to name a few. She walked runways for infamous designers such as: Versace, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Prada and many others. She was one of the four owners of the Fashion Cafй, along with fellow '90s supermodels Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer.
In 2008, Macpherson has signed up as a global brand spokesperson for cosmetics manufacturer Revlon and will feature in print and TV advertising campaigns.
Macpherson made her movie debut playing an artist's model in the 1994 Sirens, which starred Hugh Grant, Sam Neill, Tara Fitzgerald, Kate Fischer and co-starred Portia de Rossi, as another model. Macpherson gained 9 kilograms (20 lbs.) and her breasts grew to 37D. She surprised fans and critics by appearing unabashedly in numerous nude scenes, earning her top billing for the film above more established actors (in fact, all the female characters in the movie appeared nude at least once).
Soon after Sirens, Macpherson appeared nude in Playboy magazine. She chose for the pictures to be published in all countries except Australia, as she didn't want her parents to see them. At the time she posed for Playboy, Australian magazines Women's Day and New Idea published shots from the shoot. They were also featured on current affairs programs A Current Affair and 60 Minutes. Macpherson also published two calendars in which she appeared in see-through tops.
In 1999, Elle Macpherson appeared in five episodes of the United States sitcom Friends as Joey's roommate and girlfriend, Janine Lecroix. (The actress had been named in an earlier season as someone Chandler would picture during sex.) Macpherson went on to film Batman & Robin with George Clooney, Jane Eyre with William Hurt and has also appeared alongside Ben Stiller and Sarah Jessica Parker in If Lucy Fell. Her most controversial acting to date is the Showtime Cable Network miniseries A Girl Thing. In it she plays a woman experimenting with bi-sexuality. Macpherson appears in several nude love scenes with co-star Kate Capshaw.
Macpherson launched her own lingerie line called "Intimates" in 1990. Since then, it became very successful in the United Kingdom and in her native Australia. The lingerie was also modelled by the top twelve in America's Next Top Model Cycle 10. The lingerie is sold across the world and in Australia in department stores such as Myer and David Jones, internet retailers such as Zodee, and specialist retailers such as Mary Holland. In 2002, Macpherson launched her own fragrance "The Body, Body Lotion".
The surfwear company Hot Tuna appointed Macpherson in 2006 as Executive Director to their board.
On July 12 and 23 of 1997, William Ryan Holt and Michael Mischler burgled Elle Macpherson 's Los Angeles home while she was away on business in Chicago. The pair stole an estimated $100,000 worth of jewelery, $6,000 in cash and 15 nude photographs.
Shortly after the burglaries, Elle Macpherson was contacted by telephone and by mail from someone who threatened to release the photos on the Internet if she did not give them $60,000. Macpherson called the police, who set up a sting operation. After the pair realized that law enforcement had been called, they increased their demand by an additional $20,000. The duo was arrested on August 4, 1997.
Mischler, 29, was charged with two counts of burglary and six counts of extortion. He eventually pled guilty to one count of attempted extortion and one count of burglary. He received a six year, eight month sentence.
Holt, 26, a former Air Force service member and a military inmate on parole, was charged with two counts of extortion. He eventually pled guilty to one count of extortion and was sentenced to one year in jail. After completing his sentence in the Macpherson case, he was returned to military custody where he served out the remainder of his military sentence at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Elle Macpherson married Gilles Bensimon in 1985, but the couple divorced as Macpherson's career escalated in 1989. She was then rumoured to be dating comedian Norm Macdonald, around the time he was promoting the movie Dirty Work.
Elle Macpherson has two sons with former long-term boyfriend and Swiss/French financier Arpad Busson: Arpad Flynn Alexander Busson (born 14 February 1994) and Aurelius Cy Andrea Busson (born 9 February 1997); known as Flynn and Cy respectively. The couple got engaged on the announcement of Macpherson's second pregnancy in August 2002. But Aurelius Cy's birth in February 2003 led to tensions, with Macpherson booking herself into Arizona's exclusive Meadows Institute , where she was treated for exhaustion and post natal depression. The couple parted in July 2005.
Love reportedly struck again for the Australian supermodel in November, 2006, when she started dating British actor Ray Fearon. But their love story was short-lived, with the couple splitting in April, 2007. Macpherson and Fearon always maintained they were "just friends".
The Hollywood rumour mill went into overdrive again in February 2008, with reports that Elle Macpherson, had begun seeing art curator Vito Schnabel - the 21-year-old son of Oscar-nominated director and artist Julian Schnabel. Elle Macpherson and Schnabel first hit the celebrity radar a month earlier, when London paparazzi caught the unlikely couple at 1am as they sat chatting together inside her luxury car.
The London-based fashion entrepreneur is also rumoured to have dated the late Michael Hutchence, Australian restaurateur David Evans and real-estate developer John Hitchcox