The song was a dance club anthem that, though particularly popular with gay audiences, found mainstream success due in part to RuPaul's accessible "nice drag queen" image. The song consists of RuPaul giving advice to a young black supermodel, and briefly several other models, largely consisting of "sashay, shantay!", "work, turn to the left", "work, now turn to the right", and "you better work". The music video for the song, featuring RuPaul in various outfits prancing around town, became a staple on MTV. Singer Kurt Cobain of Nirvana cited the song as one of his favorites of 1993, and the two were photographed together at the MTV Video Music Awards that year.
"Supermodel" was a modest hit on the pop charts in both the US (#45) and the UK (#39). It also reached #2 on the US dance chart. This song is RuPaul's highest charting pop hit in the US to date.
The song features spoken word snippets by actressLaWanda Page, who went on to appear in several music videos by RuPaul.
The single is most commonly found on compact disc coupled with "House of Love", which would go on to become a single itself in some markets. Various 12" vinyl releases were also pressed, including a limited edition picture disc in the United Kingdom.
In the United States, the song peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #45 and the Hot Dance Club Play chart at #2. It sold nearly 500,000 copies there. It was not only a hit in the US, it reached #4 on the Canadian RPM Dance/Urban Singles chart and #39 on the UK Singles Chart.
The music video for "Supermodel (You Better Work)" was directed by Randy Barbato. The music video premiered in 1993 on MTV and was an unexpected success, as grunge (such as Nirvana) and gangsta rap were popular at the time. It tells the story of a little black girl (played by RuPaul) in the Brewster projects of Detroit, Michigan who is spotted by an "Ebony Fashion Fair" talent scout who grows up to become a successful model and is given the title Supermodel of the World. The song features LaWanda Page who has several lines in the song, but does not appear in the music video despite appearances in other RuPaul music videos. The music video is a tribute to RuPaul's early childhood and his career in both the gay community and mainstream culture. The phrase "Supermodel You Better Work" was coined by RuPaul in the 90's.
In 2006, RuPaul re-recorded the track with an 80's freestyle inspired backing track and released it as the leadoff single from his album ReWorked. This version reached number 21 on the US dance chart.
The song was covered by dance-pop singer Taylor Dayne on The Lizzie McGuire Movie soundtrack in 2003 though a couple lyrics were changed and censored probably due to the target audience of the film. The following lyrics were changed: "and making love to the camera" being changed to "and smile to the camera" and "a million dollar derriere" being changed to "a million dollar fairytale."