The Story Behind Steve Madden’s Iconic ‘Big Head Girl’ Ads

See a Steve Madden “Big Head Girl” ad and you’re immediately transported to the early 2000s. The campaign originally ran from 1997 to 2005, featuring models with digitally altered, oversized heads posing in the designer’s latest styles. They had big feet, giant eyes, long legs and tiny waists.

“‘Eloise at the Plaza’ was sort of the influence for it. That kids’ book was the vibe I wanted,” Madden told FN. “Of course, it looks nothing like Eloise, which is the best sort of creative process. When you start with one thing and it goes somewhere else, it’s cool. And that’s what it was and it was groundbreaking.”

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Steve Madden Big Head ads
Steve Madden Big Head Girl ad.Courtesy of Steve Madden

The campaign was such a hit that it influenced Bratz dolls creator Carter Bryant, which subsequently ignited a lawsuit from campaign photographer Butch Belair.

“We actually had nothing to do with the lawsuits, but everyone copied my big heads,” said Madden. “Even Martin Scorsese used it in his film [‘The Wolf of Wall Street’], which is unbelievable if you think about it.”

The ads continued despite Madden being sentenced to prison in 2002. “We used to have a bit of fun and put my prison ID numbers in the ads just for a laugh,” he said.

In 2021, the company reprised the look for its Maddenverse campaign featuring Normani, Jordan Alexander, Sydney Sweeney, Nessa Barrett and Justine Skye. The stars were reimagined as Madden’s “Big Head” girls, created into avatars and wearing Madden’s fall designs.

“We’ll always bring it back,” added Madden. “It’s never going away.”

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