These days, anybody who walks down a runway seems to be labeled a supermodel. But Christy Turlington has the distinction of being one of the original catwalkers to first earn the label – and she has the juicy stories to prove it.
At 44, Turlington is more focused on family and her charity, Every Mother Counts, than she is modeling, which she has now been doing now for 30 years. But when she does strike a pose -- as she does in the June issue of Harper's Bazaar – she enjoys being in front of the camera.
"Now I feel like it's a treat again because I do it so seldom. I can appreciate it in a new way," says Turlington, who has two children (Grace, 9, and Finn, 7) with her filmmaker husband Edward Burns. However, "I'm 44 years old, not 14. I'm healthy, I haven't done anything to myself. I exercise. But I'm not entirely comfortable being in my underwear either!" (Not that it's stopping her – as she will once again be the face and body of Calvin Klein Underwear, starting in September.)
While there are many horror stories about young women in the modeling industry, the California native's memories are decidedly more positive. She was discovered at 14 and went to Paris at 15 – and was quite confident despite being a young newcomer in an adult business.
"It was so fun and cool because you had a chauffeur pick you up, and you also got booked for weeks," she says of being a teen model. "I was hanging out with adults – Steven Meisel, François Nars, Oribe, Paul Cavaco. We had so much fun! We'd go out in New York. I was 16, I was allowed to drink, not wear my shoes. They would pick me up at [Ford Modeling Agency founder] Eileen Ford's house. They knew I'd get in trouble if I got home past curfew, so they'd drop me off, then honk the horn and terrorize me."
Though it seems she was more than a pretty face even then, Turlington, who went on to graduate from New York University and get her masters at Columbia University, says she would often read books while waiting around during photo shoots as photographers openly discussed her amongst themselves and nitpicked her appearance. However, it didn't phase her, noting that she remembers thinking, "these people are ridiculous."
Turlington also discusses the origins of the word supermodel, a label given to her as well as her colleagues Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Tatjana Patitz in the late '80s.
"If I were going to be a fashion historian – which I could be, technically, given the amount of years I've been in it – my recollection is that the word was coined by Eileen Ford. She had a modeling competition like Miss America, called Supermodel of the World." While Turlington wasn't in the competition, "I ended up on the cover of British Vogue," she shares, referring to the now-iconic cover which catapulted the five women to stardom. "So, yeah, I probably will go down in history as one of the original supermodels," she says, taking what is described as an "amused pause," then adding, "I don't think I'm one of the rotating ones."
She also addresses Evangelista's famous comment, which has become the most popular quote in the modeling industry, saying, "That line, 'We don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day' – that's just her sense of humor. I've always defended her on that. We used to laugh because Karl Lagerfeld would say, 'I make a dollar; I keep a dollar,' which was his whole reason for living in Monaco."
While Turlington doesn't see the other ladies that often, they do exchange Christmas cards – and likely compare notes about being in an industry in which age is against them. As for whether she'd consider plastic surgery in theyears ahead, she shoots down the idea, offering up an amusing workaround instead.
"I don't know, I feel like it's getting freakier," she says if going under the knife. "Maybe there will be a time when you're an oddball because you're the only one left. I'd rather be the only one, the sole survivor. And in that case? I'll just wear turtlenecks all year-round."
For more of Turlington's interview, pick up the June issue of Harper's Bazaar, on newsstands May 28.
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