Christie Brinkley on Hating Botox, Being Grateful, and Wearing Bikinis at 61

·Editor in Chief
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Christie Brinkley has appeared on more than 500 magazine covers. (Photo: Trunk Archive/Bryan Adams)

I used to work with Christie Brinkley all the time in the ’80s and ’90s. She was the American ideal at that time — strong, curvy, blonde, and always smiling. Brinkley has stayed in the spotlight, gracing countless magazine covers. Now a devoted mother of three — singer-songwriter Alexa Ray Joel, 29, student Jack Paris Taubman, 20, and aspiring model Sailor Lee Brinkley Cook, 16 — the lifelong vegetarian is still asked to pose in her bathing suit, at 61.

To capitalize on everything she knows about aging beautifully, Christie has her own beauty line, Christie Brinkley Authentic Skincare. Plus, she’s sharing all her knowledge in her upcoming book, Timeless Beauty: Over 100 Tips, Secrets, and Shortcuts to Looking Great. One of her best tips is on the importance of being positive, grateful, and happy, and she really does radiate that. During our interview she told me, “The energy that you project and bring into the room — I feel that that’s 90% of what to adjust if you want to feel and look younger. You’ve got to bring it back to your inner glow.” She will appear on HSN on October 29 for Christie Brinkley Authentic Skincare.

Bobbi Brown: Hey Christie, I am so happy to reconnect. It’s been too long since I’ve seen you, but I spent a lot of time with Alexa when she was in my book Pretty Powerful. What an amazing girl she is.

Christie Brinkley: Isn’t she just so unique and wonderful? She is a one off. I always tell her, ‘Alexa, you are the most unique individual.’ But all my kids are. They all are like little gems, so different from each other, but so totally connected and supportive of each other. It’s the most beautiful thing. I’m so proud.

I remember when Alexa was really young, I was over at your house doing your makeup, and you were going to the White House. And Alexa was discussing her outfit with you, and you guys were having like a normal, “Oh, you have to wear that pretty dress or those nice shoes” [chat]. Then Billy came home and sat down with her and played the piano. I thought right then she might become a fashion designer or a musician.

She really is the most unique, individualistic dresser. She’s always dressing from thrift shops and stuff. She just sung the national anthem at the Islanders opening game a couple nights ago. She just made all of us Long Islanders so proud.

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Christie Brinkley on the cover of Glamour. (Photo: Glamour)

I remember you and I doing a bunch of Cover Girl shoots together years ago. I loved that everyone who works with you is like family. You have this really great camaraderie that is awesome.

Do you remember once we were in the dressing room talking about your first lipstick colors? And you said, “You could be the face, because you have the recognition and I have the know-how.” But I was under contract with Cover Girl.

Can you believe it? It could’ve been a whole future!

Of course, when your lipsticks came out I had to have every one. I always tell people, “Did you know that I was in the dressing room when she decided. … ”

What I can’t believe is that you have really been the ultimate California girl for 40-something years. You look really good, and really healthy. Tell me what you do and what works for you.

I do a little bit of whatever it takes. But I truly believe that my No. 1 thing is that I became a vegetarian when I was 13. I made the decision because I loved animals and didn’t want to be a part of the slaughter industry, but I’ve been reaping the benefits of that karma ever since. I’ve avoided the constant antibiotic injections into animals and the growth hormones. If you ask me, growth hormones are probably very aging, if it’s trying to make cattle age faster. That’s just my own personal opinion.

That’s very interesting.

The other thing that I think contributes to a youthful look is a joie de vivre. I really believe that being flexible and grateful contributes a lot to your happiness, which contributes to your health, and contributes to your look. When you feel good, you look good. And vice versa: When you look good, you feel good.

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Christie Brinkley on the cover of New York Magazine. (Photo: New York Magazine)

Do you have any vices? Do you drink espresso? Which I do, so not that I think there’s anything wrong with it.

I bought a Nespresso machine. If you go to #ChristieCappuccino, those are my cappuccino designs. For a while I was doing them every morning on my Instagram. There’s plenty of studies to support drinking coffee. I’ve always believed in a rainbow diet. As many colors and foods as you can eat, the better, because if you focus on one food, there’s bound to be a report that comes out that says, “Broccoli, actually. …” So I mix it up a lot. And I take vitamins, like Biosil, which I take for my hair, skin, and nails.

Now you’ve got your own skincare, Christie Brinkley Authentic Skincare. Tell me about it.

I had the opportunity to do the skincare line, and we started by really trying to determine what I’ve been doing right all these years. I started by telling them that I exfoliate every single day. I did that because I read an article that said men look five years younger than women the same age, because they shave every day and that process is exfoliating their skin. So I thought, “Okay, I’m not going to let men have that advantage. The first thing we created was a gentle exfoliator that really protects you from drying out, but also gets rid of the dead skin and old skin cells and preps your skin for the next step, which is the day cream.”

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Christie Brinkley on the cover of People. (Photo: People)

I know there is a big SPF component to the line, how does it stand out from other creams with sun protection?

I told them that I need a day cream that really looks great under makeup. The day cream has SPF and it also has IR [infrared] cream. Over 50% of rays are IR rays. Not all infrared rays are damaging. Some are used for advantageous results, but some cause premature photo-aging. So we have IR protection, which is really new and modern. It’s used a lot in Europe, but we’re one of the first to use it here. We’re really proud of that. I also wanted anti-aging ingredients, but where I could continue to be outdoors all the time and not feel like I had surpassed my allotted time in the sun. So we have an award-winning proprietary ingredient called the Bio Copper Complex. I grew up in Malibu, and I was the girl on the beach. My long-term job for the past 40 years was, “Here is a bathing suit, go get a tan.” So I really needed the repairing, protecting, moisturizing, looks-great-with-makeup — all of that.

Being that girl in a bathing suit all the time, how did you deal with certain days when you didn’t feel your best? Or have you always felt really comfortable with your body?

No, no, never! It’s so funny because all those years I was working, I basically always felt that whatever job I was doing would probably be the last one I would get. I really never thought that I stacked up with the other girls. I was always grateful and my mom taught me never to complain, so I would never say a word. But I remember my first Sports Illustrated thing, I was squirming with discomfort so much that I didn’t know what to do with my hands or my hips. And Julie Campbell whispered to the photographer, “Oh my gosh, she moves so well.”

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Christie Brinkley on the cover of Hamptons. (Photo: Hamptons)

That’s awesome.

I always had my sarong glued to my hips because I thought that I had bad thighs. So the top of my legs where I had the sarong tied are smooth as silk. Where the sarong stops, that where you see the photo-aging. I’m working on a cream for that, but at the moment I’m using my day cream for my face on my legs. The other thing is that when I joined Facebook and Instagram rather late in life, people sent pictures I hadn’t seen these in 20, 30, 40 years. And some of them had captions like, “This is the last time I’ll ever wear a bathing suit because I’m tired of sucking in my stomach.” I’m looking at these pictures going, “What stomach?” How was my brain so skewed that I thought I was fat? I don’t know what I was thinking.

I never knew that. One of the reasons I took this job at Yahoo was to help make women feel comfortable and confident. I’ve interviewed other supermodels like Cindy, Helena, and Paulina, and they revealed what actually went on with their self-esteem. It’s such an amazing thing to share with other women, because most women think models are somehow perfect. But we’re all women.

Definitely I didn’t ever feel like that model person. It was really funny because people don’t really say it to you, you just get right down to business. So, people don’t go, “Oh, look how pretty you are.” You don’t hear people picking up your cover and saying things. When I started my Facebook page, I was so surprised that anyone even knew who I was. It was kind of eye-opening.

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Christie Brinkley recently on holiday. (Photo: Instagram)

They definitely do! This summer you posted a picture on Instagram of you in a bikini at 61 and it went viral. Were you surprised by the reaction?

I was! I felt like that’s so great because I remember distinctly when I started modeling in Paris and someone said to me, “By the time you are 30 years old, you will be chewed up and spit out.” And I was like, “Okay, well I guess I better get busy right now!” I remember at 30 standing at the top of a mountain that I had just hiked and thinking: I feel better than I ever have in my life. And then suddenly I’m being asked to put on a bathing suit again and be on the cover of People at 60. I thought, you know what? I’ll do it. I mean, I wore a push-up bra under the bathing suit, so it wouldn’t look quite like that without that bra under there. I’d love to create a line of bathing suits that have that built in.

You are aging in a way that’s really inspiring. What about cosmetic treatments? What is your take on injectibles and Botox?

If something bothers you, then get rid of it. But I think it’s wrong when you’re trying to change your face to look like someone else. But they can put a little injection in on either side of those two forehead lines they call the elevens and it releases those, and there’s no drooping effect on the eyebrows.

The drooping issue is a problem with a lot of injectibles.

That’s the thing I tried it once. I tried Botox when I thought I was getting a horizontal line that bothered me. I mean it was barely visible, but some doctor somewhere along the way said something, so I said, “Alright.” And it was horrible.

Then you’re stuck with it and you’re in the public eye.

I was stuck with it. I literally had to wear a hat, so it looked like it was just the hat shoving my eye down.

It didn’t work for me either. I had a bad reaction.

I didn’t like the feeling. I felt claustrophobic in it.

I think lasers are great. I’ve had some great laser work. I’ve tried a couple of different ones. I have had Ulthera. I like that it doesn’t change your face, but it increases collagen, gets rid of dark spots, does a little lifting.

I was interested in Ulthera, but they said it’s really painful.

It was really painful. I held a ball. I didn’t take any medication. I mean, I’ve had three kids; it’s not that bad. It lasts for two years. It is painful and sensitive, but I did notice a difference.

Did you do it on your face?

I did it on my face, and it hurt, but the doctor said, “Do you want to try it right now? And I said, “OK.” I would do it again in a heartbeat.

What kind of pain is it?

It’s a snapping pain. And you can tell them to stop, and then you just say, “OK, go back again.” Like there’s like a rubber band snapping on your face, and then it stops. And the nurse is there holding your hand. Then you walk out of there and go have lunch with your boyfriend or your husband, whoever, and they don’t even know you did anything.

Really?

There’s no redness, there’s nothing. So that was a good one.

I’ve done the Clear & Brilliant. And it does leave you a little sunburned. But it can help with age spots.

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Christie Brinkley on the cover of Playboy. (Photo: Playboy)

Well, Christie, I loved talking to you. I really forgot I was even doing an interview. You’re so awesome, as always.

Well I’m so happy to speak with you and I’m so proud of you. I literally drop everything when I see you on TV. You inspire women everywhere, including me.

That’s so sweet. Well, I learned a lot from you, and I can’t wait to read your book because there is a lot more that I want to learn.

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