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In the 1980s it was impossible to walk by a newsstand and not see Carol Alt on the cover of a magazine. One of the most successful models ever, Carol has graced over 700 covers. Through it all, Carol has become an award-winning Italian film star, Fox News Health guru, and a raw food advocate. Now 54, Carol just wrote her fourth book A Healthy You.
Bobbi Brown: We did one of my very first covers together for British Cosmo in the 1980s. Even though I was never into red lipstick, for whatever reason they made me put it on you.
Carol Alt: You’re kidding! I have to tell you something, I don’t like red lipstick either. I think it ages you like 10 years.
I do too. Right now, it’s the trend to wear bright colors, and it looks so good on all these young twenty-something girls, but older than that, I’m not a big fan.
I agree, it can make your teeth look more yellow or grey too. Unless you’ve got really white teeth and pigment in your skin it just seems like too much.
I’ve known you for a really long time, and we’ve always had discussions about health. You seem to have really figured it out for yourself and become a huge advocate of raw food. How did you figure out what worked for you?
Well, I have to go back to the beginning. I lost 50 pounds to model. At 18, by the time I did the cover of Sports Illustrated, I was 115 pounds, down from 165 pounds. And I was two inches taller.
You got discovered as a model at 165 pounds?
Yes. Don’t forget there was the larger-sized model trend. The agency told me to lose 15 pounds. I started losing weight, and I felt so light and so energetic. But the truth is, I had no clue back then how to lose weight. All I did was stop eating. It became my mantra for the entire time I modeled.
So you barely ate, all those years?
I did the coffee thing when I was hungry. It’s not like I didn’t eat at all, I had a bran muffin with coffee in the morning, a salad for lunch, but I would avoid dinners. Sometimes I wonder what my career would have been like if I actually fed myself and felt good. I think that’s the issue today. The diet ads you see on television say, “Lose weight and be healthy.” I know a lot of very skinny people who are very unhealthy. I think that’s a disservice, to make people think that just because they lose weight, that they are going to gain health. I was the skinniest little thing you ever saw, and I had health issues.
Is that what led you to raw food?
When I finally went raw, I had heartburn, headaches every two weeks, candida infections, I had colds and flus. I had sinus infections like crazy. Then a friend of mine told me about a 22-year-old who avoided a radical hysterectomy for a cancer that nobody had diagnosed, due to changing her diet and going raw. The doctor told her so much of health was about food, and food could be poison too. I thought, information comes to you when you need it. I’m sitting here wishing for a change, and I have tried every other stupid diet out there, what’s one more? Twenty years later, I don’t get colds, flus, sinus infections, or headaches.
Do you drink any alcohol? Or is your diet totally clean?
Here is the thing. I used to start my day with a Scotch and coffee. On my days off, that was my treat. And when I was working, it was coffee and pizza bread, or a bran muffin. When I started working with Dr. Timothy Brantley, he said, “Carol what you don’t understand is, the body looks at all of this the same. Your bran muffin, your alcohol, your pizza bread — it is all sugar.” When I started eating right, I never craved alcohol, because I knew it was sugar.
When you were modeling, were you a part of the whole Studio 54 scene? So many models of your era were.
I did go there, but the first time I went, I stayed out until six in the morning. All my girlfriends went home to bed. I had to work with photographer Albert Watson the next morning. I remember being right outside his townhouse and thinking, “I have to make a decision: Am I going to party, or am I going to work?” I knew I couldn’t stay up like that, I felt like crap.
That was very mature at such a young age, because a lot of girls wanted to experience it all.
You can’t believe all of the experiences I’ve had, Bobbi! Paulina Porizkova the other day said to me “Holy crap, I can’t believe all the things that you’ve done and lived! I can’t believe you had this life!” I have driven that fast Ferrari. I’ve been with princes and kings, I’ve done all that. But I’ve done it while I had to work the next day. And at that point, my deadline was 11 o’clock.
You also became an award-winning Italian film star! I don’t think a lot of people know that about you.
It just happened that they liked my work. When I was modeling, I spoke fluent French, because the photographers like Patrick Demarchelier, Alex Chatelain spoke French. So you had to understand what they were saying. I worked a lot in Paris, I was the first and youngest face ever of Lancôme. I signed my contract by the time I was 18 or 19 years old. I learned Spanish in high school. For me, these were all Latin languages, so it was pretty easy. I got it, I understood it. It resonated with me. Then I started doing movies. In 1985, I got my first film. It was by Carlo Vanzina. From there we did so many films together. Italy loved me, we worked great together.
You’ve also been on over 700 magazine covers. I think that’s the record.
They still keep coming, it’s kind of weird.
You’re not 20 anymore, how do you deal with transitioning as a model? I hate the word aging.
My philosophy on it is: I try to do the best I can to keep myself as healthy as possible. I try to bring that message to other people. That’s the best I can do.
But like all of us, I’m sure there are good days and bad days. But most of us don’t have a career that is so based on our looks. When you’re a model, I have to imagine that there are moments when you have to reset your brain. I just wonder how you do it.
It’s a very complex question, Bobbi. There are days when I look at a picture, and I go “Wow, what was I thinking back then? My body looked great! My face was fantastic!” Today, I fight every single day for that. Every woman who tells you she doesn’t is lying to you. We all want to look good, it’s not just to keep ourselves happy, but to make our minds happy. Because we live in a society that still cherishes youth.
But you are so confident, which is key.
There is insecurity, too. I walk into a lot of events by myself, and I know every eye turns and thinks, “What does Carol Alt look like now?” I understand that. But at the same time, I don’t really care, because I’m just happy to be healthy and still standing. I try to teach people that health is the most important thing.
So what do you eat to stay healthy? What are your raw food staples?
I eat a raw egg every morning. The egg is the most perfect food, it also feeds your brain. It’s full of nutrition. I make my own kefir, which is probiotic. Then I do a carrot juice. My No. 1 thing is to take green powders three times a day. They rebuild your body the fastest way I know. I also do a lot of supplements. I get my hair tested every two months. I take a lot of individual supplements, the ones that I know my body needs. Not a multivitamin. I work with Dr. Gonzalez, a wonderful M.D.
And you cover all that in your new book?
The book is really my whole philosophy. It’s every trick I learned over the last 20 years from all the best people that I learn from.
Carol, I really appreciate you talking to me. Paulina is right, you have had an incredible life and career. I think next time you have to write an autobiography. I would love to read your memoirs.
That’s so funny, Paulina said the same thing to me. I said “Paulina, if you want to try to write it, you can!”
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