Supermodel Paulina Porizkova talks with Bobbi Brown about aging and battling anxiety. (Photo: Getty Images)
In the eighties and nineties it was impossible to look at a magazine and not see Paulina Porizkova. She could effortlessly go from modeling swimsuits for Sports Illustrated to wearing couture for Vogue to being the international face of Estée Lauder. When I was an up-and-coming makeup artist, I worked with her often. Paulina always stood out from the supermodel crowd, never projecting that whole "I'm fabulous" vibe. Instead, she seemed quiet and smart, taking it all in from a distance.
Now 50, Paulina has been outspoken about the downside of modeling. "Nobody was particularly interested in what I thought. Everybody was interested in what I looked like," Paulina told me. She changed all that by going on to act, host and write. Outside of work, she focused on being a mom to her two sons, now 21 and 17. Her marriage to '80s music icon and Cars lead singer Ric Ocasek has lasted over 30 years. Paulina is currently writing a book focusing on her battles with anxiety. "It's not just a memoir of 'Let me tell you about the modeling business.' That would not be fun for me," she said.
Paulina and I caught up to talk about everything. She shared her candid thoughts on plastic surgery: "I'm against all of us looking homogenous, where there's only one kind of a template of a person." Paulina talked about why she decided to be the face of the beauty line RxGenesys: "It's not that I suddenly looked like I was 20 again. I don't really expect that from any cream, at this point." In her revealing interview, Paulina dished about what makes a marriage last (despite the breakup rate with models and rock stars), being a mom to older kids and the challenges of aging when your identity is your looks.
Bobbi Brown: It's been too many years since we worked together. It's hard to believe that you are 50! You look fantastic.
Paulina Porizkova: You know, you're really sweet for saying it, but it's funny because for me it's always a comparison of what it used to be and what it is. The thing that ages the worst is a beautiful woman's ego.
I'm 58 and I choose not to focus so much on the things I don't like, but instead on the things that I do. But I was never a supermodel. I was never on covers of magazines. I was never told all day long how incredible and beautiful I was. It must be challenging to see yourself differently when you are coming from that perspective.
Yes. To become human, it's not fun, frankly, because your identity is about [being beautiful]. Nobody was particularly interested in what I thought. Everybody was interested in what I looked like. So when your looks are so tied in to who you are and what you're worth, then aging is not the greatest thing. I mean it's really great for growing up and acquiring a personality, sure, because obviously learning is only achieved the hard way. You don't learn unless you suffer, so I'm learning a lot.
I read the amazing piece that you wrote on aging for the Huffington Post several years ago, and you said you were so against plastic surgery. Are you still?
It's funny because I never actually said I was against plastic surgery. I'm against all of us looking homogenous, where there's only one kind of a template of a person. That, I'm really against. That really, like, pisses me off. Why can't there be a little more variety in beauty? And as people do age and start messing with the injectables and all that, then people do start taking on very similar looks 'cause everybody is sort of oddly smooth and oddly immovable. But it never stays in one place, if you happen to do injectables, in 10 years they're not going to be where you put them.
Model Paulina Porizkova for Sport Illustrated in 1985. (Photo: Instagram)
So you still haven't done injectables?
No, I haven't done anything at all.
Congratulations! How about lasers?
I have done lasers, actually. But I feel like lasers are like Clarisonic: You do them and you see nothing. But you pay a vast amount of money for them. It just makes me feel like maybe it's doing something.
I think they do. I've done the ones that get rid of the sun spots, because that happens when you're in your fifties. I've also tried the one that, in theory, changes your collagen and makes things lift, Ultherapy. It hurts like hell and it's expensive, but I see a difference.
Yes, I've done that too, and it's so painful, but I think on the underneath jawline, you know the wobble thing, I think it helps a little bit over there.
One of the reasons that I'm at Yahoo Beauty, is because I get to learn about all the things that actually do make a difference without altering the way you look. I want to share it with other women and say, "Look, this hurts, it's really expensive, but it works." Or, "This hurts, but it doesn't do anything, don't bother." I am excited and hopeful about many of these lasers.
I am totally on board with that, and I think that whole "What do you do to look so good?" thing — "Yoga, health and diet…" — is bulls—! If you do something, share it so that the rest of us can take that same ride with you. Don't lie!
But don't you think that lifestyle is a big part of it, what you eat and how you take care of yourself?
Probably. I'm not an expert on this, so I don't actually know. I exercise probably five to six days a week. I have to just try to keep myself un-bored because I actually hate exercising. I'd much rather not, but I started doing it because of anxiety and to get off of antidepressants and when I realized how it's so effective at keeping anxiety at bay.
Paulina Porizkova at a premiere in New York City in 2014. (Photo: Getty Images)
What is your exercise of choice? What are some of the things you do?
I really like boxing. I like kickboxing, although when you do it with a bunch of guys, they tend to really show off and really bruise you, so I'm not as into that anymore. I always loved dancing. Any type — Bollywood dancing is super fun. I'll do Zumba. I like movement where you can forget that you're exercising. I will spin. I will do Pilates. I will do yoga, even though I think it's really boring. I kind of try to do a little bit of everything over the week, 'cause otherwise it's really boring.
What about what you put in your body? Are you a health fanatic? Or can you eat whatever you want to? Do you have one of those amazing metabolisms?
I did until I turned forty, and then that magically disappeared. So then I quit smoking. But smoking, man, that really helps with not eating.
Just think of what you would look like if you were still smoking.
Probably not so great! I would probably be Botoxed. I really love food, and I am the sort of person who will eat whatever is in front of me, but when I am making my own food choices, I tend to eat pretty healthy, mostly because that's what I feel like. I try to avoid meat as much as possible, and that's really out of moral choices, 'cause I love the flavor of meat. It's just the moral issue for me.
You are the face of the skincare line RxGenesys. How long have you been using it? It's on my desk, and I cannot wait to try it.
I think it's marvelous. RxGenesys contacted me in February and just said, "Are you interested marketing skin cream?" And I was like, "No! Not unless I like it." After I finished working for Estée Lauder, I stopped being a professional model. I decided to never again advertise something that I don't actually use. I only sign up for things that I truly believe in. I told them I'm not interested, unless they send me the product, because they were being kind of pushy. They were like, "No, we need to know now if you are interested because we are going to pursue other avenues." I said, "No, I'm sorry. If you don't send me the product … then I don't really care." They did send me the product right away, and I was a week into it, and I said, "Sign me up, let's do it!" It's not that a week later I suddenly looked like I was 20 again. I don't really expect that from any cream, at this point. But people started commenting. My assistant who sees me every day would go, "What did you put on your skin? It looks great." And I was like, "Nothing, I just put on my moisturizer."
You have such a great attitude. I love that you've always been very outspoken.
People call it outspoken. To me it's just telling the truth. I remember when I first started modeling, and I would read interviews with people. Then I would see them, and they would always say something entirely different to a crowd of people than they would say privately. I always found that really offensive.
When I think about your career, you really have been an iconic face, starting in the eighties. You were in the modeling world and the rock world, marrying singer Ric Ocasek. Did you ever get caught up in the whole scene, too much fun and not such good stuff, or were able to be on the outside of it all?
Well, when you are very young and you have a career that pays you more than your mother and father combined have made for the last thirty years, and you're unsupervised — you're going to do some bad stuff. I've certainly experimented with bad things and gone to work in the morning to do a cover for Glamour while I was completely drunk from the nightclub from the night before. But I always also did know how far not to go. Also, I'm just sort of naturally paranoid and a hypochondriac, so that's really good for holding you back from truly going all out.
"Why can't there be a little more variety in beauty?" says Porizkova (Photo: Instagram)
How is Ric? Will he tour again?
I don't know that he ever will, actually. He's working on music and a new album now. He's always working on music.
Well, we all love him and his music. How long have you been married?
A long time now! Thirty-one years this year.
Congratulations! That is unheard of in the music business.
It's pretty long, but I better give Keith Richards and Patti some props too. They've been around for as long as we have. It's always challenging with two people with separate careers. I know models and rock stars have a rep. It's hard when you spend a lot of time apart. Sometimes you risk growing apart. I've seen that a lot of times, as I am sure you have.
I have been married 27 years. It's hard work but I also feel very fortunate.
I agree we did get lucky to find the right person, having the brains to know that it's the right person, and to work on it and not let it fall apart when things aren't easy.
I heard you are writing a new book. What is it about?
It's more of a memoir. It's really specific, to talk more about anxiety, so it's not just a memoir of "Let me tell you about the modeling business." That would not be fun for me.
So many people suffer from anxiety, and people don't talk about it. So I think it's something that a lot of people will be really happy that you are bringing to the forefront.
I've never shied away from talking about it. It's just that I didn't necessarily identify it as something that would be helpful for people to know about me. I think I had my first anxiety attack at the age of 10. Then it sort of varied between being so bad that I barely dared to go out to periods where it almost vanished. It's sort of like an ebb and flow thing. When I turned 40 and my book came out, it kind of slammed me. It had retracted for a bit when I was being a mom and at home and writing and all that, but then when I went back into the public, I got really slammed with it. Like big time, where I could barely get into a car. I started getting all claustrophobic and agoraphobic and all kinds of stuff.
That's a big shift from being a mom to being in the public eye. I know you've been a really devoted mom, how are your boys now?
One is in college and has a girlfriend, and the little one at 17 is not so little anymore. They stop needing you quite as much, but you still have to be around.
Now that my oldest is 25, I think he actually likes spending time with me. It's a good thing.
We have always been extremely close as a family unit. We have always traveled together and enjoyed spending time together. We actually just came from the Czech Republic, so it was nice to show them their roots.
Well, it's been a pleasure to talk to you again Paulina, it's been such a long time.
Ditto, Bobbi. It was great to catch up!