LINDA EVANGELISTA

Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) - - Bazaar | Promotion -

is sit­ting at lunch in Man­hat­tan’s Chelsea neigh­bour­hood, putting her mum, Marisa, on speak­er­phone.

“Mum, which air­line did I fly when I moved to New York? Was it Peo­ple Ex­press? Where we would pay noth­ing, $88 round-trip?” “Hmm, yes, I think so,” Marisa says. “How old was I when I came to Newyork? Eigh­teen and a half, or 19?” “I think it was 18½,” Marisa says. “Right?” Evangelista laughs. “no one re­mem­bers any­thing!”

Well, that’s not en­tirely true. after she moved to Newyork in 1984, the first per­son Evangelista called was her mum. “She al­ways called,” Marisa ex­plains. “From a phone booth,” Evangelista adds. “I wanted to know she was safe and where she was,” Marisa says. “Thanks, Mum,” Evangelista says. “Ciao, ciao!”

ON THESE PAGES, Evangelista, 51, recre­ates her life in the work­ing-class city of St. Catharines, On­tario, be­fore she left for New York, be­gin­ning a leg­endary ca­reer as the de­fin­i­tive su­per­model. To reaf­firm her su­per­ness, some num­bers: more than 700 mag­a­zine cov­ers, iconic cam­paigns for Ver­sace, Chanel and Dolce & Gab­bana, among oth­ers; at least three wildly in­flu­en­tial hair colours; and, fa­mously, two su­per-modular com­pan­ions, Christy Turlington and Naomi Camp­bell. Not to men­tion, these days, an archive in Canada full of de­signer pieces. “they will get do­nated sooner rather than later,” she says. “what am I go­ing to do with it? I can’t hold on to this stuff any­more.”

But back to back then. “ev­ery­thing is where I fre­quented. The car I drove, my house, the store, the church … that’s what hap­pened.” She and pho­tog­ra­pher Nathaniel Goldberg cast model Raquel Zim­mer­mann as a young Linda, more for her abil­ity to con­vey emo­tion than for any phys­i­cal re­sem­blance. “She is phe­nom­e­nal,” Evangelista en­thuses. “She re­minds me of what I be­lieve Jan­ice Dickinson was, this lit­tle an­i­mal that can turn and move and tweak, and she gets it. I loved watch­ing her trans­late what I wanted. She’s my al­ter ego.”

Of course, there is a lit­tle po­etic li­cence in this story. Evangelista did not take a train to Grand Cen­tral (rather pricier than Peo­ple Ex­press). And her ar­rival in New York comes first, be­fore trav­el­ling back­ward. “I love her feet planted on the ground, be­cause she’s ar­rived,” Evangelista ex­plains. “This is the be­gin­ning. Here she is, and this is where she came from.”

After ar­riv­ing in the city, Evangelista went straight to what now seems quaintly named, a model apart­ment. “it was full of cock­roaches,” she re­calls. “But I just thought ev­ery­thing was the way it was sup­posed to be.” She started go­ing on go-sees. “i did eight to 10 go-sees a day for a month, learnt to take the sub­way. I re­mem­ber go­ing to Soho, and it was like go­ing to Mars. Just trucks and aban­doned build­ings.” She barely scraped by. “My mum sent me $100 here, $100 there.” Evangelista got pre­cisely one mod­el­ling job in those early days. “it was for Jean Louis David, an ad in Made­moi­selle. I made a few hun­dred dol­lars. And Elite [her agency] told me, ‘don’t get dis­il­lu­sioned. we’re send­ing you to Paris.’”

So off she went, stay­ing with two other mod­els at “the Hô­tel Saint-an­dré des Arts, near where Jim Mor­ri­son died”.

One of her first ed­i­to­rial jobs, a cat-eyed mag­a­zine cover, was with a makeup artist who made her sit in a room and not move while the rest of the crew had lunch. For two hours. “When she came back, there was a lit­tle black pow­der sprin­kled on my cheeks that had fallen and she went bal­lis­tic.”

But Evangelista thought that was how it was. “My fa­ther worked on a foundry line his whole life, so I un­der­stood what a job could be.” She con­tin­ues, “i was naive, so naive. Many good things hap­pened to me after that, and many bad things hap­pened to me after that. It took me three years be­fore I got to work with great pho­tog­ra­phers like Arthur El­gort, Peter Lind­bergh, Steven Meisel. It all fell into place, but it was not quick. It was a very slow climb up the lad­der.”

Evangelista’s lad­der started in a red­brick sub­ur­ban house, sur­rounded by an Ital­ian Catholic fam­ily who lived near one another in the same neigh­bour­hood. She lived in the home pic­tured in this story with her par­ents and two brothers (poignantly, the fam­ily just sold it in July). “it was emo­tional shoot­ing there,” she says. “In my bed­room, you would al­most touch both walls from the mid­dle. But at least I didn’t have to share it! I had ex­actly what every­body else had. I didn’t have more, and I didn’t have less.”

The bed­room pic­ture in this port­fo­lio is, in fact, at Evangelista’s aunt’s house. “my grand­mother cro­cheted that blan­ket. This is ex­actly how things looked when I was grow­ing up — my par­ents’ house, my grand­mother’s ev­ery­thing. It’s like a time warp.and we all had re­li­gious paint­ings all over; in ev­ery room. The Last Sup­per.”

Evangelista worked mul­ti­ple jobs, among them at a jew­ellery store (“I can grade di­a­monds bet­ter, just as good as GIA [Ge­mo­log­i­cal In­sti­tute of Amer­ica] gemol­o­gists; I was so pas­sion­ate about them,” she says with some pride) and a Hol­ly­wood wax mu­seum. “Hooray for Hol­ly­wood! Michael Jack­son, Mar­i­lyn, they were all there. I was in the booth with the cage around it, and I sold the tick­ets. I al­ways had three jobs. I had to be­cause I needed money to buy fash­ion. I worked ev­ery sin­gle minute I wasn’t in school.”

Her fash­ion ob­ses­sion started early. “i was, like, 11 or 12 when I sat my mum down in tears and said ‘I need more out­fits. It’s so im­por­tant.’ It sounds silly, but there was no other way to ex­press my­self. I needed that blouse with a lit­tle ruf­fle Peter Pan col­lar to go with the cor­duroy pants with a wedge.and she was like, ‘i’m on it.’ She did it.”

Evangelista was never not pulled-to­gether .“i al­ways had my next out­fit picked out, and it was al­ways, like, a suit,” she re­mem­bers. “a blazer, a skirt with a blouse, the ear­rings and the shoes. It was from the mall or we’d go over the river to Ni­a­gara Falls, Newyork or to Buf­falo, where our cur­rency at that time went fur­ther.” to score a deal, though, she had to be ded­i­cated. “you’d have to wear the out­fit in the car home not to pay the duty.”

The car? A bronze 1982 Cadil­lac El­do­rado. “There was a hole in the tank, so ev­ery time I turned left I would lose gas. My brother and I shared it.” When Evangelista had time off, she would hang out with her friends at the 1950s and ’60s ho­tels around the falls (like the Space Mo­tel, pic­tured op­po­site). “They were so deluxe and spe­cial in the ’50s. Peo­ple would go on their hon­ey­moon there.” But in the ’80s, “ev­ery­thing would close down so early, and we would just go find a place to hang out”. that, or they would all go to din­ner at a dive-y Chi­nese restau­rant (“but not wear­ing Chloé,” she says, laugh­ing, while look­ing at Zim­mer­mann loung­ing).

Speak­ing of hang­ing out, did Evangelista leave a mourn­ful young man at Ni­a­gara Falls — or the Peo­ple Ex­press gate? “Ah, no,” she replies with a smile. “I was see­ing some­one, but I didn’t leave him for mod­el­ling.”

Even though she has built a sto­ried in­ter­na­tional ca­reer, Evangelista never re­ally left home. Dur­ing this shoot, she re­mem­bers, “all the neigh­bours came, the Nowakowskis came, the guy across the street. It was the same, it was like the old ’hood. My aunt Zizi was feed­ing every­body, all the crew, every­body. That’s my fam­ily — we feed, we feed, we feed.”

On that note, Evangelista fin­ishes her lunch and gets ready to go home to her nine-year-old-son, Au­gustin (“Augie” in mum speak). She puts down the folder of photographs — the one of her childhood home, with Zim­mer­mann in flow­ing Gucci, rest­ing on top.

“You know what? A cas­tle would not have changed my up­bring­ing,” she says. “nei­ther would a tent.”

“I was SEE­ING SOME­ONE, but I didn’t leave him for mod­el­ling.”

CALL­ING MUM Etro gown, $8485, top, $2050, and locket, $590; Tif­fany & Co. pen­dant neck­lace, price on ap­pli­ca­tion.

THE FALLS Max Mara jumper, price on ap­pli­ca­tion.

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