When ELLE met ROSIE
ELLE MACPHERSON and ROSIE HUNTINGTON-WHITELEY were always going to have plenty to talk about. After all, both are industry heavyweights who have savvily leveraged their modelling success into business opportunities. Both have their own lingerie labels. Th
ELLE MACPHERSON: [Sings] Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear Rosie, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you! I can’t believe you took time out of this special day to talk to me — I really appreciate it.
ROSIE HUNTINGTON-WHITELEY: Oh, no, I’m happy to — it’s a real birthday gift. When I first started thinking about this interview I remembered the first time I met you. It was in London and I turned up to the gym — we used to train at the same gyms in London because we had the same trainer.and I turned up in a pair of dingy sweatpants, an old boyfriend T-shirt and grubby trainers — I must have been about 21 — and there you were. I remember my jaw dropping when I saw this vision of health and beauty and sophistication, with the most beautiful, glossy mane of hair, and you turned around and gave me the biggest megawatt smile. I thought, “This is what a true supermodel is,” and I kind of knew I could never leave the house again dressed like an old sack of potatoes.
EM: I probably would have thought, “God, she looks cool and I’m always so dressed up.” But you are right, you know. I think dressing up is a product of the ’80s and ’90s, which was that period when it was almost like the more distance between you and your consumer, the more iconic you were — and to some extent that was what was required. Whereas today, the more approachable you can be, the more connected you are to your consumer. But I still believe that when people have paid so much for our time and when people have invested in the product, that we owe it to them to make an effort — and you do that very well. RHW: I totally agree, and I think the key to having an amazing career now is to be aspirational but approachable at the same time. I always love spending time with people who are a step ahead of me in their career or personal life, which I can learn from. One thing I wanted to ask you about was work and family life, because, as you know, I’m about to start a family.
EM: Oh my gosh, you are looking amazing. I’m not on social media much, but the little bit that I see you on there I think , ‘oh, she is shining. ’you must be having a boy. RHW: Ha! OK, everyone should put their bets in now. So I wanted to know how you sustain that work/family life balance when you are on the go all the time. What are your boundaries?
EM: I don’t do it perfectly, that’s for sure, and I don’t think there is such a thing as ‘perfectly’. But what I have found is that if I prioritise the children then everything else falls into place, so whenever anything comes up I look at it and I ask what is more important. Do I need to read a story to my son or do I need to take that phone call? I ask myself those questions sometimes 20 times a day. And prioritising my children might not necessarily mean being with them 24/7 — it may mean I need to put them through school, therefore I need to do this job. And, of course, health and wellness is imperative as well — it’s like when they tell you on the plane to put your face mask on first and then put one on your child. For me, I need to be well first. I also believe in quality over quantity — that quality time is more important than quantity of time, and quality work is more important than lots of work. Rhw: that’s a great point. It’s funny, when I put this question to my girlfriends who have children, the answer is always similar to what you said. I think it’s clear to me that once you become a mother you are so much more strategic with your time and you end up getting more done …
EM: I don’t necessarily think you do get more done, because often you don’t, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. I think the biggest mistakes one makes in the beginning, especially if you are successful, is to try and do it all perfectly and to try to get it all done … and you have your routine down and your kids’ routine down and you are so proactive and productive, and, actually, that’s a hiding for illness and unhappiness. For me, it’s about allowing things to be chaotic — having a plan, perhaps, but not having to stick to it. allowing the space to laugh. Because you can be so scheduled and so organised and say, “Look at me, I have all these balls in the air, I’m doing so well,” and actually you are not in the long run because you are just trying to live up to expectations.and the one thing I will say to you, Rosie, is that I have seen many of my peers have a baby and rush to lose the weight and be in the pages of the magazines that say, “See how amazing she looks — she lost all the baby weight in six weeks.” But, honestly, if I could give advice to any woman having a baby, it’s to take your time. I was not a good example, because I did all that for my first child and within three weeks I was back to normal, but it was not a healthy way of doing it. I wouldn’t do that again, and I certainly didn’t do it for my second baby, because I believe if you choose to breastfeed, the quality of the breast milk is very much dependent on the food you eat.
RHW: That’s a great piece of advice — I will cherish that.
EM: Do it slowly — it won’t make any difference whether it takes you six months, eight months or a year. Nothing is going to change. I can tell you, big picture, a few months here and there don’t make a difference. Especially for someone like you, who has so much to achieve and who has already achieved so much.am I being too preachy? RHW: No, that’s reassuring and I really need to hear that right now.while we are on the topic of wellbeing, it would be great to talk about why wellness is important to you. Has it always been something you connected to?
EM: That is a big question. So I believe that wellness is — and it sounds like a horrible cliché — but it has been a journey for me. I grew up in Australia, where you didn’t question your wellbeing because you had fresh air and beautiful food and clean water. Then I moved to America and started modelling, and my concept of health changed somewhat because I stopped doing sport at school, which was my main way of staying fit. I realised that I actually needed to make a concerted effort to incorporate physical movement into my life. I knew that being in shape and strong was important for me, because my body type wasn’t the same as all the other girls — I wasn’t a waif.what I started to understand was that I have an athlete’s body, and so maybe I should train like an athlete and sculpt my body. But I didn’t really think about what I was putting in my body, food-wise. Then, as I matured and started having children, I became more concerned — particularly while breastfeeding — about the food I was eating. I started to realise that, actually, food directly relates to the way you look on the outside. I did a lot of research and through my own experimentation I realised some things made me feel amazing and others didn’t.at one point I was taking a load of synthetic vitamins and it just wasn’t working for me, and that’s how The Super Elixir greens powder came about. I was turning 50 and wasn’t feeling myself, and yet I couldn’t put my finger on it — that’s why I went and saw Dr Laubscher [who formulated The Super Elixir powder], and she was the one who started talking to me about a plant-based diet and the importance of micronutrients. Welleco has just grown from there. And the more research I do, the more I realise it’s not just the food I eat, but also what I put on my skin. That’s why we are developing the business to include everyday products like toothpaste and deodorant that don’t have
chemicals in them. So it’s been a journey for me that’s been sometimes motivated by vanity, sometimes motivated by wanting to do the best for my children or sometimes motived by not being well. RHW: It’s clear you have gone through different stages with your body and you’ve come through them, so how do you feel about it now?
EM: Oh, gosh, that’s a great question — I have a huge respect today for my body that I didn’t have when I was younger. I think I treated my body pretty harshly, even though I thought I was doing good things for myself — and there were times in my life, when I was in my thirties and forties, when I didn’t appreciate how amazingly strong and reliable and beautiful my body was, and today I can honestly say, at 53, I don’t have the body I had when I was 20 — and thank God I don’t have the mindset I had when I was 20. I appreciate the wisdom I have today. I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for how my body has survived and done me well — I mean, it’s been the most beautiful accomplice, if you will, or partner in this journey. RHW: It’s interesting hearing you talk of your body as something almost external even though you live within it. It’s something I can relate to now because I am going through a different stage [with pregnancy] ... It’s a wild journey seeing my body change every day — it’s primal, almost. I mean, it’s funny — it’s the greatest miracle, your body growing a child, but at the same time it’s completely normal …
I want to switch gears and talk to you about social media. For me, it’s very much about sharing what is going on with work and letting people step behind the scenes a bit, but I sort of have a boundary with sharing too much of my personal life.that seems to be how you go about it as well.
EM: My perspective on Instagram is that I don’t just see it only as a business tool. I am a mother and a woman and I have two businesses and I have ups and downs, and I share some of those things because I think it’s important to be authentic. If something touches me I’ll post it, or if there is a moment that is particularly touching with my children, I’ll post it — and it’s not to be indiscreet, but it’s to share a more well-rounded perspective of who
“This period is incredibly satisfying — perhaps more than when I was working during the supermodel era.”
I am. It’s not just,“oh, you are my followers, you must want to know about me” — not at all. It’s more that I am so blessed to have people who are connected to me, so how can I share something that is inspiring or encouraging? I feel that’s my responsibility. RHW: I think that is really important. I am very aware that I have a lot of young girls [on my feed] — the percentage of young women that follow me far outweighs the men, which I take immense pride in. I think you are right that it’s important to share feel-good things, whether that’s through humour, a great quote or a funny moment, as well as work accomplishments or what you are up to.you do a great job of that, and I never feel put out by one of your posts — there’s a skill to that.
EM: I think you do a good job of that. RHW: Thank you. It’s a tricky balance. How do you feel about how the modelling industry has changed? I love that it’s all about the top models right now. A few years ago it was all about the actresses — and it’s always been about the pop star — but right now I feel like the supermodel era is back, and it’s exciting that the internet has given us a voice again.
EM: You are so articulate, Rosie. Now you mention it, I can see how there have been those waves, but I have also been so involved in my own journey, which has been about transforming that recognition as a supermodel into a business. I asked myself how I could monetise that recognition in a way that is meaningful — like putting my kids through school. So that meant going from having huge rates working at Victoria’s Secret to stepping back and earning no income at the height of my career in order to build a small lingerie business with a licence, which grew into a 25-year licence, and then having the courage to walk away from that steady income and co-partner a brand new lingerie business of my own. Now that I’m both co-founder and co-creator of Elle Macpherson Body and Welleco, I can say that this period is incredibly satisfying — perhaps more satisfying than when I was working during the supermodel era, because now I’m able to create my future and not be dependent on whether the industry thinks I’m in or out, or pretty or not pretty. I’m able to harness that energy to create something for myself that is grounded and authentic, and it has nothing to do with whether the modelling business is good or bad. RHW: I think that’s the thing I always observe from your career; I see a similarity with how it changed for me as well. I feel very much that I’m on my own sort of journey and I’ve taken a diversion off the traditional trajectory of a model’s career to build something for myself, and I don’t think it’s any better than what somebody else is doing, but I just feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to do that.
Em:you’ve done a brilliant job.i’ve watched you, and you’ve been very strategic. RHW: It’s funny, I get asked a lot about success and where my drive comes from, and it’s really hard to pin it down. I don’t believe I have any specific talent — I’m not even sure if I believe in talent, per se. I think I believe in strategy, I believe in hard work, I believe in a deep understanding of yourself and what makes you happy. It sounds like it’s a similar case for you — you have a real connection to your soul.
EM: Yeah, you’re amazing when I hear you speak — you’ve got such intelligence. And when I say intelligence I don’t just mean a ‘book smart’ kind of intelligence, I mean an emotional and spiritual intelligence. For me, I don’t think I necessarily had such a clear view of what I wanted. My life has been about the willingness to go on a journey and make mistakes and go through the ups and downs and find joy in the process and not give up in the middle of it because it’s too hard. But I haven’t always had the answers and I haven’t always been connected to my instincts. I just sort of took the next right step. It was never like I had an ambition and went full speed ahead towards it. I see people who do that and think,‘god, that must be so much easier.’ Mine has been more of a meandering kind of journey.and perhaps I could have been more financially successful if I’d had a 10-year plan and stuck to it, but that’s just not me, you know. I’m all for the learning. I don’t mind the difficult moments. I don’t mind the uncomfortable moments. I don’t mind the years when there’s been no cash. I’ve kind of learnt through experience. RHW: I’ve just realised this — did you just have your birthday on March 29? Does that make you an Aries?
EM: Yeah. RHW: Me too.
EM: I think we’re similar in lots of ways. I see you and I just root for you all the time. I want the best for you. I really do. RHW: It means a lot to hear you say that.
EM: I’m so impressed — I’ve loved your questions.and thank you for taking time out of your birthday. Let’s catch up for tea soon. RHW:THAT would be wonderful.
EM: And keep me posted about baby. RHW: I will! Elle, it’s been a great birthday treat to speak to you. Sending lots of love.
Elle Macpherson Body pyjama top, $250, and pants, $230; Tiffany & Co. earrings, $6600.