Christy Turling­ton, model and mother, on how she stays su­per. By Laura Brown. Styled by Ju­lia von Boehm. Pho­tographed by Daniel Jack­son.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Contents -

Su­per­model mum Christy Turling­ton on twin­sets, turtle­necks, and get­ting into trou­ble

Gown, Ver­sace.

Christy Turling­ton is sit­ting on a couch in TriBeCa ho­tel, kick­ing one long leg in the air. “I can kick! I can stretch! I’m … 50!” Close your eyes (and maybe an ear) and it’s Satur­day Night Live’s Sally O’Mal­ley. Turling­ton laughs. “I’ve been do­ing that since I was 28. I can’t wait to be 50.” In fact, Turling­ton is 44 – and 30 years into a ca­reer as what many have called the “ul­ti­mate su­per­model”, she still very much has her pow­ers. But be­cause she mod­els in­fre­quently th­ese days, a Turling­ton fea­ture has a sense of oc­ca­sion. “Now I feel like it’s a treat again,” says the mother of two (Grace, nine, and Finn, seven, with film­maker hus­band Ed­ward Burns), “be­cause I do it so sel­dom. I can ap­pre­ci­ate it in a new way.”

A most com­mon per­cep­tion of Turling­ton – thanks to her work with her foun­da­tion, Ev­ery Mother Counts – is that she’s a se­ri­ous type: the su­per­model who went to NYU while the oth­ers went to clubs. She is ex­cep­tion­ally ded­i­cated, trav­el­ling to Wash­ing­ton, Haiti, Gu­atemala, and Tan­za­nia to cam­paign for women’s is­sues more of­ten than she gets in front of a cam­era.

But then she’s not. Run­ning in from the sub­way, she throws her bag down and cheer­fully asks, “Wine?”, like it’s the grand­est idea ever. She’s stylishly dressed in a chic but prac­ti­cal en­sem­ble of a colour-blocked Michael An­gel coat, an A.P.C. sweater, Givenchy jeans, and Rag & Bone boots, which she has re­named “TriBeCa Mum boots. Ev­ery mother here has them. Ev­ery one.”

Turling­ton has a grace­ful style, but she doesn’t live and die for fash­ion. Read Kate Moss’s re­cent quote to her (“The last time I saw Christy, she was wear­ing a twin­set. You can think twin­set, but you can’t wear one”), and she hoots. “Oh, I thought it was funny! Kate’s one of the fun­ni­est peo­ple I know. And it’s true – I’ve never been afraid of a twin­set. I think she’s talk­ing about when we went to South Africa for this Nel­son Man­dela char­ity fash­ion show. Ex­cuse me, what are you gonna wear? Ver­sace?”

Turling­ton was in­vited to Moss’s 2011 wed­ding to Jamie Hince, “but I couldn’t go be­cause I had just got­ten back from Bangladesh and I hadn’t seen my kids. Shame, be­cause when I get re­ally messy, I dress up in a twin­set. Next time I see Kate, I’m to­tally wear­ing one.”

That is the twist of Turling­ton. She has suc­cess­fully merged two dis­parate worlds – su­per­mod­el­dom and phi­lan­thropy – into a seam­less whole. “I know now that du­al­ity is in all of us,” she shares. Mid­way through her mod­el­ling ca­reer she re­calls real­is­ing, “‘This isn’t who I am. It’s great, but I want to do other things.” And I was able to do those things be­cause of it and con­tinue do­ing it on my terms.”

She is off to Haiti with Ev­ery Mother Counts, then, con­tin­u­ing her 25-year re­la­tion­ship with Calvin Klein (as the face of his Eter­nity fra­grance, among other cam­paigns), she will once again be the face, and body, of Calvin Klein Un­der­wear. “You know, I’m 44 years old, I’m not 14,” says Turling­ton. “I’m healthy, I haven’t done any­thing to my­self, I ex­er­cise. But,” she adds, “I’m not en­tirely com­fort­able with my­self in un­der­wear, ei­ther!” She dis­tills the long as­so­ci­a­tion into a quip, “Well, I did tell Calvin, with Eter­nity, ‘If you name some­thing that and you put me on it, what the hell do you ex­pect?’”

In model years, Turling­ton’s ca­reer has been an eter­nity. She was dis­cov­ered at 14, while horse­back rid­ing in Florida. At 15, she went to Paris, at the sug­ges­tion of a model scout. (She’d been to Europe be­fore, in­clud­ing a trip to Lon­don at 12 with her fa­ther, a Pan Am pilot. “I got in trou­ble for smok­ing in the loo. The alarm went off, and my dad was the, um, pilot.”) She ac­tu­ally thought she was ter­ri­bly so­phis­ti­cated. “I didn’t know that that’s a girl’s life for the rest of her days,” she con­fesses, smil­ing, “some­where be­tween a lol­lipop and shots.”

It was the pho­tog­ra­pher Arthur El­gort – and the late make-up artist Kevyn Au­coin – who be­gan to make the then 16-year-old su­per. In­ter­est­ingly, Turling­ton, who de­scribes her­self as “very ob­ser­vant,”

“I got into trou­ble for smok­ing in the loo [on a flight]. The alarm went off, and my dad was the, um, pilot.” – Christy Turling­ton

was never in­tim­i­dated. “No! It was so fun and cool be­cause you had a chauf­feur pick you up, and you also got booked for weeks.” Oc­ca­sion­ally she would go on a job and be read­ing a book while pho­tog­ra­phers loudly de­bated her mer­its, or lack thereof. “I was like, ‘Th­ese peo­ple are ridicu­lous.’”

Con­versely, start­ing to model in her teens saved Turling­ton from feel­ing self-con­scious. “I was go­ing through the age where most peo­ple hate them­selves, and I was get­ting at­ten­tion in my most awkward years. It wasn’t all roses, but I knew enough to take ev­ery­thing with a grain of salt.” For ex­am­ple, she is a “clom­per. I have a very heavy-footed walk; I al­ways have. But I re­mem­ber hear­ing Car­lene Cerf [de Dudzeele] say­ing on a trip for Vogue that I had, ‘ une grande walk!’” She says she was pre­pared for peo­ple to be de­ceiv­ing, and for some back­bit­ing “and to not care about you that much af­ter­ward. But it ac­tu­ally never hap­pened. Peo­ple were al­ways re­ally nice.”

Re­ally nice. “In my teen years, I was hang­ing out with adults – Steven Meisel, François Nars, Oribe, Paul Cavaco. We had so much fun! We’d go out in New York. I was 16, I was al­lowed to drink, not wear my shoes. They would pick me up at Eileen Ford’s house. They knew I’d get in trou­ble if I got home past cur­few, so they’d drop me off, then honk the horn and ter­rorise me.”

In 1988, at 19, Turling­ton signed with Klein as the face of Eter­nity. “I love Calvin. He was a huge part of my ca­reer. He’d just mar­ried Kelly, and it was this whole new era. He told me when he asked me to do the cam­paign, ‘If I weren’t mar­ried al­ready, I would have asked you!’” she re­calls. “You know, I had five hus­bands with Eter­nity. Five!”

Then, of course, came the new age: that of the su­per­model. “If I were go­ing to be a fash­ion his­to­rian – which I could be, tech­ni­cally, given the amount of years I’ve been in it – my rec­ol­lec­tion is that the word was coined by Eileen Ford. She had a mod­el­ling com­pe­ti­tion like Miss Amer­ica, called Su­per­model of the World.”

Turling­ton was not a con­tender, but “I ended up on the cover of Bri­tish Vogue. So, yeah, I prob­a­bly will go down in his­tory as one of the orig­i­nal su­per­mod­els.” Amused pause. “I don’t think I’m one of the ro­tat­ing ones.”

The ro­tat­ing ones: Tat­jana Patitz, He­lena Chris­tensen, Stephanie Sey­mour. The orig­i­nals: Linda Evan­ge­lista, Naomi Camp­bell, and Christy, a.k.a. the Trin­ity. “That’s com­pletely made-up,” Turling­ton says. The three were im­mor­talised in two fa­mous pic­tures. In one, they’re drink­ing cham­pagne in a bath­tub, and in the other, they are the hottest three wise mon­keys ever: “See no evil” (Christy), “hear no evil” (Naomi), and “speak no evil” (Linda). “I do that with my kids all the time,” she adds. As for the bath­tub, “we’ll do it again when we’re old, and we’ll need to pull a cord to get out.”

Gianni Ver­sace and Ge­orge Michael also helped shape Turling­ton’s le­gend. Ver­sace was largely cred­ited with cre­at­ing the su­per­model phe­nom­e­non. “I did my first cam­paign for Gianni when I was 16, 17. I went to my first CFDA Awards with him, and I wore one of those old-school mesh dresses. We were danc­ing and my dress broke, so I have Gianni on his hands and knees sewing it up! That dress I still have. It’s lace and it’s mesh and it’s heavy, and it makes no sense. But it is gor­geous.”

Also gor­geous, Michael’s “Freedom ’90” video. The cast came from the Bri­tish Vogue cover by Peter Lind­bergh: Christy, Linda, Naomi, Tat­jana, and Cindy Craw­ford. Turling­ton and Evan­ge­lista filmed their parts on the same day. “She and I have this blood- sis­ter mo­ment [in the video], which now I think, How risqué! I don’t know whose fan­tasy that was. We’re re­ally in the closet. Just kid­ding.”

Turling­ton had crammed the song’s lyrics on a flight but far from mas­tered them. “There’s this bit when I look through a slat­ted win­dow, up and down. Any­time I didn’t know the words I had to go down.” She throws her head back, laugh­ing. “But then I could not get the song out of my head for the rest of my life.”

A few years later, Evan­ge­lista’s apart­ment was be­ing ren­o­vated and she stayed with Turling­ton. “I’m not a morn­ing per­son,” Turling­ton says. “She would turn that song on be­cause that was the way to get me out of bed, to shut the thing off!”

She de­scribes Evan­ge­lista as a “freak­ing hoot. And that line, ‘We don’t wake up for less than USD10,000 a day’ – that’s just her sense of hu­mour. I’ve al­ways de­fended her on that. We used to laugh be­cause Karl Lager­feld would say, ‘I make a dol­lar; I keep a dol­lar,’ which was his whole rea­son for liv­ing in Monaco.”

There’s one more iconic im­age – Herb Ritts’s 1989 black-and­white por­trait of the naked “su­pes” draped over one an­other. “I wasn’t there for the orig­i­nal shoot,” ex­plains Turling­ton, whose Eter­nity con­tract pro­hib­ited her. “I was just there hang­ing out. But at the end Herb was like, ‘Come in, Christy, get in for one.’ So I got in for one.” The rest is his­tory. “There’re post­cards, posters. It’s been re­done so many times. I par­tic­u­larly like the one by the guys who did Jack­ass.”

Turling­ton is of­ten asked which of the “girls” she still sees. “I don’t see ev­ery­one very of­ten, but we do ex­change Christ­mas cards. I’ve had lunch with Cindy. And Naomi I see pe­ri­od­i­cally. She’s re­ally good – she’ll re­mem­ber a birth­day. I’m hor­ri­ble.” She also gets to­gether with Chris­tensen when their mu­tual friends Bono and Ali Hew­son are in town.

Her fam­ily, of course, is her first pri­or­ity. She and Burns, who met at a Knicks game, mar­ried a decade ago. “I have a poster of me from the Mario Sor­renti Calvin un­der­wear cam­paign on the back of my hus­band’s bath­room door be­cause we were dat­ing at the time. He was like, ‘I’m with that!’ And I was like, ‘No, you’re not.’ To­day I’m like, ‘You can re­mem­ber that per­son, now that you know what it’s re­ally like to be mar­ried to me.’”

Turling­ton has got­ten a kick rem­i­nisc­ing, but now it’s back to work, launch­ing the lat­est Mother’s Day cam­paign for Ev­ery Mother Counts. “It’s one of the big­gest com­mer­cial mo­ments in Amer­i­can cul­ture,” she says. “We spend up to USD19 bil­lion on flow­ers and candy and stuff that your mum does not want. So how do we ed­u­cate peo­ple in that mo­ment? Ev­ery day, 800 women die from preg­nancy and child­birth com­pli­ca­tions. If you love your mother, and if on this day you’re go­ing to spend time and en­ergy think­ing about her, let’s ex­tend that sen­ti­ment not just to our mums through­out the year but to other women.”

While Turling­ton has tran­scended her good looks with good works, she’s still got her stuff. Of the BAZAAR shoot, she says, “Dan [ Jack­son] said to me, ‘When you smile you look like you’re 16.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah – and then there’s my neck.’”

To date she has re­sisted any­thing more cos­metic than make-up. “I don’t know, I feel like it’s get­ting freakier. Maybe there will be a time when you’re an odd­ball be­cause you’re the only one left. I’d rather be the only one, the sole sur­vivor. And in that case?” She smiles. “I’ll just wear turtle­necks all year-round.”

“I did tell Calvin, with Eter­nity, ‘If you name some­thing that and put me on it, what the hell do you ex­pect?’” – Christy Turling­ton

Gown, Tom Ford. Hair stylist: Es­ther Lang­ham Make- up: Han­nah Mur­ray for Topshop Make Up Man­i­cure: Candice Ide­hen for Chanel

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