Vogue India October 2010 Interview.

 

 

 

MOTHER OF TWO, ENTREPRENEUR AND FIERCE PROFESSIONAL CINDY CRAWFORD TELLS AISHWARYA SUBRAMANYAM WHAT IT TAKES TO GET EVERYTHING YOU WANT. STYLED BY ANAITA SHROFF

 

I look at her standing in the sun,

owning every inch of her body,

and unbidden I think Xena,

warrior princess. You can just

see Cindy Crawford, breastplate

in place, endless muscled legs

striding towards a hapless

wrongdoer, meting out justice.

She’s all woman.

The sort of woman your eyes

unthinkingly swivel towards

when she walks into a room.

You have to keep reminding

yourself that she’s 44, this

length of tanned loveliness. Her face is fl awless, apart from

that one glorious blemish that has come to defi ne her, but

then, as she has admitted recently, she is not unfamiliar with

the needle that brings perfection to some faces and stretched

surprise to others. She’s not thrilled to talk about it, but she

chooses honesty over pride: “Botox is something that, when

used sparingly and correctly, can keep you looking a certain

way. The problem is that people try to change their faces,” she

says, “And then it doesn’t make you look younger, it just makes

you look… different,” she fi nishes gently.

But Botox can only do so much, after all. I ask her the question

posed by younger, considerably less attractive women

when faced with near-goddesses: how does she manage to look

so good? She exercises, of course, she has been exercising for

the last 20 years, and has been watching what she eats for at

least that long. “I don’t smoke, I drink a lot of water, I am determined

not to let things slip. Just as all the bad things you

did when you were younger catch up with you when you get

older, all the good things you did catch up with you, too. You

may not notice a difference when using sunscreen now, but

wait a decade and you’ll see.”

Applauding how uncompromising she is about her body, I

ask if she would ever consider plastic surgery to stay looking

the way she does, in an industry that’s as cruel as it is adoring.

“If you’d asked me ten years ago, I would have said no, not a

chance. Now I say I’m not against it. I’m not 25 any more. I

accept how I look.” There’s cellulite, yes. And there’s, well,

gravity. “My boobs aren’t where they used to be,” she chuckles,

“But hey, here I am, doing a Vogue cover.”

In front of the camera, she is a model, not a celebrity. She

moves non-stop, requiring little instruction and eliciting unfl

inching adoration from the photographer. “Amazing, isn’t

she,” Mark Seliger says to me between shots. “She gives you so

much to work with. She knows how to work her body.” Crawford

would agree, “I’m a much better model now than I was 20

years ago. Ironic, of course, but there it is. I’ve had a lot of

practice and I’m more willing to take chances now. I know how

to pose, I know how to camoufl age imperfections.” While the

make-up artist dabs at her face, she adds, “And I trust the

team I work with. I trust that they will show me in my best

light.” She does. She is a thorough professional, commenting

only that her dress is kind of short, isn’t it (she is quickly reassured

that she looks sexy as hell) and that she didn’t know

heels could get any higher, when she struggles into a pair of

six-inch studded Louboutins.

Off camera, curled up in a patch of sun during the interview,

she fi lls the air with a certain all-American good-naturedness,

and the kind of sexiness you expect makes men go weak at the

knees. It’s a big, unapologetic kind of sexiness. And then

there’s that big, unapologetic kind of girliness too, a Cameron

Diaz brand of likeability. She giggles, she’s honest, and she

knows exactly who she is.

She’s a girl from a small town (DeKalb, Illinois) who was

discovered when she was 16 and then made it bigger than she

could have imagined. She won't forget where she came from,

but she also knows that she is no longer that girl, admits that

she can’t go back to the life she used to have. I imagine it was

a diffi cult life: her brother was diagnosed with leukemia when

she was 8, and died when she was 10; her parents got divorced

when she was 16. “But my memories of my childhood are all

good, funnily enough,” she says. My mother had a strong faith

in god, and helped explain things to me in a way that allowed

us to move on, to not be injured for the rest of my life.”

When she was 16, a news photographer took a picture of her

that ran as ‘Co-ed of the Week’ in the local paper. Humble beginnings.

It was a different time, she reminds me, there was no

America’s Next Top Model, no battalion of young girls learning

how to pose in front of a camera. Modelling wasn’t a profession

she had ever considered. Crawford wanted to be a teacher, a

nuclear physicist, the fi rst woman president; she wanted to do

something “not ordinary”.

And then the call came from a small-time modelling agency,

there was the expected conversation about removing her beauty

mark (and her refusal), and there were her fi rst portfolio

pictures, which she describes charitably as “terrible. I was

wearing a kimono, with a side ponytail, holding an umbrella. It

was appalling.” The hair and make-up artist at the shoot took

her pictures to Elite, and suddenly, she had work. “My fi rst job

was a bra ad for a department store. I was in high school, and

modelling was exciting, brought in some money. But the thing

is, when you’re 16 or 18, looking older than you are, people

tend to treat you like you are older, like you’re a woman. It’s

diffi cult to hold on to yourself.”

What was it like back then, I ask her, fl ashes of ‘Freedom

’90’ and quotes about 10,000-dollar mornings running through

my head. What was it like to be one of the original supermodels?

Now it’s so different, I ramble, now… “Everyone’s a supermodel,”

she fi nishes. Well, yes. Or no one is. “I don’t know,

it was an amazing time, the stars were in alignment. Fashion

was suddenly everywhere—not just in fashion magazines. TV

started covering fashion, it found its way into music. In the

’80s, actresses didn’t want to be too fashionable. They wanted

 

to be taken seriously, and being fashionable apparently didn’t

work for that. So fashion was left completely to the models.

Fashion was fantasy, it was escape, and models were happy to

step into that role. Before we knew it, models were household

names. It was a time of such excess; I don’t think we’ll ever see

anything like that again.”

She worked with all the biggies in her time—Helmut Newton,

Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts. She says what she loves most

about modelling is the rapport that builds with the photographer

and the hair and make-up artists, the little chats between

shots. While she gets ready for her next shot, she talks to

Seliger, with whom she’s worked before, about how things

have changed, how they would once spend days on a photo

shoot, money would be burnt, a lot of time would go into creating

atmosphere. “It was so different then,” she tells me later,

“It was about a mood, it was about setting up this environment.

Now it’s a matter of hours and the shoot is done.”

She says, with a hint of sadness, that it went well until it all

became about the money. “It’s become such a business, hasn't

it? Somehow, the industry didn’t like that models got so big.

Actresses stepped up their game. And now everyone wants celebrities.

Actresses get the magazine covers, actresses get the

big cosmetic campaigns. There’s not much for models to do,

except to, well, wear clothes.”

But Crawford is more than a model, she always has been.

She’s a mother, for one. Her son Presley, 11, doesn’t like too

much attention being paid to him, but she can see her daughter

Kaia, 8, going the modelling way. “I wouldn’t encourage

her to enter the industry, but I would be there for her, to help

her avoid the pitfalls, help her navigate through this very confusing

world.” Crawford is also an entrepreneur: she’s been

the face of Omega for 15 years now, and for the last six years

she has been working with Dr Sebagh on a line of anti-ageing

skincare, Meaningful Beauty. And finally, a line of home furnishings

and accessories, Cindy Crawford Style, for [popular

American department store] JCPenney.

I ask her how she juggles work and home while sitting

squarely in the media eye, where opinions on your parenting

skills flow free and fast. “The hardest thing about being a mom

is being a mom,” she admits. “There are no right answers, and

you will always be judged no matter what you do. I have two

sisters, and it’s comforting to know that I can share with them

my questions, anxieties, insecurities; there’s a sense of community,

of knowing that you’re not alone. There’s just no point

worrying about what others think.”

Let’s not forget a very high-profile marriage to nightlife king

Rande Gerber. “He has this quiet confidence about him,” she

smiles, “He’s completely uninterested in the spotlight; if we’re

out together and someone asks him to get out of a picture so

they can shoot me, he’ll do so willingly, gracefully.” And they

have something akin to date nights. “It’s not a regimented

thing, but we do everything we can to try and find time for

ourselves. It lets us reconnect with the person we first fell in

love with. We have the luxury of having help, of course. But

the kids are getting older, and need us less. Still, no matter

what, there will always be everyday life. Dull conversations

about who will pick up the milk and take the kids to school, it’s

LIFE. There’s no escaping it. You need to make that time to be

together, away from life.”

Gingerly, I wonder aloud if she has learned any lessons from

her first marriage to Richard Gere that she thinks have helped

her in this one. She is surprisingly forthcoming. “This time

around, I married a friend—we were friends first before becoming

lovers. We’ve known each other for over 15 years now,

and we respect each other, we like each other. I honestly think

that women don’t become themselves until they’re at least 30.

It’s like fashion, you don’t really know what your style is till

you’ve been around for a while, trying different things until

you finally settle on your look.”

She pauses, trying to find the right words. “This time, I

changed my expectations; Richard and I weren’t on the same

path. But he taught me how to be famous. He always handled

fame so elegantly, with so much poise, and he taught me, too.

He taught me how to have boundaries in my life.”

The lines are pretty clear-cut. Take fashion, for instance. At

the shoot, she’s come dressed casually in jeans and an offshoulder

top. Her favourite designers for the red carpet may

include Versace and Cavalli, Tom Ford, Dolce & Gabbana and

Fendi, but for everyday style, she says she’s totally LA: “All

casual, all you need are jeans and flip-flops—even if you’re

strolling on Rodeo Drive—with a cashmere cover-up for chilly

evenings.” She loves the informality of it, the contrast with

New York’s slick urban city style.

“I will wear anything for a photo shoot, because that’s work,

but in real life, I wouldn’t wear short skirts, I wouldn’t show

off my midriff. I’m a mother now.” Then, making a point, “I

wouldn’t do a Playboy cover. Apart from the fact that my husband

would kill me, I have my kids to think about. I don’t want

to put them in an uncomfortable position.” Of course, those

old Playboy pictures of her are still available on the wonderfully

invasive internet world, but she says that doesn’t bother

her. “That was who I was before they were born. This is who I

am now. I’m not hiding anything from them.”

That said, I have to make a point as well: her last shoot for

Allure magazine had her famously wearing nothing but eyeliner

and soap suds. She looked fabulous, but she was, essentially,

naked. She smiles, “Hmm, that was different, you know.

It was a women’s magazine, it was about being strong, powerful,

reclaiming yourself. I may be in my 40s, but I still like to

feel sexy. There’s a difference between doing a story like that

and posing for a men’s magazine. The gaze is different, don’t

you think? The audience is different.”

Of this audience, not one of us can take our eyes off her.

Throwing out those endless legs, which seem to go all the way

up to her neck, she makes another perfect frame, with that

special brand of supermodel style that they just don’t seem to

make anymore. Xena, yes. Or Superwoman. Changing the

world, one fashion shoot at a time. n