Kurkova became one of the youngest Vogue cover girls ever at age 16, two years after a friend had sent her photo to a modeling agency in Prague. She later beat out Angelina Jolie as E!’s Sexiest Woman in the World. If anyone can improve upon the example of Heidi Klum, it’s probably her. And she’s been trying very hard to reignite her international presence. In the past year, she’s been on the cover of five Vogue magazines around the world. Her Vogue Brazil was the highest-selling cover in the magazine’s history, better even than the one with Gisele.
But she’s had some ground to make up. A rough patch in 2008 may have left her less financially solvent than she’d like to be now. Stressed from work and a “not great relationship”—with a booker twelve years her senior who was “very controlling”—she developed hypothyroidism. “I was getting migraines. I was having panic attacks. I thought I was going crazy.” She also gained 30 pounds.
She took care of it, thanks to rest, homeopathic remedies, and Archie Drury, 39, a former Marine who became her husband. They first saw each other in a restaurant when she was at her heaviest. She reached out to him on Facebook, but he didn’t recognize her glossy profile pic, and having had a bad experience on a dating website, he worried he might be corresponding with a man. They cleared up the gender confusion; now Drury helps her strategize career moves.
Except that beyond TV, Kurkova can’t articulate what’s next. Maybe a baby line, maybe a beauty line, maybe singing. “You have to live in the moment,” she says. “Not everything you can plan.” This is not flakiness, says Ivan Bart, who runs Kurkova’s agency, IMG Models: “A lot of models like to talk about what they’re going to do, but then they expect someone else to do it. They’re like, ‘I want to write a book!’ And then three days later they’re like, ‘Where’s my book?’ Karolina knows that if she wants to write a book, she has to write the damn book.”
She was offered two other high-profile American fashion TV-hosting gigs. But “[Das Perfekte Model] was the show she thought she was ready for,” says Bart. That it would air out of the country was appealing—like previewing a play in New Haven. Also the Germans gave her a large degree of creative control. “I don’t want to be mean” to the contestants, says Kurkova, who shares mentoring duties on the show with locally famous German model Eva Padberg.
“It is a fight every day,” says one of the show’s producers, rather exasperatedly. “How do we structure a program where I need drama and she wants to care for the girls?” The team came up with a brilliant solution: provide Kurkova with a midget translator sidekick. “Then everybody would see Karolina and Eva and the midget and say, ‘Two models and a half!’ People would talk about that.”
Kurkova put her foot down, the producer says with a sigh. “It’s still a good idea.”
Angela Lindvall’s 9-year-old son, Dakota, pulls out a massive hand-drawn map of his home and surroundings in Topanga Canyon, California. It stretches to the farthest reaches of his temporal understanding, which is as far as he and his 6-year-old brother, Sebastian, have wandered, which was far enough to get very, very lost with a friend and never get invited to have play time with him again. Dakota’s rendering of the seven-acre refuge his mother has carved out for them in this insular community near Los Angeles has a similar feel to the maps of Middle-Earth, albeit with more misspelled words. This is fitting, given just how removed their utopian existence is from the fashion world in which his mother makes her living—and because he and Sebastian are currently building Gondor out of Legos in the back room.
On the night I visit their large ranch house, Lindvall, 33, has invited over some neighbors for Persian meatballs (prepared by her nanny) and kale salad (prepared by Lindvall) to discuss last night’s community meeting about trying to get Topanga off the grid and into self-sustaining farming. At the start of each year, she makes a “pie-graph calendar” with goals for each month, and one of 2012’s is to get her own land off the grid while Topanga catches up. After that, she says, “I’m going to get chickens.”
She still has her pie-graph calendar from 2011, and “believe it or not, last year I put on there ‘branding initiative,’ and I wasn’t really sure what it was going to be, and I put in ‘TV,’ and I wasn’t sure what it was going to be.” The branding initiatives were starting her website, angelalindvall.com, and a QVC partnership with John Hardy to design a collection of ecofriendly recycled-silver jewelry. TV was an unexpected opportunity. She’s now host of Project Runway All Stars, a good move for Lindvall, though it has infuriated certain fans of the franchise. (One rumor is that the Weinstein Company scrapped the original panelists—Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, and Nina Garcia—when they demanded a raise.)