30th Anniversary Issue / Christy Turlington: Model Student

The supermodel thing started in November 1989. Peter Lindbergh did a British Vogue cover with five of us: Tatjana, Naomi, Linda, me, and Cindy. That propelled us into doing George Michael’s “Freedom ’90” video. And in 1990, some of us from the video came out at the Versace show with that song playing. I’d heard from editors that the industry was quite dull at that time, and supermodels brought some excitement back into it.

Even though the media would talk about the supermodel grouping, that grouping didn’t exist in our day-to-day lives. The truth is, we weren’t really together a lot. We worked alone, had been alone before, and are alone now. But there became this whole other thing, talking about money and all of that. The media would print lists of what everybody made. Of course, nothing was ever accurate.

Supermodeldom is commercial. A supermodel is considered a good investment. Some clients seem to want a proven entity to represent their products. That’s always been the case. But it was never something I relished. Not even for one moment. I mean, I feel fine about who I am and what I do. But there was definitely a point there that certain people didn’t want to work with you because you were too out there and too commercial. I sometimes felt like, “Is there any escape from this?” I come from a family of three girls, so I wasn’t looking to be a member of any group.

I’m at the end of my junior year at New York University. I study literature and art history. I’m doing this in four years – the same amount of time that it would have taken me when I was 18. I do the modeling I have committed to do. I do my contractual obligations. But apart from that, unless something is really good or really important, I don’t feel the need to do it.

It’s difficult to relate to what I do and what I’ve done. Certainly, when I go to school in the morning and there’s ten buses that go by with Calvin Klein underwear ads, it’s weird. I feel so separate and removed from it, and I did when I was in the midst of it as well. People project onto you. And early on, you’re not aware of this deal you’ve entered into. Not everyone can recover from all that projection. I’m taking a course right now on pop culture, and I just pray each week that I’m not going to come up as part of some pop-culture phenomenon. People can be bitter about pop culture, and this is one of those things that’s been exploited. I feel a little embarrassed to have been a part of that. It’s a lot of work to bounce it back and turn it into positive energy.

I think whatever happened in modeling is not going to happen again. It was a moment, and it’s over. It was a sign of the times, you know? Nobody has the attention span. You see that with everything – music, television, movies – it’s next-next-next. There was that year or year and a half when it was at its peak, and it’s left all of us with pretty good choices ahead of us. As for me, I couldn’t be happier. I’m controlling it – I’m not in the whirlwind anymore.

Interviewed by Michael Gross

30th Anniversary Issue / Christy Turlington: Mode […]