I’m down here in Miami for the Art Basel festivities (check back this weekend for more pics and goss) and last night at a dinner for Louis Vuitton, Cindy Crawford showed up and put every other hussy at the Raleigh Hotel to shame. At one point, when the legendary hair dresser Oribe turned up, she did this sexy shimmy in her stiletto heels — in the sand — that left me gobsmacked. Not that this was the first time that I’d spoken to Cindy. I caught up with my fellow Midwesterner in the issue of V that’s on stands now for a fashion story where she cavorted with the handsome Clemente in the woods in Brooklyn wearing menwear. The story is reprinted here, as well as a sultry video from the photo shoot. (Click here to see the full story and more of Sebastien Faena’s glorious pictures of Cindy.) In our interview we talked about everything from West Coast dinner time to Harry Styles, but the part that I think was more pertinent is when she says that she’s a better model today than she ever was. Last night, there wasn’t a man who would have disagreed.
There’s a reference in modeling that captures a certain era: “B.C.,” as in “Before Cindy.” Cindy Crawford ignited the fashion world when she appeared on the cover of Vogue at the tender age of 21, with her killer bod, signature birthmark, and otherworldly appeal. Originally from a small town in Illinois, she would go on to become one of the most super of all the supermodels, a muse to Gianni Versace, and a household name, with her stints as MTV’s House of Style host and spokeswoman for Revlon and Pepsi.
The multi-hyphenate model, now 47, is still in demand in front of the cameras, and has launched her own multimillion dollar businesses too—making her more alluring than ever. Cindy told us that she feels like she’s a better model now—and by the looks of these photos, we’re inclined to agree with her.
What’s it like to be back in New York?
CINDY CRAWFORD When I arrived and got to the hotel I walked to a little market to get some things for a protein shake the next day, and I was reminded of the city’s energy, that buzz. I lived in New York for 15 years. I miss it sometimes. It’s very different from my life in Malibu. You don’t walk in Malibu…or else people think your car is broken down! In L.A. you go to dinner at 7 pm and in New York you go to dinner at 9 pm. But then in the Midwest it’s 5:30 pm.
That’s right, you’re a Midwestern girl. I’m a Midwestern boy. Maybe life in California is a mix of the people from the East Coast with the laid-back lifestyle of the middle of the country.
CC I grew up in a small town in Illinois where you never locked your door. I didn’t even have a house key. Midwestern people like us are nice, sometimes to a fault. You smile at strangers. But then you go to New York and everyone is hustling and in a hurry with their heads down. I love New York, but it’s a city of excesses. Too much of everything…the good and the bad. There are great restaurants, but you don’t know where to eat because there are so many choices! It was perfect for my 20s, when I was working so much, but I wouldn’t have known how to raise kids in an apartment.
Speaking of your kids, my assistant is obsessed with Harry Styles and she told me he came over for an impromptu pizza party with your daughter. What happened there?
CC Oh, that? [laughs] He stopped by to say hi when my kids and I were making pizzas. My kids were doing their own little pizzas and they couldn’t slide them off the pan. Harry goes, “Well, did you put down enough flour so they wouldn’t stick?” And my husband says, “How in the world do you know that?” and my little girl chimes in, “Oh, he used to work for a bakery, Dad. Everyone knows that.”
And started blushing, I bet.
CC Are you kidding? My daughter is twelve. That was bigger than her birthday!
Your kids are gorgeous. I know one of them did a Versace kids’ campaign. What are your thoughts on them getting into the family business?
CC That opportunity felt organic. I worked for Versace a lot in my career and I knew Mert and Marcus were the photographers and Donatella would be there. That’s a dream team. So I figured if she ever wanted to do it this would be a good experience, and it was. We had to drive three hours to the shoot and she had to miss a friend’s birthday party, and then we had to wait in the trailer for three more hours because they shot Gisele first. At the end, she thought, “This is boring.” And I said, “This is work.” It was a good lesson. If she wants to do it, I’m a good guide. I can help her make good decisions, but now I think she’d rather be an actress.
How do you reflect on that supermodel era?
CC What a wonderful time for me. That was a fun time to be a model. It was a lot of focus on fashion and how all these worlds were colliding. MTV was bringing music and fashion and television together. It felt really fun, and we were all really busy and really making money.
Do you ever use that word, “supermodel”?
CC In a tongue-in-cheek way, maybe. At first I found it silly. Do we change into capes and tights in phone booths? But with anything, the more you hear it, the more it seeps into your language. What it means to me is that before us models were more two-dimensional—mostly nameless faces on magazine covers. We were the tipping point. Some girls before us, like Twiggy and Lauren Hutton, were making the shift. But what was unique about our group was that there were five of us and we were all very different but looked good together. Is it five or seven? I never know who to include. Depends on who you ask, I guess. It was a moment when it felt fresh and different and new.
Were you aware of it in the moment?
CC If I had to label my supermodel moment, I would say it was that Versace show when Naomi, Linda, Christy, and I all came out together. We had just done the George Michael video for “Freedom,” and George was in the front row, and we came out skipping and holding hands. It felt like the stars had aligned. But then the next day we were all on another plane going to another city to do another job.
Did you ever want to slow down?
CC I remember thinking, What am I going to do when I’m 25? Or 30? Or 40? We kept pushing the sell-by date.
Are you still gratified by the job now?
CC I’m not doing it every day anymore. At this point in my life I’ve done more photoshoots than I can count, so I like something new. I’ve had people say on a shoot, “This is so Helmut Newton,” and I think, No, not really. I knew Helmut. The part of modeling I like is telling a story with an image. Modeling is a skill, and you become better at it the more you do it. Understanding clothes and lights and your face and angles…you don’t lose that, even though other things come into your life.
More so than the others, you managed to brand yourself. Was that intentional or was it clever management?
CC In the beginning it was more like, why not? I’ll try MTV, that sounds cool. But my agents were telling me not to do it. They said I could make more money doing other jobs. But they were wrong, and House of Style opened a lot of doors. When I did Playboy, it was a big deal because I was also in Vogue. I trusted Herb Ritts, which is why I did it. So those things worked out in my favor, and it gave me the confidence to go and do other projects—but not everything worked out! I did a movie that was successful for me personally, but not successful in many other ways. Choosing to do my exercise video was the beginning of making deliberate choices to do my own projects that were authentic to me, and that led to my skin care line. That was a really hard decision, because I had been with Revlon for a long time. But it was time for me to do my own thing, and now it feels like I have a real business. I love that.
You’re a business tycoon!
CC I had my whole modeling career, which was about learning the business. For the last 10 to 15 years, I’ve been building a business.
But the businesswoman still knows what to do in front of the camera.
CC I’m a better model at 47 than I was when I was 22, although I wish I still had the body I had at 22! Ah, youth is wasted on the young.