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.
When God created Gisele, he broke the mold. To be in her presence is to be intoxicated. That face, that body, the energy, the joy of life: They just don’t make ‘em like her. So, when WSJ. Magazine asked me to interview her for the cover of the Innovators issue, I said yes with the giddiness of a schoolboy who found his father’s stash of dirty magazines. I stopped by the shoot in LA when she was carooning with Daft Punk, who I could tell had big smiles on their faces even through their trademark masks. And afterward we shared a green juice and talked about how she went from a bombshell in a bra to the world’s most successful supermodel.
GISELE BÜNDCHEN MAYbe the most powerful model in the world—but that’s not what she prefers to call herself. “I’m self-employed,” says the 33-year-old Brazilian. “[Modeling has] always been a business.” This year, she topped ‘s list of highest-paid models for the seventh year in a row, beating out the likes of Kate Moss and Miranda Kerr by tens of millions of dollars. The magazine reported that she made $42 million, though she rolls her eyes at the figure. “Who are they speaking to when they come up with these numbers? Not my accountant, that’s for sure.” Whether the number strikes her as high or low, she leaves unsaid.
How did Bündchen, who was scouted at a shopping mall in her native Rio Grande do Sul when she was 14, rise from mere model to multiplatform business tycoon? Selectivity, she says. After becoming the most in-demand face and body on the runways of Paris and Milan in the late 1990s—in 1999, put her on the cover and declared “The Return of the Sexy Model”—she developed a knack for taking exactly the right steps in her career at exactly the right times.
High risk yields high reward, and nothing was more risky than her decision to sign with Victoria’s Secret in 2000, making her one of the first in her field to bridge the once-taboo divide between luxury fashion editorials and commercial work. It was a canny maneuver that proved light-years ahead of the rest of the fashion industry, though such high-low blurring has since become the norm. After Bündchen signed with Victoria’s Secret, it ballooned from a prosaic bra brand into a lingerie powerhouse with a world-famous fashion show—ultimately helping to net her a reported $25 million per year. (She wore the company’s famed Angel wings for the last time in 2007.) She inked lucrative deals with luxury brands such as Chanel and David Yurman. Anne Nelson, her agent since she was 17, says that in Brazil, “she is a god.”
These days, Bündchen is picky about which jobs she takes not because she’s cultivating an image but because of domestic obligations. In 2009, she married Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots, and is now mother to Benjamin, 3, and Vivian, 8 months, and stepmother to Brady’s son, 6-year-old John Edward Thomas, from his previous relationship. “When you’re by yourself you only make decisions for yourself. But when you have a family, you’re making decisions for your whole family.” She now turns down multimillion-dollar jobs if they require her to leave the country or have obligatory personal appearance days in the contract.
When asked to describe how she manages the roles of wife, mother and supermodel, she offers a metaphor: Ginga, the basic back-and-forth swaying step of Brazilian martial art capoeira. “You’re always trying to balance everything, but it can’t be 100 percent all the time. Sometimes when you are a great mom, you’re not so great at your job. And then when you’re good at your job, you’re not so great of a mom or a good wife. It’s a dance that never stops. But it’s beautiful. I’ve never been happier.”
Bündchen’s packed days are meticulously organized on her iPhone with the Cozi app, which synchs the entire family schedule, from kids’ play dates to her press appointments to Brady’s football practices. Every single hour is accounted for and each family member is color-coordinated: She is purple, Brady is blue, and when the whole family needs to be at the same place, it’s in red. “I know what everyone is doing every second of the day,” says Bündchen.
Most mornings start around 6 a.m. Before heading either to her home office, where she works on her own fashion and accessories lines, or to a modeling job, she spends time with the children. (The couple has homes in Boston, New York and Los Angeles.) Vivian comes with her to photo shoots. “If I’m with my kids, I’m not answering my phone. You can’t reach me. With my husband, too. If I’m at work, then I’m at work. If I’m with you, I’m with you. I am in that moment, and there is nothing else.” The family prefers dinner at home, and Bündchen and Brady are rarely seen out at social occasions. One exception is the annual Met Costume Institute gala in New York City, where they are consistently one of the glossiest couples on the red carpet.
While work and family commitments dominate Bündchen’s schedule, she says her trick to keeping it together is her hour. “It’s important to me to have some time for myself. So one hour a day is mine. It may have to be at 4 a.m. or whenever the kids are napping or not home, but it’s in the schedule. I read a book. I meditate. I make something. I need to nourish myself in order for me to give to everyone else.”
Miley and me with some friends (from left: Karen Elson, Emma Roberts, Karlie Kloss, Cara Delevingne and Rita Ora) at the Met gala this year.
First, a warning: I’m a Miley Cyrus fan. At the base of her work, beyond the criticisms and the open letters, is a young girl who wants to show everybody a good time. And in these times of trials and tribulations, Miley, I appreciate that. So I don’t want to get into a debate on the feminist implications of her artistic expression, no matter how relevant they may be. (There’s a blog for that, but this ain’t it.) I have watched with a smile on my face as she has transformed from the Disney princess into a modern Pop icon. I was behind her on the haircut. I was behind her on the butched up, blinged out, bad ass bitch makeover. I was behind her on the Twerking. Well, not literally behind the Twerking. I’m not sure I have the balance to brace that.
All of this is to say that when Harper’s Bazaar sent me out to LA to do the cover story on my girl Miley for the October issue, I was in a taxi to JFK airport before we put the phone down. She is a defining icon of this generation, whether we like it or not. (Simmer down, Sinead.) So, behold my story with the one-and-only Miley.
Miley Cyrus is wearing an oversize sweatshirt and nothing else, curled up in an enormous trailer parked outside Soundstage 24 at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. She’s just unpacked her “kit,” which is what the 20-year-old pop star calls the gym bag full of over-the-top, blingy, fabulous accessories that she brings everywhere. There are Chanel logo suspenders and belts, Versace Medusa necklaces and brooches, spiked stilettos, hats, and miles of shiny gold chains. “I never know when I’m going to be like, ‘Photo shoot!’ And need some weird stuff to whip out.” What if there’s a sudden swarm of paparazzi? Or worse: “What if I get to a photo shoot and the stylist just sucks? So I bring my own shit.” Cyrus, whose fourth album, Bangerz, is out this month, today is filming an MTV promotion—and, sure enough, when she’s dressed in a tight white crop top and tiny black shorts, she dips into her kit to layer on gold necklaces and a low-slung vintage Chanel chain belt.
It’s been a year since “I started trying to take over the world,” she says, unknowingly paraphrasing a comment that Madonna made on American Bandstand nearly three decades ago, when she herself was an over-accessorized twentysomething. (In 1984, asked by Dick Clark what her future plans were, Madonna responded, “To rule the world.”) It all began when the fresh-faced Disney star shaved the sides and back of her head, leaving a shock of platinum on top. “It changed everyone else’s life more than it changed mine,” Cyrus says with a laugh about her new ‘do. But she’s not kidding: Since wrapping the Hannah Montana series in 2011, the little girl who led a double life on a top-rated kids’ TV show has reemerged in the public sphere as a provocative pop sensation.
The new look apparently had been brewing for some time. Cyrus released the album Can’t Be Tamed during her final year as Hannah Montana. When the series wrapped, she semiretired. “I took off and I just wanted to party. I worked so hard, and I wanted to buy a house and just chill.” She moved out of the house she shared with her parents, the Southern crooner Billy Ray (he of “Achy Breaky Heart” fame) and Tish Cyrus, and in with her fiancé, Liam Hemsworth. “I was an adult when I was supposed to be a kid. So now I’m an adult and I’m acting like a kid,” she says. There are times when I’m sitting in my big ole house and I’m like, ‘I can’t believe I’m allowed to be here alone.’ ” (She and Hemsworth have been reportedly on and off and back on, but she declines to talk about their relationship. She will, however, say that she still plans on getting married. Eventually. “I definitely don’t have time to deal with a wedding right now. But I will at some point.”) She bought a car, a white Maserati with a Ferrari engine, and built a skate ramp in her backyard because she was too famous to go to the skate parks in her neighborhood. “I want my house to be the party house!” she says, flashing a big smile lined in bright-red lipstick.
On the point of partying, Cyrus brings up Justin Bieber, whose teenage rebellion is in full stride (as evidenced by the monkey incident and naked YouTube serenades). She wants to elaborate on the advice she recently gave him: “I’m not saying you need to take a break because you’re crazy. I’m saying you need to take a break so you can be crazy, and people aren’t going to judge you. You’re going to do dumb stuff from here on out. But do it in your own time. Do it safely. You can afford to protect yourself and still have fun.” She likens it to celebrities who get arrested for drunk driving. “Why don’t they just get a driver?”
Blinged out, blindingly platinum, and with that banging body on display, it’s clear that Cyrus is in the driver’s seat of her new image. Take the much buzzed-about music video for her hit “We Can’t Stop,” which shows her cavorting erotically with life-size plushy toys. “We’re in a world of selfies,” she says of the unconventional glamour shots in the video. “I told my label: ‘This is the first time I’m showing you what I’m bringing to the table as an artist. If this goes wrong, you never have to trust me again. I’ll be your little puppet. But if I’m right, then you know I’m on to something.’” In fact, she was on to something—the video racked up almost 11 million views on its first day on Vevo.com.
Her ability to twerk, a slang term for hip-hop’s brand of booty popping, debuted in the video too. Cyrus says she learned to twerk when she’d travel to Atlanta from her native Nashville and go to parking-lot dance-offs with girlfriends. They’d listen to music at tailgate parties and practice gyrating their bottom halves. “Not the country girls who are wearing the little frilled skirts and cowboy boots,” she adds. Suffice it to say, she’s not trying to tread on Taylor Swift’s turf. What’s Cyrus’s country niche? “There is no girl out there speaking on behalf of the country girls who are turnt up.”
While Cyrus is bristling with attitude, she’s kept her feet on the ground paved by her famous father. “My parents always had money, and I’ve always been around this industry, so I didn’t have my mind blown or become obsessed with being famous,” she explains. Before moving, at the age of 13, with her entire family to L.A. to film Hannah Montana, she lived on a 500-acre farm where the children could do whatever they wanted. Her new California life wasn’t that different. “When I was growing up, I didn’t even notice that I started making all this money. There’s something about new money that makes people change. But I never did not have [money]. So when I got it, I didn’t become obsessed with having it.”
She trusts her instincts, and runs with a discreet crowd. “The other day I saw that Lindsay Lohan was getting rid of, like, 80 of her friends because she wants to cut out the toxic people. I’m like, ‘Honey, you’re going to have to move out of this universe because everywhere you go there are toxic people.’?” Her best friend is her makeup artist, and most of her friends aren’t famous—and are boys. She likes when they ask to drive her Maserati, and she lets them.
Her makeover mentor and album coproducer is Pharrell Williams, who had two hits of his own this summer. (You’d have to be living under a rock to have missed his “Blurred Lines” with Robin Thicke and “Get Lucky” with Daft Punk.) “His philosophy is that it’s not what you’re wearing, it’s the way you wear it. It’s not about the music you’re making, it’s how you’re making it.” She says he encouraged her styling in the “We Can’t Stop” video too. “I feel like every girl is trying to have a beauty shot and prove that they’re ‘fashion.’ But I can be in white leggings and a white sports bra and I’m on a whole other level of shit that those girls don’t even get yet because they don’t know how to do it.” Cyrus calls Williams her “rock,” the one man she can trust with her music.
He is equally effusive about Cyrus, who left a lasting impression on their first meeting. “I remember saying she was different,” Williams recalls. “She was very clear as to what she likes. I kept thinking, ‘She’s got something.’?” What was it like to work together on the new album? “She has a crazy range like you wouldn’t believe. And I really like that she is expressing herself.” He’s not worried about her falling off the deep end either, like so many other child stars. “It has a lot to do with her parents and the way she was raised,” says Williams. “There’s a thing Southern people understand that’s hard to put into words.” Maybe it’s just that: Even though Miley’s a second-generation performer, the Cyruses still aren’t showbiz people.
To that end, she’s put acting on the back burner for now. “I don’t really care to do anything acting-wise,” she says. “I want to make all of my music videos so epic that it feels like I’m still involved with acting.” Hannah Montana may have burned her out. “I had to have [the producers] put sun lamps inside because I was getting depressed from a lack of vitamin D,” she says of the show’s last two seasons, after the franchise expanded into films and world concert tours.
Miley has dabbled in fashion too, but she wasn’t completely fulfilled. She inked a deal with Walmart in 2009, then became disillusioned when the line didn’t turn out as she’d hoped. “I went in there and saw, like, a puppy on a T-shirt. I was like, ‘This is not what I wanted.’ I wanted skinny jeans, I wanted to bless Walmart with jeggings!” (Walmart discontinued the line in 2012.) She says she loves jewelry and would consider doing that, when she has time: “Making real stuff with high quality. Not quantity. But not until I know I can give it 120 percent. I don’t want to just slap my name on something.”
All that’s left is Miley and her music. Which turns out to be the one thing in her life that’s not stressing her out. (In addition to her own reportedly rocky relationship, her parents separated and then reconciled this summer—another topic she’d rather not discuss.) “I’m someone who cares about the real things in life. There are things that are personal that stress me out, but my career? That doesn’t affect me. I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.” She lifts her fingers, which are tipped with long dagger nails and stacked in gold rings, and pushes her platinum bangs out of her face. “I’m not scared of anything.”
Miley and Cara backstage at Marc Jacobs’ fall 2013 fashion show in New York
Luis Venegas makes me smile. He’s a rare thing in the worlds of fashion, publishing and transvestites: He is genuinely happy. He publishes several magazines from his native Spain with the intention of spreading joy and smiles and good cheer. It’s the reason why whenever he asks me to contribute to anything he’s working on, I say yes without hesitation. (Last time we worked together, I interviewed Chloe Sevigny for the Candy cover story, which you can read here.) Not that our most recent collaboration took much convincing: Interviewing Jared Leto for the cover of Candy magazine to accompany Terry Richardson’s photographs. After all, who hasn’t been a fan of the part time actor, most time singer and full time hearth throb? Feel free to reminisce on your own Jordan Catalano fantasy here. And when you’re back, check out my chat with Leto.
Derek Blasberg. So, Jared, do you think you make a beautiful woman?
Jared Leto. I don’t think so! Ha! But I do think Rayon [the character Leto played in the film Dallas Buyers Club] was beautiful on the inside. And I think she wanted to be beautiful, and that’s how I felt when I was in character. But I never felt like I made the best woman – which was funny because I always thought I would.
DB. I would have thought so too because, well, you’re very pretty.
JL. It doesn’t matter how much weight or muscle you lose; the hardness of your jaw, your shoulders, it’s more than obvious masculinity. I so wanted to be beautiful because, and this is something that I think the character thought, if you’re beautiful, you’re loved. So I don’t think I made the most attractive woman, but I certainly tried my hardest.
DB. Tell me more about Rayon.
JL. She is a male to female transsexual, and she was a wonderful, strong woman. The film takes place in 1985, the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, and she lives in Dallas just as it is hit by this plague. This part and this film seduced me. This is the first film I’ve made in half a decade, Derek. I was waiting for a character that really spoke to me, and a story that was really powerful. This was it.
DB. What was it like to dress in drag?
JL. High heels are tough. I lost 30 pounds dressing in drag.
DB. How did being in your costume make you feel?
JL. I felt good! It was different for me because it wasn’t just putting on a dress. I had to work out the part in my mind too. I wanted to bring to life a character who was a real life, living person – not just a caricature of a cross dresser. I think sometimes people confuse that sort of character as a joke, or they confuse a transgendered individual as “just a drag queen.” But I will say that I took to the high heels pretty quickly!
DB. Apart from the heels, what other physical parts of the character are the most memorable?
JL. Well, I waxed my entire body, my eyebrows included. That was certainly transformative.
DB. But this isn’t the first time you’ve changed your appearance for a part. You lost 25 pounds for Requiem for a Dream and I remember when you gained almost 70 pounds for Chapter 27.
JL. The tricky thing about extreme weight loss or weight gain is how much it affects you on the inside, not the outside. Altering your shape that much changes your behavior, the way you think. It changes how you laugh and how you move and how people look at you. It’s a double-edged sword, the internal and the external, and it’s not always a lot of fun.
DB. What was it like to go out as Rayon?
JL. As soon as you wax your brows and lose that much weight and you’re walking through a hotel lobby with your high heels cling clanging, you can’t help but draw attention. When people change their gender, they make a real statement. You surprise and confuse people, and I had to deal with that. I went out in drag and lived in that character to do research, and in the process I fell in love with Rayon. She had a heart of gold.
DB. Were you ever surprised when researching the role?
JL. In New Orleans, where we filmed the movie, I met a wonderful 13-year-old girl who was more than six-feet tall and was so gentle, and so sweet. She had been living as a woman since she was 7, going out in Bourbon Street dressed in her sister’s clothes. She opened a side of life I had never seen before. And there was a woman called Kalie, who was a tremendous help to me in LA. I spent the initial formative first days of prepping for this part with her, talking about the difference between transgendered people and transvestites, and the concept that these are real people and not a lifestyle. She taught me a lot. That’s what I liked about this film: I learned.
DB. What first drew you to this part?
JL. The challenge. The script. The role. The director. All of those things. It was impossible to say no. To reach that far inside myself – or outside myself, depending on how you see it – it was something I hadn’t explored. I found that exciting.
DB. It’s been a change of pace to the other stuff you’ve been doing these past few years: Being a rock star.
JL. That’s why I haven’t made a film in so long. We’ve been touring the world. [My band] 30 Seconds to Mars has been on a phenomenal adventure, with more success that we could have ever imagined. We sold out the O2 Arena and the Wembley in London, played the biggest shows of our lives. We got in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest tour ever. I have the plaque in my bathroom.
DB. How was balancing those two worlds?
JL. The hardest challenge was time. Time to do it all and do it well. I loved what Andy Warhol said: “Labels are for cans, not for people.” So now I try and do whatever I’m attracted to. If you have a desire, just go for it and fucking do it. A long time ago I gave myself permission to live like that – to act or design, or do music, or technology. It keeps life interesting.
DB. What do you hope will be the reaction to this film?
JL. I hope that people in that community see on the screen something that is true and honest. Something that is authentic, that comes from a really pure place. It also shares this tragic but inspiring story about how difficult it was when this plague started depleting these communities.
DB. What will you take from this part to your daily life?
JL. I haven’t worn much makeup since 2006. I used to wear a lot of eyeliner.
DB. You mean guyliner, don’t you?
JL. Yes! Maybe I grew up loving The Cure too much. Although, can you love The Cure too much? But, what I learned from this experience was less about the look and more about tolerance and understanding. I can be very intense and very work-oriented, and not too socially graceful. But there was a gentleness to that part. There was something open about Rayon that I’ve tried to carry on. There was something really fragile and approachable about her, and I hope those sides of her continue to exist in me.
For the most recent issue of the Wall Street Journal Magazine, I profiled cover star Natalia Vodianova. I first met Nata, as she’s often referred to, when I was still a college student, living in the dorms at New York University. (She had slightly nicer digs: She lived in a Tribeca manse with a water feature I once fell into at a masked ball she organized at the house.) So us meeting together again at the Paris apartment she shares with her boyfriend Antoine and her three kids was a full circle moment for me. Her address may have changed, but that’s about it: She is still as sweet, smart, driven and, yes, as beautiful as I always remembered.
DURING FASHION WEEK this past March in Paris, Natalia Vodianova maintained a schedule that would test anyone’s stamina: She was the guest of honor at a surprise party for her 31st birthday, hosted by her boyfriend, Antoine Arnault, son of LVMH founder Bernard Arnault. The next night she hosted a party to launch online retailer Net-a-Porter’s sale of a shoe collection she designed for Russian retailer Centro to benefit her Naked Heart Foundation, a charity she founded a decade ago to help disadvantaged children in her native Russia. That Sunday she woke up at 6 a.m. to run the Paris half-marathon, also in support of the Naked Heart Foundation; did a Givenchy fitting; came home to feed lunch to her three children; and then headed off to get into hair and makeup to close the Givenchy fashion show at 7 p.m. Among the front-row onlookers were Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Jessica Chastain, Arnault, Vodianova’s 11-year-old son, Lucas, and her Russian grandmother, who clapped wildly as she watched her granddaughter sashay down the runway for the first time.
That Vodianova is still landing prime modeling jobs now that she is on the far side of 30 is surprising. That she simultaneously established herself as a philanthropic force even more so. Historically, supermodels have waited until their bookings diminish to turn their efforts to charity and other second careers. Vodianova still has lucrative contracts with Guerlain and French lingerie brand Etam, for which she also designs her own collection. It’s a wave she could ride until she washes up on fashion’s more obscure shores, but instead, Vodianova has always sought to establish herself as someone with interests and ambitions above and beyond the runway—or as her friend designer Stella McCartney puts it, she’s been “well-rounded” from the start.
This spring, her efforts were acknowledged with the Inspiration Award at the annual DVF Awards—an honor that designer Diane von Furstenberg has previously presented to Íngrid Betancourt and Elizabeth Smart, both women who have “demonstrated extraordinary strength and courage in the face of adversity” and use this “experience and influence to effect positive change.” Von Furstenberg met Vodianova when she was 19 years old, during her first season modeling in New York in 2001, when the designer snapped her up to open and close her catwalk presentation. “I immediately loved her. She was never like a young child, always a grown-up,” says von Furstenberg. “Very early on she took her life in her hands and decided that unless she controlled it, she couldn’t succeed.”
Vodianova’s rags-to-riches life story reads like something only a screenwriter could imagine: One day she was selling oranges at a fruit stand; then she was signing an exclusive multimillion-dollar contract with Calvin Klein. Born in Nizhny Novgorod, an industrial town 260 miles from Moscow, she started skipping school at the age of 11 to help support her single mother, Larissa, and autistic younger half-sister, Oksana. (Vodianova’s father walked out when she was a toddler, leaving her mother to work three jobs, including selling fruit at a local market. At first, Vodianova helped her before taking over the duties completely.) “I used to sell fruit on the street in minus-25-degree Celsius weather, outside in the open air, for 12 hours straight. I would come home and scream in pain as my fingers and my toes were literally defrosting,” says Vodianova, now amid much plusher surroundings in a Paris apartment overlooking the Invalides she shares with Arnault. Resting up the day before the marathon, she’s curled on a couch wearing a cap-sleeved sweater and black-and-white-striped trousers. Flipping open her agenda, she shows me a photograph from her childhood. “I always had big black circles under my eyes, which were swollen. You can literally see that burden in my face.”
Vodianova was determined to make a better life for herself, and in 1999, when she was 17, a boyfriend suggested she attend an open casting call. The model scout immediately recommended her to an agency in Moscow. At first, her mother was reluctant to let her go because she was suspicious of the scout’s intentions and depended on her help at home. According to Vodianova, “We didn’t have the time to dream. I remember having English lessons in school and thinking, Why on Earth would I learn another language?” Yet Vodianova’s grandmother was encouraging, and the family decided she could give it a try.
From Moscow, Vodianova was immediately sent to Paris. Her agency gave her a weekly advance, which she sent to her mother, who by then had a third child, daughter Kristina. “It was quite a lot of money for my family, like a month’s salary,” says Vodianova. It helped her mother come to terms with her daughter’s decision to leave. “She started to realize that this could be good.” Meanwhile, it was the first taste of freedom from an angst-ridden existence for the young Vodianova. “It was such a beautiful time, just having that chance to be a different person. For once, I was a normal girl and completely anonymous in a new place and had an opportunity to start a new life.” That new life began in earnest when she met the Honorable Justin Portman, a dashing English property heir, at a Parisian dinner party. They married in 2001, when she was 19 years old and pregnant with their first son, Lucas.
Her career took off immediately. Among a crop of leggy Russians, Vodianova stood out for her chameleonlike acting abilities, intense work ethic and sense of humor—not to mention her wide-set, expressive eyes, thick brows and pouty lips. Photographer Juergen Teller shot her for a 2001 Marc Jacobs campaign. The following year, Tom Ford cast her in a Gucci campaign. She became a favorite of Vogue, starring in the title role of a now-famous Alice in Wonderland–themed editorial shot by Annie Leibovitz and styled by Grace Coddington in the magazine’s December 2003 issue. And then, at the age of 21, she signed an eight-season, seven-figure contract with Calvin Klein that changed her life.
“When I met her for the first time, she took my breath away. She is beyond superficial beauty. This is a beauty that is from the inside and comes out,” Klein says. Vodianova was the last girl Klein personally put under an exclusive contract before he retired, catapulting her into the ranks of a Kate Moss, Christy Turlington and Brooke Shields. “She was very sexual, seductive, she was all those things that I wanted to represent. I used her for everything I could… Too often, models are flat. They have good bodies, but you can see in their faces that there’s not a lot there. But Natalia has such a great spirit.”
A year after her first Calvin Klein ads appeared in 2003, when larger-than-life images of her posing seductively loomed over New York’s SoHo, Vodianova decided she needed to pay back some of the good fortune she was enjoying by forming her own charity. The impetus was the school hostage crisis in the Russian city of Beslan in 2004, which ended with more than 380 dead, many of them children. Vodianova was in Moscow at the time of the crisis and witnessed firsthand how her countrymen were shaken by the tragedy. “It was everywhere. The whole country stopped,” Vodianova remembers. Lucas, her eldest child, was 3 years old at the time—the same age as some of the children who were killed. “I was wrestling with how I went from the bottom of society to the top of financial security. That feeling of unfairness upset me.”
As she struggled to determine what she could do to help, she sought the answer in her own past. “I went back to my childhood and saw myself as a little girl who was very much in a difficult situation, growing up with my disabled sister. My childhood was very abnormal. I missed out on simple things.” Oksana was born with autism and cerebral palsy. “I was attached to her and [therefore] almost disabled myself because I couldn’t play with my own friends.” Vodianova’s eyes tear up as she tries to explain, “I felt ashamed sometimes. We spent all our time walking outside because she loved it, but we were always exposed to people being horrible to us. I remember thinking that what I lacked the most as a child was a place to go where I felt like I belonged.” Vodianova had found her mission: to build playgrounds in underprivileged parts of Russia in order to provide other children with the carefree joy she had missed.
To date, she has built 90 playgrounds in Russia through Naked Heart, and she has expanded her horizons, helping to build three in the U.K. She has hosted fund-raising Love Balls in Moscow, London and outside of Paris, which have raised millions of dollars and attracted the likes of Anne Hathaway, Kate Moss, Mario Testino and Daphne Guinness. This year’s ball, the fourth such extravaganza, will be held on July 27, at the Monaco opera house. Hosted by Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco, along with Princess Caroline of Hanover, the event will be Vodianova’s biggest ever: a 550-person sit-down dinner with a 1960s Riviera theme.
But while her foundation has grown exponentially, Vodianova faced a personal hurdle of her own: a separation and divorce from Portman. They were together for nine years and, after Lucas, had a second son, Viktor, 7, and a daughter, Neva, 5. The couple separated in 2011, and she soon met Arnault, now the CEO of Berluti, at a fund-raiser for her charity at the designer Valentino’s estate outside Paris, and began a new chapter. They now live together with Vodianova’s three children, and she has immersed herself in Parisian life, even taking French lessons. “I am very happy now,” she says of her love life, trying but failing to hide a smile.
It’s easy to refer to her life as a modern-day fairy tale, but for Vodianova, it’s a bittersweet comparison. “On the one hand, I don’t like it because my story was not defined by who I am dating, by some prince charming,” she asserts. “I married for love. I work hard on being a good mother, and a good partner and in my profession. Those successes cannot be attributed to chance.” But there is one fairy tale that she’s happy to be associated with: Alice in Wonderland. “She took what was given to her and went with it. Go down the rabbit hole and see what life gives you. I can definitely relate to that!” she says. “Besides, I never wanted to be Cinderella. I’d rather be Alice, and I’m happy I found my wonderland.”
Photograph by Alasdair McLellan; Styling by Anastasia Barbieri. Below, images from my archives:
Hard to believe it’s already time for another best dressed list. But, hey, time flies when you’re judging what everyone is wearing! In the June issue of Harper’s Bazaar, I start by having two very nostalgic moments. The first is when I follow Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent show into my childhood fascination of grunge (which was followed by Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy and Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton), and then I have a flashback to the 1997 Golden Globe Awards when Kim Basinger wore a cropped full skirt to accept her award for LA Confidential, which is a silhouette we’ve seen more recently on the likes of Adele, Alexa Chung and Leelee Sobieski. And finally, I present to you my newest fashion crush: The Kosovo-born, London-based sensational Pop star in the making, Rita Ora.
PS. I’m working on next month’s column now, so leave any favorite fashionable moments in the COMMENTS! And to read my weekly Mr. Blasberg’s Best Dressed list, go to www.harpersbazaar.com/bestdressed
You may not know his name, but you’ve probably seen the work of the illustrator Risko. If you’ve ever read an issue of Vanity Fair, for example, you’re familiar with his work because it’s on the last page of the magazine. He does the celebrity portraits which accompany the Proust Questionnaire. So when V magazine sought out the most important illustrators for its May issue, Risko was an obvious inspiration. I met Risko in New York, and we dished on how he got started (Warhol, of course) and what makes an easily illustrated face. Read my interview and see four of his works inspired by four of the most important faces of fashion — Giorgio Armani, Donatella Versace, Ralph Lauren and Karl Lagerfeld Lagerfeld — below. But first, Risko’s portrait of me, which hangs proudly in the loo of my New York City apartment. (I wanted to hang it somewhere I was sure everyone would see it.)
Many artists have idolized Andy Warhol, but few have had the guts to walk up to him at a signing and ask for a job. Such was the all-or-nothing approach of illustrator and artist Robert Risko, then 22, now known only by his last name. “I was pretty ballsy back then,” says the world’s most celebrated caricaturist, 56, who like the King of Pop Art grew up in Western Pennsylvania. “Of course Warhol was the hero of Pittsburgh. He was my role model. I mean, my God! When I saw his Marilyn Monroe, I thought…I get it.”
Risko’s talent for composition emerged when he was five years old in profiles he drew of his sister and again a few years later in sketches of his teacher, Sister Monica, at his Catholic middle school. At Kent College in Ohio, he thought he’d be a fine art painter and was influenced by Van Gogh and the Cubists. Yet friends always asked for his caricatures, and he found himself earning pocket money by drawing funny faces for passersby on the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore and Provincetown, Rhode Island. “But I wasn’t happy drawing caricatures for people on the street for $5 when I knew I had talent as a painter. So when I moved to New York, in 1976, I said, I’m going to fuse these things together. I’m going to take my love for Cubism and combine it with the ability to do likenesses and raise the level of taste of the average man.” The result was a style influenced by Picasso, the Bauhaus movement, and 1930s Vanity Fair caricaturists Miguel Covarrubias and Paolo Garretto.
Which brings us to Warhol. “I met him while I was out for the day on Fire Island and he was signing copies of Interview with Halston,” Risko says. He waited in line with his copy, and when it was his turn to get Warhol’s signature, he showed him his portrait of Diana Ross. “And he said, ‘It looks exactly like her. That’s great.’ And I said, ‘Well, I think I should work for your magazine.’ That was that.” It was 1978 and he started doing caricatures for Interview, including an infamous cover of Dolly Parton. In the early 1980s, Risko was working part-time as a retoucher at Vanity Fair when the magazine poached him from Warhol’s Interview, much like they poached Annie Leibovitz from Rolling Stone. In the past four decades at VF, he has drawn politicians, actors, artists, divas, and anyone else of note; since 2002 his work has appeared on the back page of the magazine, with its Proust Questionnaire. His work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Esquire. Next up is a series of specially commissioned pieces for the Macy’s flagship in New York, which is currently undergoing a $40 million refurbishment. His portraits of Macy’s pioneers, like Madonna and her daughter, Lourdes, Florence Henderson, Al Roker, and Martha Stewart, will be hung in the top tier eatery, Stella 34 Trattoria.
What makes someone easy to draw? Clearly defined and contrasting facial features. Risko says he looks at the architecture of the face, which goes beyond decoration and makeup. “I think that’s what makes my work stand out, it’s anatomically focused,” he says, adding that sometimes subjects don’t recognize themselves at first. “Without all of the superficial icing, some people don’t know who they are.” Certain blondes, like Goldie Hawn and Jennifer Aniston, can be tough, because their public images rely so much on makeup (can you imagine Goldie without her false lashes?) or they have very soft features. But, he says, someone like Bill Cosby or Meryl Streep is fun to do.
One perk of being drawn by Risko is that his medium naturally flatters. “I’m the best skin doctor a person could ever have,” he laughs, likening his work to Egyptian hieroglyphs. “I’m convinced that Queen Nefertiti was a squat, four-foot-tall, short-necked woman who told whoever was drawing her picture, ‘Give me a longer neck. Longer!’ Sometimes I think I’m in the same business.”
In the second installment of my Mr Blasberg’s Questionnaire column, which is an exclusive feature to the Valentino Garavani Museum, I meet one of modern fashion’s most outspoken icons: Italian Vogue’s editor in chief Franca Sozzani. Her presence is familiar at fashion shows, her calm demeanor and long blonde hair folded into the front row wearing whatever Alaia garment her friend had made for her. But beneath the calm of the sea is a torrent of ideas, opinions and convictions. Here, she gave us a peek into some of them.
Who do you think is the most stylish woman in the world? Tilda Swinton.
And the most stylish man? Sean Penn.
Do you have a biggest fashion regret? To have been at too many fashion shows.
Was or is there a trend that you’ve never understood or never followed? Sorry, but I usually anticipate them.
How long does it take for you to get dressed? Hours.
When a friend is dressed terribly and asks how they look, do you tell the truth? I say, “You look awful!”
Is there a fashion era that you wish would comeback? Renaissance.
Do you have a favorite Mr. Valentino moment? His life.
Have you taken a tour of the Valentino Virtual Museum? What did you think? I presented it in NY when it opened and I love it.
What is your favorite ensemble in the museum? (And why?) The animal prints. Valentino did it 30 years before any other designer.
To tan or not to tan: That is the question? I love white.
Heels or flats? Flats.
What is your favorite color? Dark Blue.
Do you have a favorite fashion memory, perhaps a fashion show or a shoot? Steven Meisel’s “Make Over Madness” story in Italian Vogue. It was about plastic surgery.
What is the greatest piece of fashion advice that you’ve ever received, and from whom did you receive it? ”A white shirt is forever” is what my father would say.
In the debate over whether fashion can be art, where do you stand? Fashion is fashion.
If you were not doing what you are doing professionally now, what do you think you would be doing? I never thought about doing anything else.
What do you love to do? Read.
What do you hate to do? Meetings.
What would you say is your most marked characteristic? Curious.
What would those who know you well say is your most marked characteristic? “Open.”
Where are you most inspired? Everywhere.
If you could go back in time and speak to your teenage self, what would you tell him or her? Never get married.
How much importance do you place on the personal style of a significant other? I care only about my personal opinion.
It has been said that when we die we can’t take anything with us; but if you could take just one thing, what would it be? My dog’s ashes.
Photo: Franca with Giancarlo Giammetti and Valentino on Valentine’s Day of this year
For their spring campaign, H&M were inspired by the supermodels of yesteryears when they cast four fabulous new fashion faces as this generation’s icons. The dreamboat photographer Alasdair McLellan shot them and I interviewed them for these four short videos. So, without further ado, meet Joan Smalls, Liu Wen, Daphne Groeneveld and Lindsey Wixson!
A little backstory: When Mr Valentino or his business partner Giancarlo Giammetti ask you to do something, you do it. Whether it’s an invitation for an intimate Valentine’s dinner in New York or a snowy gala at Mr Valentino’s villa outside Paris, you go. So when I was asked to work on a new special feature for the fashion icon’s online museum, I happily did what I was told. Our first candidate for the Mr Blasberg Questionnaire, which is an exclusive to the museum’s website, is Hugh Jackman, the burly and beautiful leading man. What did we find out in the Aussie’s answers? He’s a devoted father and husband, he doesn’t look good in capri pants and he wants to die naked. See more of his responses below, and be sure to check out Valentino’s online museum.
Who do you think is the most stylish woman in the world? My wife, Deborra-Lee Furness.
And the most stylish man? Tom Ford.
If there’s one person’s closet you would like to raid, who’s would it be and what would you take? Tom Ford. His dark suit and white shirt: classic and simple, but when he is in it, it leaps out.
Do you have a biggest fashion regret? The ¾ pants some shop owner convinced me to wear to my first film premiere. It looked good on the model, but I couldn’t pull off the Turkish designers look. I got a few laughs, though!
Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to wear, but have had never had the courage or opportunity? Nope.
When a friend is dressed terribly and asks how they look, do you tell the truth? Hmmm. There are maybe 4 people on the planet I would be completely honest with.
Is there a fashion era that you wish would comeback? The 50’s. I did a production of Sunset Boulevard and loved all the fashion for that.
Do you have a favorite Mr. Valentino moment? Meeting him the first time. He was so open, passionate and direct. I love unbridled creativity and he oozes it.
Have you taken a tour of the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum? What did you think? I have. It is stylish, surprising and definitive.
What is your favorite ensemble in the museum? I love the sea of Valentino Red dresses. That is something you can’t see anywhere else.
To tan or not to tan: That is the question? As an Aussie, I am now against it for my kids. But to be honest I still indulge. The feeling of lying on a beach and the sun drying the seawater is one of my favorite things.
What is your favorite color? The color of the ocean. I am a complete water baby.
What is your favorite scent? The smell of baked bread.
Newspapers, magazines or blogs? All three.
What is the greatest piece of fashion advice that you’ve ever received, and from whom did you receive it? From the author Herbert Ypma: If you haven’t worn it for an entire season, get rid of it.
Who would you like to play you in a film about your life? Ha! I can’t believe I am talking myself out of a job! But probably Ryan Reynolds. I would be a hell of a lot funnier in the film than in real life. But no offense to Ryan: I wouldn’t be seeing it.
If you were not doing what you are doing professionally now, what do you think you would be doing? I would host a TV show.
What do you love to do? Eat. Eat. Eat.
What do you hate to do? Photo shoots.
If you could change one thing about your appearance, what would it be? My head. It looks too small on my shoulders.
Where and when are you happiest? Always with my family. I come from a large family so wherever they are. But if it can be in Byron Bay in Australia or on the ski slopes – that takes it to another level.
What would you say is your most marked characteristic? Versatility.
What would those who know you well say is your most marked characteristic? I’m bad at saying no.
What would you say is your largest character flaw? The above.
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date? My family. My marriage and my kids.
Where are you most inspired? I am a meditator and have been for 20 years. After meditation is when ideas flow for me. Or when I travel.
If you could go back in time and speak to your teenage self, what would you tell him or her? Your legs won’t always be skinny, don’t worry about it.
Do you believe in love at first sight, and if so, have you experienced it? Yes, I have, but not since I was a teenager. Maybe as adults we lose that ability to give ourselves completely on first meeting.
It has been said that when we die we can’t take anything with us; but if you could take just one thing, what would it be? My family.
And more importantly, when you die, what would you like to be wearing? I’d like to die peacefully while skinny dipping or in my sleep. Since I wear clothes to neither places, I may be meeting St. Peter in my birthday suit.