Christie Brinkley is an icon. Full stop. She epitomizes what it meant to be a supermodel in the '70s, '80s, and '90s—scoring an unprecedented three consecutive Sports Illustrated covers starting in 1979 after being discovered by a photographer in Paris. Since then, Brinkley has appeared on over 500 magazine covers and spent 25 years as the face of Covergirl. California-born, Brinkley exudes sunshine in person. She smiles with every word, and her soft, laid-back voice brushes up against my skin like a warm breeze. "I'm a surfer girl," Brinkley says, "a beach bum." And while her sun-kissed skin testifies to that fact, I'd paste words like successful entrepreneur, pop-culture phenomenon, and supermodel right next to her mellow description.
We met in her suite at The Plaza, a location as seminal in New York City as Brinkley has been in the industry. Among the gold mirrors and glinty chandeliers, we sat at a long, dark wooden table and began our chat. We spent time discussing her new gig as a judge on Lifetime’s hit beauty competition series, American Beauty Star (which debuts its second season on January 2 at 10 p.m. ET), as well as her secrets to staying youthful—trust, she's a vision—and watching new models come up in the industry. She talked about her daughters; her five favorite beauty products; and her co-stars on the show, the inimitable Ashley Graham, celebrity makeup artist Sir John, beauty photographer Yu Tsai, and Hearst's Leah Wyar. Below, find our refreshing and real conversation.
On her time spent filming American Beauty Star…
“It’s a fun project, and I had a great time doing it. I actually learned a lot as well. I was a guest judge last year, and they asked me to come back and do it this year. We called ourselves the hot messes; we just would laugh and fool around and have a great time. And then we’d put on our serious hats when we’d get in the chair. I found that to be the most challenging. When you get out there, it’s so tough to be a judge because what criteria are you going to put in there? You can go so many ways with hair and makeup, and that artist might be great for movie makeup, whereas maybe not so great for fashion. So you really have to keep your mind open and think in terms of the big picture. Personality-wise, are they going to be able to be part of a team? It’s always about teamwork. There are so many layers that go into the judging. I went in there really not wanting to be critical, and then I realized sometimes being critical is the only way to be helpful. So I tried to learn how to be critical; it’s against my nature, really.”
On the differences between coming up in the industry now versus when she started her career…
“I would say a positive is that you’re so capable of steering your own career through social media and creating your own brand. Authenticity is really being appreciated now, more so than when I started my career. It gives us such a colorful prism to see the world through—different viewpoints; personalities; and unexpected, empowering moments. I think that’s a really beautiful, exciting thing and a powerful thing for people coming up in the business now. You don’t have to feel so stagnant or like you’re waiting for an opportunity. You’re making it, making opportunities every day. That’s huge. It also has drawbacks. You can be so exposed, and some things can come out the wrong way, and then you have a lot of explaining to do. It’s a double-edged sword.”
On the advice she’d give to her former self…
“I’d say, ‘You’re enough.’ I wish somehow I knew I didn’t have to try so hard.”
On her daily skincare routine…
“In terms of skincare, I have to say my own. People ask me all the time if I really use my products, and I honestly really do use them every day. I start with my exfoliator, which I don’t know what I would do without because it’s perfect. I use it without water because I really like to scrub. Apart from my own, I do think the world of makeup is really exploding and really fun. It’s been fun on the show, seeing all the different formulas because I tend to be more quick-and-easy in my real life. But it’s really fun to see all the textures, treatments that you can incorporate, all of that.”
On staying youthful…
“I think laughter is the greatest de-stressor. Number one, call up a friend or your family and hang out. Don’t wallow in it. Just get out the door. Get outside. For me, get out of the house and take a walk. In nature is the best, but I can find nature growing through a crack in the sidewalk. That’s important. And of course, smiling! I really do think it has to do with an attitude of gratitude. An attitude of gratitude keeps you happy, and happiness is youthful.”
On the lessons she teaches her daughters and, in turn, what they teach her…
“Wear sunblock. It’s the best anti-aging advice and my biggest regret. We just didn’t know back then. My mom, if she heard me sneeze, she’d say, ‘Honey go outside; get a healthy tan.’ And my daughters have taught me to chill out a bit. Sailor is always saying, ‘You don’t need that,’ in regard to my makeup or outfit. She has helped me to feel like I don’t have to be camera-ready all the time. ‘So what?’ she says. Alexa keeps me abreast of all the latest—like masks. She’s very into beauty, all of it.”
On the food that makes her body feel best…
“The crunch of a salad feels pretty good. I also do love making my own soups—really clean, healthy, wonderful soups. In the wintertime, a great bowl of vegetable soup is really good. It warms me and makes me feel all homey and great. And salad on a cold day doesn’t feel as much like a meal.”
Below, watch as Brinkley serenades us on camera (it was the highlight of the day, my life) and dishes on her five favorite things.