At 10:30 on a Monday morning, Cindy Crawford is scheduled to call me. Truth be told, I would wait around all day by the phone for the legendary 52-year-old supermodel, but at 10:30 a.m. on the dot, she's on our shared conference line, a little before me in fact, ready for our interview. As I'll soon learn, Crawford, well-known in the entertainment business for her punctuality and poise—qualities she's passed down to her teen model children Kaia and Presley Gerber—is never, ever late. "Where are you calling from?" she asks, friendly, at ease, almost as if she's interviewing me.
I'm calling from Byrdie's headquarters, a red skyscraper off Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, California. Crawford is calling from an hour west on the breezy coast of Malibu, where she and her business tycoon husband Rande Gerber just sold their mansion a few weeks ago for $45 million. "I think we're in the same time zone," Crawford jokes. "It's definitely a different pace." I promise to try my very best to match her zen.
Thirty-five years after debuting her modeling career, Crawford, who can still be found starring in stylish Super Bowl Pepsi ads while running her own skincare line, Meaningful Beauty (which launched a new collection at Ulta last year), is an industry anomaly. "When I was in my late 20s, I thought my career would last about 10 years tops," she told Town & Country earlier this year. "Out with the old. And yet somehow here I am." As much as the modeling world is not done with Crawford, it's also ushering in the new: Over the past two years, the industry has caught Gerber fever, hoisting up the careers of her 16- and 18-year-old children, so tall and arrestingly beautiful you'd swear they were computerized if Crawford hadn't raised them to be so down-to-earth.
"I wish I could take credit," Crawford says modestly after I compliment her daughter's elegant demeanor. "But she came out that way."
It's Crawford's humility and eloquence that make our next 30 minutes of conversation as relaxed as her Malibu pace. We talk about how the beauty and modeling industries have changed since the '80s, her current skincare secrets, how she keeps herself sane amid such a hectic schedule, and the beauty tips she's learned from Kaia. Keep scrolling to read what Crawford had to say, in her own words.
On How the Modeling Industry Has Changed Since the '80s
"The actual act of modeling—of being in a show or being in front of a camera—is the same today, I think, as it was when I first started out. What's amazing is how Presley or Kaia will be working with a stylist or a photographer that I used to work with. A lot of the players are the same. I think the biggest difference for them is the digital, social media part of it. Then, we didn't really worry about 'model-off-duty' style. We didn't have stylists for what we were wearing to a show; you were just doing a show.
The good thing with Kaia is that I think because she sees how I am about it, she's adopting a similar attitude, which is that you don't have to be dressed for Street Style of the Year every second. It's so much pressure. But truthfully, clients look at your social media—that matters. They make decisions based on that. So I think it makes it an extra layer of work.
"In terms of the beauty business, I think the biggest change is diversity. It keeps getting more and more diverse, and I think that's fantastic. In every way. Because of social media, everyone is a model in their own right. And we're seeing all different types of beauty reflected in a much more extensive way. From weight to height to even natural makeup versus a lot of makeup. There is no longer just one ideal of beauty. I think my generation—me, Linda, Naomi, Tatiana, and Claudia—we didn't all look alike.
Instead of us all having blonde hair, blue eyes, it was like, oh, they're not like clones of each other. We looked good together, but different. I think now if you look at a runway, it's like that times a thousand. And I think it's really exciting for young people to see themselves reflected in different ideas of beauty."
On How She Stays Stress-Free While Constantly Working
"This is probably the single most important thing I do in my day: I get up first thing in the morning. I'm usually the first one up in my house, and I live on the ocean (I'm very fortunate), have a jacuzzi (very fortunate). But I go right out there, and I use that time for two things. One is just to be grateful. Start out my day with gratitude. But also to mentally run through my day. I go, okay, I've gotta work out, then I have a meeting, gonna work out from 8 to 9, then I have a meeting at 9:30 so I need to finish right at 9 so I can jump in the shower.
I kind of go through my day to see where there might be problems, so I have time to adjust. Even if it's saying to the trainer, ‘We have to finish 10 minutes early today.’ Because I hate that feeling of rushing all the time, and I hate the feeling of getting behind schedule. It's about planning my day in a realistic way. I live in Malibu—it takes me an hour to get into town. I plan for a good hour. I don't plan for 50 minutes, you know? Because then I'm gonna be 10 minutes late. I know friends who are constantly late.
But I'd rather plan for an hour and 10 minutes and have 10 minutes to sit in my car, to check emails or go to Starbucks or whatever it is. So I think those are the ways that I keep myself sane.
"I also know that my best sleep is from 11 p.m. to 4 or 5 in the morning. So I try to be in bed sleeping at that time. I’d rather sleep until 6 or 6:30, but if I wake up early at 4 or 5, I have a hard time going back to sleep. The worst thing is when you wake up at 4, and you can't get back to sleep. You're like, oh my god, I only had four hours of sleep! But if I can get five and a half hours, then if I wake up at 4:30, I'm like, okay. I mean, I can punch in on that, you know? Sometimes you've got a lot on your mind and you get stressed.
I know that sometimes that happens to me. But if I know there's stuff waiting for me and that's why I'm not sleeping, then I just get up, try not to wake up anybody else, and do it.
"It also certainly helps if you love what you do. I mean, I don't love every aspect. I don't particularly love going through PowerPoints. I don't love every time I have to sit in a board meeting. But I love Meaningful Beauty. I love doing photo shoots. So that's certainly helpful. What is very motivating day-to-day is making a list of what I have to do today, in a week, in a month. When you cross stuff off that list and rewrite it, that's very satisfying to me. Because it's tangible. You can see, oh yes, I got five things done.
My list is shorter. Sadly, a lot of times we add five more things, but at least the list is constantly evolving, you know?
On Her Most Essential Skincare Advice
"It's never too early, and never too late, to start taking care of your skin. Dr. Jean-Louis Sebagh [Ed. Note: the French anti-aging specialist with whom Crawford collaborated to create the line] taught me the daytime is about protecting your skin and then the nighttime is about restoring it. I have learned that it's like working out. You work out once—you don't really see a big difference. But if you work out regularly for years, you do. I think skincare is the same way. So I've made taking care of my skin part of my routine.
"Every day, minimum, I cleanse my skin in the shower, and I love serums because you can get more potency. The newest one in Meaningful Beauty is called the Youth Activating Melon Serum ($76)—the key ingredient is the melon leaf stem cells, and it has hyaluronic acid and peptides. So I definitely use a serum and put my day cream on. I love our Meaningful Beauty Environmental Protecting Moisturizer ($65). It has SPF 30. It has antioxidants and blue light protection. That is the one single product that I would tell everyone at whatever age to use: You've got to start protecting your skin during the day.
"Then at night, I always take my makeup off. And now we have a new night cream with retinol ($68) in it and for cell turnover, especially as you get older, I think that becomes more and more important. And really one of my favorite products we have is a triple exfoliator ($52), so it has a physical exfoliation but also an enzymatic exfoliation. I do that right before I get in the shower. I like to really scrub; I don't have super-sensitive skin. The importance of getting your skin ready for good products is something that you learn to value as your skin gets older.
You've got to get out the old stuff first before you put the good ingredients on.
"I've also learned that's where you want to spend the money—anything that goes on your skin. So skincare and foundation. You can get a less expensive mascara, you can get a less expensive lip gloss or nail polish, but anything that's actually on your skin is worth investing in. I don't ever want to look like I'm wearing makeup. I'd rather people be like 'You look great,' or 'Your skin looks great,' not 'Your makeup looks great.' So the one foundation I've been using right now is by By Terry. I like it because it's super light.
And then I go back in with Amazing Concealer ($42), under my eyes or if there's a spot. I don't want too much coverage."
On the Beauty (and Instagram) Advice She Swaps With Kaia
"I definitely look at how Kaia does her makeup for inspiration. This generation has such incredible access to tutorials on YouTube. Like if she wants to learn how to do a cat eye or her brows, she just Googles it and finds out. And she's not afraid to experiment. I admire that about her. And I kind of look at her to see trend-wise. It's so funny; I don't know if you know who Hung Vanngo is, but he's an incredible makeup artist in New York, and he has this way of doing people's skin that is just amazing.
Anyway, the first time I worked with him was for Vogue, and he was teasing me. He was like, 'You're probably one of those '90s girls that likes a lot of blush.' And it took me aback a little bit because I remember being 20 and looking at my mom's friends and being like, oh my god, their makeup's still leftover from how they were doing it 20 years ago. They're wearing blue eyeliner (which, by the way, you can wear again now). But it made me check myself a little bit. Of course, being in fashion exposes me to what is happening, but seeing it on a daily basis with Kaia definitely inspires me too.
Like she'll put on a red lip, and I was never really a red-lip girl, but I'll be like, hmm, maybe I should try that. Then I wipe it off. But at least I try it.
"I definitely ask her her opinion on [Instagram] photos sometimes. Like is this good or not? But I remember in the beginning both my kids were like, 'Mom, you use way too many hashtags—lose the hashtags.' That was the one time where I really felt criticized by them. But it's funny because we realize we're speaking to a different audience. Some of Kaia's captions, I'm like what does that even mean? She goes, 'Oh, Mom, forget it.' Like I don't even understand her captions half the time, but meanwhile, she has more followers than me so she must be doing something right. So I'll ask her opinion.
And the great thing is she asks mine too. One of the unexpected things that's come out of both my kids' modeling is it's given us one more thing to share. They actually trust my opinion in that world, and they know I know what I'm talking about. I think they have a whole new appreciation for what I've been doing for the last 30 years. When they go, 'Oh my god, you can't believe what happened on set today,' I'll be like, 'Yeah, I've been in that same situation,' and it's fun for us. It's a shared interest now.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.