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Interview

Christy Turlington: Model, Mother & Mogul

As everyone’s 90s girl crush, Christy Turlington started out as model but quickly turned into a mogul and advocate for maternal health.

As everyone’s 90s girl crush, Christy Turlington started out as model but quickly turned into a mogul. She became a household name through her iconic modeling partnerships with Calvin Klein and Maybelline. After spending her early career in the spotlight, Christy Turlington now puts global maternal crises in the spotlight. As a mother herself, Turlington intimately understands the tender process of childbirth — especially after labor nearly cost Christy her life.

After her own experience, Christy discovered that she was not alone. In fact, the US is the only industrialized nation with a consistently rising maternal mortality rate. In 2010, Christy directed a film called No Woman, No Cry to explore this phenomenon in Tanzania, Bangladesh, Guatemala, and the US. That same year, Turlington began the non-profit, Every Mother Counts, to educate and engage communities worldwide. Since then, she has directed another film and expanded her advocacy outreach into India and Haiti. Join BWB as we sit down with Christy Turlington to explore her journey from model muse to behind-the-scenes director.

Every Mother Counts celebrated its 10th year anniversary last year: could you share with us some of its greatest achievements since its birth?

Ten years was such a milestone. It’s hard to believe in some ways how quickly it has passed. When I started Every Mother Counts (EMC), the number of maternal deaths around the world was around 500,000 per year. Today, it’s down to about 300,000. I’d like to think that we’ve had some small role in helping bring about that change.

EMC started out as an awareness campaign in 2010 to accompany No Woman, No Cry, a documentary I’d made about global maternal health. Two years later, in 2012, we became a 501(c)3 organization and made our first grant. To date, EMC has invested $21 million into more than 110 grants that support proven models of care in the U.S., Guatemala, Haiti, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Mexico, Nepal, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh. We’ve produced more than 25 films and short videos elevating the stories of maternal health workers and mothers around the world.

Of course, there’s still so much work to be done. Especially in the United States, which has the worst maternal mortality rate of any other high-resourced country.

Today, more than a decade after the birth of EMC, I think that one of our greatest achievements is the fact that we’ve directly impacted more than one million lives. Of course, there’s still so much work to be done. Especially in the United States, which has the worst maternal mortality rate of any other high-resourced country. Recently, we’ve expanded our U.S. grantmaking to tackle this, while we continue to also grow our global work in the eight other countries where we currently support on-the-ground partners.

This month at Beauty and Well-Being, we are taking a look at beauty through the arts. This week, we’re focusing on the camera lens. How has your relationship with photography evolved over the years? From your career as a model to now running a successful non-profit organization?

I started working as a model when I was just 14, when I really didn’t consider myself beautiful at all. I learned to appreciate myself through photography. When I look at images of myself in those very early years, it’s hard to recognize myself. My face has certainly changed over the past nearly four decades, but so has my sense of self and my confidence in who I am. Ultimately, this comes through in an image. At this stage of my life, I am photographed a lot less professionally. However, I still spend a lot of time in front of a camera and on stages as a global maternal health advocate. How I look is really not important in the work that I do now, but the confidence, I learned, is, and the authenticity conveyed through verbal and other forms of communication are essential.

What are some of the photos from your career that you felt fostered new beauty trends?

I don’t know that I ever ignited any fashion trends, but there’s one haircut from the early 90s that is still referenced today and represents a kind of liberation from my career as a model.

Bentornata Christy, Vogue Italia, October 1989

My dear friend, the late Oribe Canales, gave me my favorite haircut ever. It was a chin length bob. He cut my hair while I was in an exclusive contract to Calvin Klein and really not in a position to make impulsive decisions about my look. We knew we were being rebellious. That haircut was the impetus for renegotiating the terms of the contract. Italian Vogue ran a cover story and editorial of me (October 1989) titled, “Bentornata, Christy!” photographed by Steven Meisel. Despite the statement of the act and the ripple effect of it, I still walked the runway that season for Calvin Klein with that defiant bob haircut. By then, others had cut their hair in the same style too. A few years ago, when I first met Bella Hadid, she had recently cut her hair inspired by that same haircut.

What are your five essential skincare or makeup products?

I am pretty low maintenance – I always was. I love naturally-based skincare products, especially when they smell nice. On a daily basis, I use Biotherm Blue Therapy Red Algae Uplift Day and Night Cream. For an indulgence, I love the bath products at ONDA. I love the Coconut Milk Soak Bath by Herbivore Botanicals. I also love Joanna Czech Body and Face Wash Pads, as well as the Dry Massage Brush

How can our audience learn more about and help Every Mother Counts?

Any audience, especially women and mothers, should be aware of the state of maternal health around the world, in their country or community. A great starting point is, of course, with our website. There, you can learn about our approach, our grantee partners, and ways in which anyone, whether you’re an individual or a company, can get involved and be part of the solution.

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we have anumber of events, including our Global Fitness Challenge and virtual “MAMAthon,” which anyone can be a part of. And youcan always shop to give back! Our Mother’s Day product collection, in partnership with so many awesome women-found/led brands, just launched, and there’s nothing better than knowing you’ve purchased something that has ameaningful impact on the lives of mothers.

Feature Image: Jody Rogac

Homepage Image: Kassia Meador

Teresa Deely

Teresa Deely is a graduate from Columbia University with majors in English and Creative Writing. She is a freelance writer and marketing assistant working for clients in the wellness, jewelry, creative, and sports industries. She believes that one’s skin is yet another canvas and vehicle for art, and has loved styling her hair and applying makeup from a young age. Spending much of her time in educating youth and leading enrichment programs for children, she is highly motivated in discovering new ways to care for herself and sharing them with others.

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