Turning 50 earlier this year, the supermodel opens up about struggling with her self image, family life and her career.
Cindy Crawford never bought into the hype that came with being one of the original "supermodels" who dominated the fashion world in the eighties and nineties. She never overindulged in the partying and frenetic lifestyle of that era or tried to grab headlines with bad behaviour.
Apart from her failed marriage to Richard Gere, she kept her private life out of the press. For the past 17 years she's enjoyed a happy home life with hotel and restaurant entrepreneur husband Rande Gerber and their two children. She confesses that she thought he was almost too good to be real at the beginning.
“In my younger years, I was attracted to the more intense kind of relationships that are very draining. When I was first with Rande, I thought he was so solid, but then I wondered, 'Wait, where's all the drama? Maybe this isn't good. Maybe this isn't real!' ...But a husband is the guy who is solid, and you know you want to have children with him and you know he's going to be there."
Coming to New York
Growing up in a Midwestern farming town, Cindy arrived in New York as an aspiring teenage model armed with her looks, ambition, and good business sense. She was the definition of the healthy, bodacious, all-American girl who could pose for Playboy and still retain that good-girl image.
But starting out, Cindy says she never saw herself as beautiful. Her trademark mole was a major source of anxiety, and even her early modelling days were fraught with a lack of self-confidence.
A husband is the guy who is solid and you know he's going to be there
“At the beginning of my career I felt very uncomfortable. I had such a bad self-image that it took over a decade to really feel good about myself. I was very self-conscious about my mole while I was growing up. And as a girl I wanted to remove it because I was embarrassed by it and I was constantly getting teased about it,” she says.
“Of course, that was the thing that set me apart and later what gave me my distinctive look as a model. It's what people still associate with me the most. But when it came to getting recognition as a model, it was only thanks to some great photographers who took so many iconic photos and presented me in a very extraordinary way that I started to feel beautiful.”
She says part of her success has been down to being “accessible and relatable - what you would call the all-American girl who lived next door”, as well as choosing the right campaigns to boost her public perception.
“The Pepsi commercial was very big. It gained massive recognition with a male audience that was very different from the kind of attention you get from fashion magazines which are targeted towards women.
“It was perfect timing. I also knew that I needed to take advantage of my visibility and I worked on some very good ad campaigns that just took everything to the next level.”
Cindy dropped out of college – where she was studying chemical engineering – and moved to New York aged 20 to pursue a career in modelling. She says she struggled to get people to treat her like an intelligent adult.
“People assumed I was stupid and that was always a hard thing to handle. I was able to overcome that and put those negative assumptions and attitudes in better perspective - that it was really saying more about the people making those judgements than it was about me,” she says.
“I was very naive at the beginning. Coming from the mid-west, New York was a whole other world. I had to get used to living at a much faster pace where people are always busy and rushing somewhere. It was much more sophisticated than I was prepared for and it took me a long time before I really felt comfortable being in the company of famous or very accomplished people,” she adds.
Cindy turned 50 in February, but looks a good ten years younger. She puts this down to regular exercise and eating well. “Nothing is better than working out on a regular basis. I still work out three times a week and I eat a very healthy diet. I can't eat the way I used to and even in my twenties I saw that I had to change my eating habits. I rarely drink wine anymore because it makes my face puffy.”
To mark this milestone, she recently published a book, Becoming, which is equal parts life manual, autobiography and coffee-table book. It offers an inside account of the events that marked her rise as a global cultural icon, with magazine covers, photo spreads, clothing campaigns and her famous Pepsi ads.
“This book is my way of reflecting on the experiences that have informed my thinking and sharing some of the wisdom and life lessons I've learned along the way,” she says. “It's not an autobiography or tell-all book - I wouldn't have many dark secrets to reveal, anyway.”
Beauty is only skin deep
If there’s one thing that her life has taught her, it’s not to worry about looks or be self-conscious about what people may think of you.
“You have to be comfortable in your own skin and embrace everything that is distinctive and special about you. As women, we need to understand that we are all different and unique,” she says.
“The most important thing though is to have a healthy self-image and healthy relationship with your own body. I try to teach that to my daughter and not have her worrying about her looks. I want her to eat properly and not feel self-conscious and thinking about diet and her weight.
“One of the things that made my decision earlier was when you're sitting in a college class and your professors don't take you seriously. They don't think you're smart enough to be taking chemistry or other science classes because they're making snap judgements about your intelligence based on your appearance.
“Our culture still judges people on appearances and women are especially subject to that. Even my own daughter is worrying about her looks and her eyebrows and other things. It's hard for girls.”
Retiresavvy is brought to you by Skipton Building Society. The interview in this article was supplied by InterviewHub. This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.