USA WEEKEND Interview.
Issue date: May 7, 2000
Christy Turlington becomes a super role model
BEING A SUPERMODEL means fame and riches, but it's a lonely job, says Christy Turlington, who left a 10-year mega-modeling career that began at age 15 to study philosophy and art history at New York University.
Older, wiser, much richer and now a regular churchgoer, Turlington, 31, rejoined the business end of the modeling industry last year with a new skin-care line called Sundari that balances mind, body and spirit, and this summer launches her yoga-inspired sport clothing line (she calls it "contemplative wear") for Puma.
While she still finds time to squeeze in an occasional modeling gig, the North Carolina native also has found a new voice as an anti-smoking advocate. She has testified before Congress, appeared in public-service announcements and served as spokeswoman the past two years for the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout.
Turlington, who smoked on and off from age 13 to 26 and whose father died at 63 from lung cancer, hosts a teen awards program this Thursday in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
You grew up in a household where your father smoked. What can effectively discourage kids from smoking?
I have my own personal study going, and nine out of 10 times, when I ask people who smoke if their parents smoked, they say yes. So if your parents are not smoking, you're much less likely to smoke. Because I'm one who started smoking at 13 -- and that's the age when most people start, between 13 and 19 -- I'd like to get in there early, when they're not addicted yet and they're thinking about it, and share my story.
You recently wrote a letter to the editor of a national magazine protesting a picture of a cigarette-holding actor on the cover. That's a big turnaround from your past.
After parents, celebrities and entertainment people are secondary role models. It seems like every young actor today smokes and smokes in every interview. When I first got involved in anti-tobacco efforts, it was really to say: I used to smoke in ads, and in party pictures I'd be holding a cigarette and a drink -- and you don't think about the consequences or who may be looking at those images. [It's] furthering the myth that smoking is glamorous, sexy, cool. People have to think about the consequences of these images. And I certainly do now.
How did you quit?
Cold turkey at age 26. I quit the first time when I was 19 for two years through hypnosis. After that, it was a little bit harder. I tried acupuncture. I tried the patch several times. And then I just got really tired of going back and forth. I still have friends who smoke, but nobody can smoke at my house or around me.
As a yoga devotee, are you into Eastern religion?
I'm a practicing Catholic. I love the particular parish that I go to. It's in [New York City's] West Village, near where I live, and I find it very communal and they know your name. But at the same time, I don't feel threatened by being involved with yoga, which is associated with Hinduism. To me, it works.
How else do you keep in shape?
I have a resistance toward running. It's probably because my boyfriend [actor Jason Patric] is a runner and he always bugs me: "Yoga's not enough. You need to run." And I'm like, "Yoga is enough."
You climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. What's your next big challenge?
That was my gift to myself [for] graduating from college [in 1999]. I have lots of other mountains that I would like to climb. I have no dream of Everest, but there are some, like Mount Fuji, I'd like to do. I like pilgrimage places. I want to see the world, but see the world through a much more spiritual way.