Who better to represent our Women of Style series than iconic supermodel, women’s health leader, athlete, mother and all-around unbelievable woman Christy Turlington Burns? Today the California native shares a little bit about her fashion role models and beauty essentials as well as her story of helping others through her game-changing non-profit, Every Mother Counts.
Women of Style: Christy Turlington Burns
Early Career and Life Experiences
Christy's Role Models
"I have had too many teachers to name. I have been fortunate to have met as many talented and smart women and men throughout my many careers and I learned so much from all of them. When I first arrived in NYC in my teens I was working regularly with photographers like Irving Penn, Steven Meisel and Arthur Elgort and editors like Grace Codington and Carlyne Cerf and for designers from Calvin to Azzedine, with hair and makeup teams like Francois Nars and Oribe every day. That was high school for me. There were always women I looked up to along the way. Especially, my mom, sisters, friends…"
On Health And Wellness
"I grew up in a very athletic family in northern California so health and fitness were always a part of my life. In my late teens, I discovered yoga and that was it for me. I do other things beyond yoga, but to this day is still my favorite way to connect with myself in the healthiest way possible. I started smoking as a teen, so for a while I struggled between leading a really healthy lifestyle and one that was less so. I finally quit when I was 25. My dad died a few years later from Lung Cancer and I became a preventative health advocate."
"Later, when I became a mom, I became more interested and concerned with maternal health. I had experienced a complication after delivering my daughter which helped direct my focus and was the impetus for my directing my first documentary No Woman, No Cry, which then led the launch of Every Mother Counts, which I founded in 2010. Before that I had no idea that hundreds of thousands of girls and women die every year from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth simply because they don’t have access to basic or emergency maternity care. Almost all of these deaths are preventable. When I learned this I asked myself what could I do, and it turns out, quite a lot."
Favorite Memories From Modeling
"I have so many great memories from those early days. We used to take lots of trips around the world and they were such a great way to learn about a place and the people you work with. I have fond memories of those first trips to Africa. The first was with American Vogue to Kenya with Grace Codington. Hans Feurer was the photographer and everything we shot was white. There were these adorable dogs that lived in the camp that we all fell in love with. The light in Africa is incredible."
On Modeling Today
"I would never have believed that I would still model today. It just wasn’t ever a job that I imagined I would forever be identified with. If anything, I thought it would be too brief to be able to fully enjoy. There was a long time where I didn’t do it much at all and then in my late 30s, after I had other work experiences in business and once I was a mom, that I started to feel differently about it. It no longer defined me, not that it ever did really, but I felt it limited my options when in fact, it has actually provided so many more than I might have had without it. In the last year I have probably done more than many previous years but now I am combining both worlds through partnerships, such as the campaign with Calvin Klein."
Going Back To School
"Going back to school was the best thing I ever did for myself. I had talked about doing this for a while and was envious of my sisters and friends who were studying. The grass is always greener…It’s a luxury to be able to go back to school. I loved everything about it. I went year round so that I would graduate in four years and I graduated with honors. This was the first time when I came first. I made a real home for myself and just indulged in my liberal arts experience at NYU."
Every Mother Counts
Early Experiences In Human Rights
"I learned so much about the challenges and the solutions from my travel with CARE [a relief agency]. The FEMME Project remains the best model I have seen to address the issue of maternal mortality and it’s pretty simple. Essentially, by treating indigenous women with dignity and respect they were able to reduce maternal deaths in half and in a really short time. I can’t say that that taught me how to operate an NGO (non-governmental organization), but I did learn a lot about human rights and partnerships and advocacy. I would say that if anything, my experience founding two startups (Sundari [a natural beauty line] and Nuala [a yoga apparel line]) better prepared me for my current role as the founder of a non-profit. There is a lot I still need to learn, but it excites me and I feel blessed to have found something I feel so passionate about that benefits other women and their families."
What Most People Don't Know
"Well, they likely aren’t aware that women continue to die in childbirth in the 21st Century. We have known how to address most of the complications commonly related to these senseless deaths and yet, millions of women don’t have access to the people and supplies that could save their lives. 15% of pregnancies will result in a complication, as mine did. We can’t always identify who may have one, which is why it is so important that every pregnant women have access to prenatal care and quality delivery care wherever that may be. EMC is focused on addressing the access gaps so transportation, and education are two of the focal areas of our grants so far."
A Milestone Moment
"Since I became a mother in 2003 the global figures have been reduced from 530,000 to less than 300,000 women dying every year. We played a role in this milestone. Through our outreach campaigns since 2010 we have educated and engaged thousands of people on this issue. The fact that Every Mother Counts is known in the global health community and the general public alike, is a testament of the impact we have started to make, but there is so much to still do. We hope to continue to build awareness and support of maternal health and also inspire more individuals to take action."
Global Issues Today
"They say that maternal health is the best indication of a functioning health system so when there are a lot of preventable deaths occurring that says something to the world about the way a country feels about its mothers. The US is ranked 50th in the world and here we are in a country where we spend more on healthcare than any other developed country. Right now in this country we are in a healthcare crisis. We pay more and receive less, yet if you look around there is an abundance of providers, but one out of five women in uninsured."
Style, Beauty & Personal Life
"I’ve always been drawn to classic pieces and silhouettes, and I think I’ve carried this style throughout my career. I appreciate fashion but rarely covet anything. I sometimes think I should dress more like a “grown up,” but I don’t really feel like one and I don’t have to impress anyone most of the time. I’m lazy."
What Makes Her Feel Glamorous
"I love Isabel Marant and Rag & Bone for every day wear and Calvin Klein or Marc Jacobs are my go-to for anything more glamorous. When I wear a high heel, everyone at home notices because it’s so rare!"
Her Beauty Essentials
"I will try anything natural that smells nice. I wear very little makeup - unless I am modeling - and even then always prefer a natural look. My mainstays are Great Lash mascara and the Eraser for a lightweight concealer, both from Maybelline."
On Finding Balance
"It’s a constant effort, honestly. Some days or weeks even, it all clicks and everything is working out and then suddenly one ball drops and there goes everything else and I need to reset and start again. The good thing is I know how to get things back on track. I can ease up my travel and get more yoga in, meditate, hibernate, whatever it takes."