The incredible Cindy
One of the most beautiful, most accomplished and most recognised women of our time chats to madison's editor Elizabeth Renkert.
You can’t help but experience an out-of-this-world feeling when you actually see that face and body in the flesh. When Crawford breezed in to the Malibu beach house that had been rented for the shoot, she was dressed casually: simple sundress, cute flip-flops and not a trace of make-up. And still I was in awe: this was Cindy Crawford!
Can you blame me? Crawford’s list of accomplishments is long and impressive. Thanks in part to her, little girls today grow up wanting to be models. Yet during her own childhood, Cynthia Ann, the second of four children in the Crawford family, had a more modest goal: she wanted to be a schoolteacher. Later, when she realised her talent for maths and science, she contemplated nuclear physics. After a visit to Washington DC while she was in eighth grade, Crawford set her sights on being the first female president. Does even a little part of her still harbour that dream? “No, no, not in a million years!” she says, adamantly. “It’s too much pressure.”
She made out pretty well with those alternate plans, finishing high school as valedictorian and taking a chemical engineering university scholarship before trying modelling.
What followed was of course a stratospheric level of success that was unrivalled at the time; for years, Crawford seemed to be everywhere you looked. Even today, more than two decades after she broke it big, she is revered. And the camera still loves every inch of her lithe, gorgeous body.
But good looks only get you so far. And her staying power is as much a result of great genetics as it is her brain for business. “I might not have gone to business school but I know my brand better than anyone. I’m an expert on me.”
That proficiency earned her a small fortune from fitness videos and Revlon and Pepsi ads in the ’90s. Today, Crawford is the face of Omega watches and also designs her own home furnishing collections. Meanwhile, there’s her Meaningful Beauty skincare line, and heavy involvement in charity work.
She may have led a life of privilege, but it has not been without heartache. When she was 10, her brother Jeff died from leukaemia just short of his fourth birthday. “It wasn’t until I had my own children that I truly appreciated what my mother went through. I called her and said, ‘I don’t know how you did this. How did you [take losing] a child?’ And she said, ‘I had three other kids looking up to me, asking what’s for breakfast.’ I’m sure if my sisters and I weren’t around, it would have been much easier for her to go to that dark place. I used to call my mum Pollyanna as an insult. But after I had kids, I realised that seeing the good is a choice she makes.”
Crawford is in a particularly good place right now. She and nightclub mogul husband Rande Gerber are coming on 15 years of marriage. They have a strong, happy union and two beautiful children, Presley, 13, and Kaia, 11. Maintaining that success, she will tell you, is nevertheless an ongoing challenge for her and Gerber. “Rande and I were raised differently. I think school is really important. I got straight A’s! It’s not that I expect my kids to get straight A’s, but I want them to do the best they can. My husband wasn’t that way with school. He just wanted to pass. It can be challenging. He’ll be like, ‘Cindy, he’s getting a C!’ And I’ll be like, ‘A C is not fine. A B is maybe fine!’”
Kaia, who bears an uncanny resemblance to her mum, appeared in the spring/summer 2012 Young Versace print campaign. It was her first solo modelling job (she has previously done “little modelling things” alongside her mum). Did Cindy feel reticent about allowing Kaia to be snapped? “I would feel like a hypocrite telling her not to,” she explains. “Modelling hasn’t been awful for me. It’s been great! But I’m certainly not pushing her in that direction. She’s still really too young.”
She then relates an hysterical anecdote. “Kaia said to me, ‘Well, maybe I’ll model a little bit. You really don’t have to know how to do anything.’ I’m like, thanks!
“My greatest achievement in life,” Crawford continues, “will be making sure our kids go on to be happy. We want them to contribute, to be givers, not takers.” Something tells me she’ll earn top marks here, too.
To read more purchase the December issue of madison on sale November 21st.