Sailor Brinkley Cook: I think I first started to think about trying modeling last spring. At my school we have something called Independent Study and my mom said, ‘Hey, why don’t you do modeling?’
Christie Brinkley: No, I actually didn’t say that! [Laughs] She was into photography, but she had never mentioned one word about any interest in modeling. She was in the back seat of the car once with a group of friends and one of them says, ‘Hey, isn't your mom that model?’ And Sailor goes, ‘Euugh! Nooo…’ [Laughs] She didn’t have any idea of what it was I did every day! And even once she got the gist that I was going in to work to do modeling, that wasn’t even on her radar. She wasn’t interested. But then she started growing up, and she was eating right, exercising, and people started coming up to her saying, ‘Are you a model?’ And because she is a great photographer, she was already thinking within that context, so modeling made sense.
Sailor: Photography's my main thing.
Christie: You know, she’s got an eye. She has a great Instagram, and she makes great videos, too. She can actually do everything. She can do special effects, she can slow things down—
Sailor: Mom, every person knows how to do that.
Christie: Well, she went to the New York Film Academy one summer and this was in the phase when all the girls were making music videos and hers were so creative, so charming, so great. And, oh my gosh, I was really happy when she wanted to do something with photography because I’ve worked as a photographer. I photographed all kinds of sports—Formula 1, Formula Atlantic. And anybody who knows me knows that, from the day they invented video cameras, I used to lug them around when you had to carry the pack here, and the big camera here, plus the diaper bag and a baby and the purse or whatever. But then she said, ‘Maybe I could also test out seeing what it’s like on the other side of the camera.' And that’s when she started getting into modeling, too.
Sailor: I had low self-confidence when I was younger—modeling was never in the cards for me. And I didn’t really want to, either, because I thought as soon as you were a model you had to be stick skinny. Just recently, the door sort of opened up for more healthy models, ones who are like Jennifer Lawrence—she got huge because she was pro-health. It was then I started thinking, ‘Hey I can do this. I don’t care if I’m not a size zero, I can do this.’
Christie: Which is funny because when I became a model, the reason I was successful was because I was not skinny like the other girls, either. I could barely fit into the sample clothes because I was what they called back then ‘athletic.’ This was about 43 years ago—in the late ‘70s. That’s when everybody was starting to do the exercise thing. Jane Fonda was coming out with the workout tapes and Olivia Newton-John was singing, ‘Let’s get physical!’ I had that newer look—I was getting booked for things because you couldn’t see my bones through my skin. I was healthy, I was a surfer girl from Malibu. I went skiing and I liked being active and doing things. I just had that California look—my very first job I ever did they handed me a bathing suit and I was like, ‘Oh no! Oh no!’ And then I had a couple jobs with clothes.
Sailor: A couple. [Laughs]
Christie: First it was French Vogue, and then the next day it Harper’s & Queen, and then it was back to bathing suits again—a lot of bathing suits. I can’t complain. I remember my first Sports Illustrated shoot was with the photographer Walter Iooss and Julie Campbell was the editor, and we were at the president of Mexico’s private house in Cancún—this was before anything else that’s now in Cancún even existed. And they told me to get a tan, so I spent all morning in the sun and I was burnt. [Laughs] Then Julie hands me this pink bikini, which just blended into the rest of my skin, and I felt very pink, very burnt, and very not right for the job. I remember just squirming, not knowing where to put my hands. And all of the sudden I hear Julie Campbell go, ‘Oh my god, she moves so great!’ and the photographer says, ‘Yeah, smokin’!’ It’s funny because it’s the things you sometimes think of as your flaws that actually make you who you are. Like, if I had been successful with the crazy diets that I tried in the very beginning, I probably would have dieted myself out of a career. So it’s funny that Sailor and I started following the same trajectory of finding a niche and being a more athletic type.
But I have to say, I never had a feeling that I was a successful model. I was afraid before every job, I was nervous, and I would literally feel a little bit sick with the stress of having to do it. I never planned to be a model at all. I moved to Paris to study art and I was there working as an artist, taking classes, and I had a little sick dog that I was using up all of my money to try and heal. It was right at that point that this photographer, Errol Sawyer, saw me at the phoning office, and convinced me to let him take my photo. He brought the pictures to Elite Model Agency in Paris, and they wanted to meet with me. On the day when I went to the agency, Patrick Demarchelier and Mike Reinhardt—who were both young, budding photographers—were there. They were the ones who raved about me to Eileen Ford at Ford Models, which was so nice and just incredible. Then Eileen started to try to get me to come to New York, but I was a Francophile, living in Paris and loving it and moving was out of the question. But later on we crossed paths when I was visiting my family in California, and then Eileen had me meet with [model agent] Nina Blanchard for lunch in LA. We sat down at the table and this person comes over and says, ‘Nina, where have you been keeping this girl? I want to book her for Noxzema.’ So she said, ‘Great, wonderful, call me at the office.’ Ten minutes later someone else comes over and says, ‘I want to book her for a Max Factor commercial.’ And then the third one was Yucca Dew Shampoo. [Laughs] So I got three jobs at that lunch.
After I got my first modeling check, I left New York to go back to Europe down by the Pyrenees where my then-fiancée was stationed in the military. My dad said to me, ‘Well, when you’re not available, they think you’re negotiating.’ [Laughs] During that period, the agency thought I was playing hardball. They kept telling everyone, ‘She’s booked, she’s booked.’ It was because I wasn’t available that I created this demand. It’s funny how little things along the way add up to create what came to be.
Sailor: I’m only 15, so I don’t think there are a lot of jobs like that for me yet.
Christie: Well, no. She has a lot of things, though. She did a Claire’s campaign—which is so funny because she used to love Claire’s when she was younger. I remember really loving the CoverGirl ads when I was younger—there was something very cool about how they always put the girls in white. It looked so clean. But growing up, I was a real hippie, radical, chick that marched against the war in Vietnam and nuclear power plants. I didn’t wear makeup and I had the long blonde hair parted down the middle, down to here. Then we started to change a little bit. Later it was a kind of hip, beatnik thing in the ‘60s. I wanted a pair of white go-go boots so badly. And we used to put zinc oxide on our lips to make them white because we weren’t allowed to wear lipstick. We used Sun-In, so our hair was platinum blond, really long, and stick straight. Then we started liking to do darkness around the eyes—we had a phase where makeup was just not a thing, and then I think it was Twiggy that had us painting the little rays of sunshine underneath our eyes. You could even paint your eyelashes on the top to appear as if they were going all the way up. It was amazing.
Sailor: The first time I saw makeup, it was like seeing a unicorn or something. My best friend and I had just met in second grade, and she came over to my house with this makeup kit and I said, ‘Oh my god what is that?’ We tried to put mascara on and I poked myself in the eye. [Laughs] But now that I’m modeling it feels so good just to not wear anything.
Christie: After modeling, I just keep the makeup on! I feel like it’s a work of art. I study it to see how they do it; I always thought that was part of the fun. But having all these makeup artists doing it on me, I couldn’t figure out how to do my own makeup for the longest time. I would do multiple jobs in a day sometimes, so the morning makeup artist would say, ‘Oh yes, you always have to extend out here.’ So I would make a note to extend out here. And then the next person would say, ‘Ah, I’m going to shadow all here and all here.’ And then the next person would say, ‘Always put it under and not over the eye.’ And then the next person would say, ‘Never put it under, it’s going to weigh it down.’ Or, ‘Your eyes are too recessed, you should never use dark colors, always put light,’ and, ‘You should always use dark—‘ I was just like, ‘Eugh!’
But I’ve found my things that I love. I accumulate my makeup based on what I see when I’m at work. I’ll ask what everything is, write it down, and order it. Like my Bobbi Brown Six Pan Palette; I think Bobbi makes it really easy. Her packaging I find really convenient. I love brown eye shadows because they are easy to use and more forgiving. I buy these individually and then just pop them in—I have Espresso, Ivory, Hot Stone, Blonde, and Chocolate. And I use my Alcone Foundations palette—instead of putting one foundation across the face, I take a brush and fill in wherever it’s a little blotchy, or a little discolored, and I use a lighter shade around the eyes. And then the Laura Mercier Illuminating Quad in Mocha—I’m a big blush person because I feel like my face is kind of round and blush gives it some depth.
Sailor: We both have round, chubbier faces.
Christie: But you know, it’s good. My British friends use to say, ‘Eh fat face! How ya doing?’ [Laughs] But, in the long run, it’s very anti-aging to have a rounder face. Otherwise you can get quite angular and sunken faster. But I’m actually grateful to be aging—consider the alternatives! Every year I’m still here I’m like, ‘Yay!’ And I’m getting more familiar with things to avoid; I Google every single ingredient in everything that I use.
Sailor: Isn’t that why we have to stop drinking almond milk?
Christie: Yes, the carrageenan. Here we thought we were doing such a good thing drinking almond and coconut milk, but they have carrageenan in it, which they’re saying can cause stomach cancer. I’m trying to find a carrageenan-free coffee creamer because I was using the So Delicious Hazelnut Coffee Creamer—it’s unbelievable, so good—but it has carrageenan in it. This is why I’m so excited about my line of skincare products. I want everything to pass with the Environmental Working Group. They’re like a watchdog, very strict. And the products are recyclable—refillable actually—organic, cruelty-free, all of that. One of the hardest things to make is sunblock because a lot of the things that make the cream elegant and make it easily absorbed and not sticky are the ingredients that are questionable. Right now we’re reformulating the line to add sunblock, so I’m living with and testing out the samples.
So if it’s not my own stuff, we live out here in the Hamptons year-round, which means I’m very drugstore-oriented—we don’t have department stores to buy makeup in, like in the city. I use the Jergens Natural Glow, which actually gives you a little color. I usually do the Medium to Tan, but you should always start with the Fair to Medium and go from there. It’s great stuff, I absolutely love it. I go through it all the time. And if I’m not using my own face washes, I use Olay Regenerist Cream Cleanser. I took this in to my formulators and I said, ‘This is what you're up against.’ The Olay is good stuff. I come home sometimes with a lot of makeup on, and it just cuts right through it without stinging or anything. For my eye-makeup remover, I use Andrea Eye Q's Makeup Remover Pads. They make different formulas, but the original formula is good and so is the Ultra Quick, but the moisturizing formula stings.
I also have to say, I love this—Laura Mercier Almond Coconut Milk Soufflé Body Crème. I get so many compliments on it—I have multiples, I even keep one in my purse. Every time I go to SoulCycle or something, someone will say, ‘Oh you’re the girl that smells so good.’ But other than that, I don’t really wear a lot of fragrances. They tend to make me nauseous. I have giant pots with Jasmine trees, and orange blossoms, and these giant gardenia trees just outside the kitchen door and along the terrace. The smell of everything that surrounds my home—that’s the smell I love. And then I have all the magic potions, too—all these essential oils. I put my essential oils in the divot in the steam room and when I turn it on, the oil heats up and the aroma fills the room. And I do Epsom salt baths all the time. I got into it when I was playing Roxie Hart in Chicago. After three-hour shows and eight-hour days, you have to do this for your muscles. I would get home from the theater, usually around 11 at night, and I would make a bath, and then I would do it again in the morning. And while I soak, I do yoga stretches in the tub.
In the shower, I like the Fekkai Technician Color Care Shampoo because it helps the color last a little bit longer. I get my color by Sharon Dorram at Sally Hershberger Uptown. And right at the hairline, I use the Fekkai Full Volume Conditioner instead of a regular one. Actually, I have one hairdresser that, instead of using volumizer, will use the Elnett hairspray. It combs out very nicely, but it can also add a little grip to otherwise slippery hair. And I think hair extensions are so fun! We’ve been using them in the modeling world for a long time. If they were putting on extensions, I would always say, ‘Can I just keep them in, please? I’ll mail them back to you, just let me keep them in.’ So I just launched my new line of hair extensions, Hair2Wear, and we’ve had such an overwhelming response. Ours are great, and so easy to use. We have ponytails, the extension, the side-swept bang—you know, because whenever you actually cut your bangs you immediately want to grow them out, so these are great—plus headbands and the hair wrap thing that you can wear at the nape of your neck or on top of your head. We also have lots of different braid styles.
Sailor: When I get older, I’ll have a whole stash of Hair2Wear. [Laughs]
Christie: She has gorgeous waves in her hair. It drove me so nuts when she was little because she had these golden tendrils, with light sparkling off of them like you can’t even believe! And then she would use the hot iron; she had to have it stick-straight.
Sailor: [Laughs] I was obsessed with straightening it when I was in seventh and eighth grade. I hated my curly hair, so I would iron it every single day. It only took me ten minutes. Now I want to dye it lighter—like platinum—but my mom won’t let me.
Christie: Her hair’s just so beautiful. The way it captures the light, and the depth of the colors. It just takes forever to try and get that back once you’ve colored it.
Sailor: If I still want to lighten it when I turn 18, I’ll do it.
Christie: Sailor just got me into purple lipstick—she took a photograph wearing it and she was so gorgeous that I got obsessed and thought, ‘Why not try it?’ I bought this L’Oreal Wet Shine Stain in Berry Persistent, and what’s cool about it is that it really has a lot of staying power for a dark lip color. When you put it on, it almost feels like you’re painting and then it dries, but it’s not drying. And if you want your lips to look big and have fullness, there’s just something about a nude lip. I have a drawer full of nudes, my favorite being Sweet Dreams by Nars. I have a bunch of reds, too, but those are for Roxie [my character in Chicago]. And the lashes. The New Look brand is really good, but the Clear Band Style 221 by Beautee Sense are the lashes you wear in big theaters. I picked up a lot of makeup and tricks from performing, because you have to do your own stage makeup.
Sailor: You didn’t do your own makeup.
Christie: I did, every single night.
Sailor: Oh, that’s right.
Christie: When they handed me the products I said, ‘You’re kidding right?’ Those girls on Broadway can whip on an entire face—eyelashes, lipstick, all of that—in, like, 4 minutes. I would be in there—
Sailor: She would do it for like two hours before the show, and then at the show she spent another hour touching it up. It was pretty cray.
Christie: Yep, cray.
—as told to ITG
Christie Brinkley & Sailor Brinkley Cook photographed by Emily Weiss on November 21, 2013 in Bridgehampton, NY.