Christie Brinkley On Beauty Standards: "It's So Much Better Today"
By Liz Ritter, Executive Managing Editor | Photography By Ruven Afanador |
So much is said about positive body image in today’s society—a media buzzword that seems to put down anything that deals with beauty and looks and how that affects the perception of women. But supermodel Christie Brinkley says, in her opinion, it’s all shifted in a very positive way.
“It’s absolutely so much better today. When I started out, beauty was so boring, and the kind of beauty that was represented in the magazines was quite strict. For the most part, everyone was kind of the same. Every image, every look, every campaign was so focused on recreating this image of ‘perfection.’”
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“I used to do a lot of work with Glamour magazine and every detail was so planned out to an almost insane level for what would sell. They knew which month needed a blond-haired, blue-eyed girl on the cover. They knew which month needed that girl holding a kitten. They knew which month needed that girl holding a kitten to be looking over her shoulder toward the binding of the magazine or toward the opening of the magazine. They also were very strict about how we posed and how we crossed our legs—there were actual rules in place. We were only allowed to cross our legs at the ankles and that was considered ladylike and beautiful. I still remember the first time a photographer requested that I cross my legs with my ankle over my knee. I thought that was so sassy!”
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Although she doesn’t credit her foray into the world of modeling as creating a sort of shift in the subculture, she does think she got into the industry at a moment when it was all slowly changing. “When I was first discovered, I immediately thought that I had to lose weight so I looked like all the other girls. Ironically, it was the fact that I wasn’t so thin that got me noticed in the first place; it’s what made me stand out. Turns out, I was part of a new wave of a trending look—suddenly everything was about physical fitness in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Everyone was putting on their leotard and working out to Jane Fonda and listening to 'Physical’ by Olivia Newtown-John.”
But, Brinkley says, if you look at history though the ages, the one thing that is consistent is that what we perceive as beautiful is forever changing. “There’s just sort of a social thing that always happens, whether we are aware of it or not. Right now, it seems like every young woman is obsessed with her derriere, whereas it wasn’t that long ago that everyone wanted that thin, linear not-very-healthy ‘heroin-chic’ look. Now, it seems like everyone is back to appreciating every type of women.”
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In terms of recognizing beauty for its own individual quality that makes people uniquely “them,” Brinkley says that’s where our ideals have changed the most, and it’s all for the better. “Our perception of beauty has actually become more beautiful. We literally view beauty in such a wide expanse now; we’ve been exposed to so many images, so many magazines, so many different women. I think it’s really, really great. Look at Ashley Graham. She’s gorgeous and physically fit and she’s the hottest thing right now. That’s her body size and she looks really beautiful in that size. Women come in all shapes and sizes, all ethnicities. That’s the message, and it’s beautiful.”