Christy Turlington Burns Talks ’90s Supermodel Fame, Philanthropy And The Craziness Of 2020

The ’90s supermodel talks family, fashion history and returning to the most iconic role of her career.

Christy Turlington Burns

by Annie Vischer |
Updated on

Christy Turlington Burns is talking to me from her Manhattan home where she lives with daughter Grace, 17, son Finn, 14, and husband Ed Burns (an actor, director and producer who you’ll likely recognise as the guy Cameron Diaz kicks out of her LA home at the beginning of The Holiday). As the mother of two teenagers, and at 51 years old, Christy is experiencing a shift in family dynamics. ‘I feel like, yet again, my role as a mom is very different. Now my daughter will make me something to eat and bring it to me if she sees that I’m on the phone for too long, you know what I mean? There’s a sort of role reversal.’

The events of 2020 have more than reinforced Christy’s maternal instincts. ‘This year is all about going through things as a family. With Covid-19 and the US election, I want to make sure that they’re doing OK and not getting freaked out by all of the things out there that are driving us a bit crazy at the moment.’

Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington

Her own teenage years were not short on excitement. After growing up in Northern California, Christy and her family relocated to Miami where her father worked as a training captain for Pan American Airlines. ‘My sister and I grew up riding horses,’ remembers Christy, ‘we were having a riding lesson one day after school when a photographer asked our mom if he could take our picture. I was 13 or 14 at the time and I had no clue about the modelling industry, but my sister was a few years older and was really excited. She talked our mom into letting us take the photos, those got to an agent and everything happened overnight. I went to Paris the next summer, then on to New York. The rest is history.’

Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell

Christy’s meteoric rise coincided with the success of Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and, later, Kate Moss. Together they dominated magazine covers and runways worldwide, with Linda notoriously saying: ‘We have this expression, Christy and I. We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.’ Christy must look back on that time now and see how crazy it was? ‘It’s hard to tell when you’re in the moment. The magic was in the combination of people.'

We’re girlfriends who came of age together. They’ll always be part of my life

'I often think back to the Freedom video, [the 1990 George Michael video in which she starred with Naomi, Linda, Cindy and Tatjana Patitz], it was a space in time where everyone was really standing out in their careers.’ She and the girls will always be intrinsically linked. ‘We’re girlfriends who came of age together. They’ll always be part of my life. Naomi lives around the corner from me, when I’m in California I’ll see Cindy, and Linda also lives nearby. We communicate pretty frequently. If I could give you any sort of analogy, it’s that the early 1990s were like university years for us. We’ve shared that history together.’

Kate Moss and Christy Turlington

Calvin Klein is the ultimate 1990s brand, and Christy has worked with them since the launch of cult classic fragrance Eternity. ‘I was 19 and that campaign really set the tone for what is now a mainstay,’ she says, ‘that timeless black and white photography was romantic and iconic.’ Husband Ed joined Christy for the 2014 and 2016 campaigns and, this year, they’re back for the scent’s latest iteration: Calvin Klein Eternity Fresh, and its campaign shot in Malibu. ‘I’ve been with the brand longer than I’ve been with my husband!’ laughs Christy, and that’s saying something. The couple are celebrating 20 years together this year. ‘We met in the late ’90s. We saw each other for the first time at a basketball game in Madison Square Garden,’ Christy smiles fondly. ‘I was with somebody else and it took a little while before we literally bumped into each other at a charity event in 2000.’

Christy Turlington Ed Burns
©Calvin Klein Eternity

The couple married in 2003 and today live in New York where a lot of Christy’s time is spent focusing on Every Mother Counts, a non-profit organisation she founded in 2010 to improve maternal health across the world. ‘I had a post-partum complication after the birth of my daughter and that’s what really opened my eyes to a global tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of girls and women do not survive pregnancy and childbirth. I was shocked to learn that.

I wanted to make as many women as I could feel as safe and supported as I did that day. It’s a huge endeavour, it’s a big world out there and there are a lot of women in hugely vulnerable settings and situations.’ The task may be daunting but Christy is determined. This year especially has brought new challenges to the table. ‘Birth is a hard thing. We really don’t want women to be alone in this. The early days of Covid-19 especially were a terrifying time to be pregnant.’ Christy’s passion for her cause is palpable. Does she consider herself an activist? ‘Yeah I do,’ she says, ‘I just do it in a variety of different ways. I will go out and I’ll march, and I’ll join a protest when that’s available to me but so much of my activism is in everyday activism. It’s about trying to be a part of something bigger than myself.’

Shop: The New Calvin Klein Eternity Eau Fresh For Her


Shop: The New Calvin Klein Eternity Eau Fresh For Her

Calvin Klein Eternity Eau Fresh For Her1 of 1

Calvin Klein Eternity Eau Fresh For Her 50ml, £52

READ MORE: The Very Best Hand Sanitisers To Help Give You Clean Hands

READ MORE: How To Cut Your Hair Like Daisy Edgar-Jones

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us