Penthouse Retrospective

by Karen Moline Originally Published: February, 1993

Cindy Crawford

When you were a little girl, growing up in working-class De Kalb, Illinois, what did you want to be?

Either the first woman president or maybe a doctor. I started studying chemical engineering on scholarship to Northwestern University in Chicago, but I dropped out after one year to model full-time. Sometimes people ask me if I want to go back to school. I don’t need the official stamp of approval of a college degree to prove to myself that I’m a worthy person.

When you started modeling, were you self-conscious about your mole?

When I was little, I definitely wanted to get rid of it, but my mom said, “Listen, you can have a scar or a mole.” So I kept it. It just went away; I don’t see it. And one day a lady came up to me and said that my having one of these made them beautiful. I thought, God, if I can give that to people, or if I can make brown eyes sexy again, great.

What did you consider to be your big break?

Working with Victor Skrebneski, the most famous Chicago-based fashion photographer. Starting small taught me how to do it – to be a good model – because it’s not just how you look.

Not long after you arrived in New York in 1986, when you were 20, you landed your first Vogue cover. What was it like seeing your face on every newsstand?

It was a real pinnacle! When you do a cover, you think it’s a one-shot deal; you’re happy but you don’t think you’re going to get another. But then you do, yet still you’re shocked …. And then you do a show with the other girls, each more beautiful than the next, and you feel like, “When are they gonna figure out I don’t belong here?” I don’t even look like I belong on a magazine. Of course, there are ways to make yourself more beautiful. If I have a pimple, they can cover it up, or tape my boobs together, or I hold my stomach in for that one second they are shooting.

What stomach?

Believe me – some days it’s there. Sometimes I go to put on a skirt and it won’t fit, so all of a sudden I think, well, this morning I put on my own jeans and they fit me fine. But then they give me a skirt that’s too small, and I automatically feel fat. One of the reasons I don’t do a lot of runway modeling is I get the worst self-image – all the girls are so thin. I’m more curvy, and my arms are not sticks, Women really respond to me because it’s more attainable; my size isn’t so far from where they are.

Why do people like it so much when celebrities get fat?

Do they? They like it and hate it, because it means they don’t [have to] feel so guilty when they’re fat. That’s all it is. “Oh see, I’m not bad in my size 20 pants, because that actress wears size 20, too.” I did a piece on MTV with [The Beauty Myth] author Naomi Wolf, and she told me she met a 15-year-old girl who spent half her time on her grades and the other half getting into her size 6 jeans. It’s very sad.

But doesn’t it seem that models are, in fact, getting thinner?

Like trends or hair or skirt lengths, it goes up and down. Right now the body type for models is not thin or round, but healthy. Linda Evangelista is very thin with a straight body. Someone like me is curvy and not super thin. Granted, clothes do look better on the super-skinny on the runways – it’s like a pencil sketch – but who wants to look like that, really? Personally, I don’t think guys find it that attractive.

So many things we think we’re doing to be attractive to men have nothing to do with them: They’re for ourselves and other women. We don’t wear a ton of makeup for men; we wear it for other women. We do not get super skinny for men, even though we might think we are; we do it for other women. Men are much more sympathetic to the way women really look than women are.

The original supermodel is more confident than she used to be, but still has realistic expectations for her future. Learn some more about the model men admire and women emulate.