Claudia Schiffer: You don’t have to be called beautiful your entire life

Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom at arrivals fo...

Claudia Schiffer covers the May issue of Elle UK. Honestly, this interview felt like a warm hug of nostalgia. It was just the right balance of “this woman’s current life is amazing” and “she was so f–king cool 30 years ago too.” The point of the cover story is that Claudia is turning 50 years old this summer, and that’s it. She has work to promote – a collection of sportswear with Être Cécile, a collection of ceramics with a Porteguese company – but mostly it’s just like “wow, she’s almost 50 and she still looks amazing.” Claudia lives with her husband Matthew Vaughn and their three children. They have two country homes, one in Oxfordshire and one in Suffolk. She helps Vaughn with his movies – she’s the executive producer on Rocketman and the Kingsman franchise, and she’s been more involved in his career since X-Men: First Class (if you know, you know).

Anyway, she reminisces a lot about the old days of the Supermodel Five, Linda, Christy, Cindy, Naomi and yes, Claudia. While Kate Moss came in later – and changed the supermodel game forever – I consider Kate to be sort of part of that group too, like an adopted half-sister. You can read the full Elle piece here. Some highlights:

On why she seemed more-standoff-ish than the other supers: ‘I never had that urge to be in the limelight. When I started modelling, I didn’t go to an agency saying, “I want to be a model.” And I never looked at it as, “I want to be famous,” either. So I came at the angle of, “I want to be good at it and I want to be at the top.”’

She’s given up sweets: She barely drinks, she tells me – and, despite being a sugar addict, has been sugar-free for the last few months. (Her pets, past and present, bear the names Rollo, Smartie and Milka). She’s not big on exercise, though, she says – a bit of barre here, tennis with friends, walking the dogs – she could take it or leave it.

Whether ageing gets to her: ‘I’ve had many wonderful compliments in my time. But then you get to the next stage and you move on. You don’t have to be called [beautiful] your entire life. It’s a nice memory, but then the next generation starts and you hand over. For me, it’s a natural thing to do… to hand over, to not be envious or jealous. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of anything worse right now than if you said, “There’s a magic pill and it’s going to make you look 20 again.”’

She wasn’t cold, she was just nervous: ‘In comparison to the other girls, I was very strange because I wouldn’t speak to anyone much while in the studio. Everyone would be chatting and going crazy. They probably all thought I was very arrogant… and it was seen as coldness sometimes, because people assumed “She’s not interested” or “She doesn’t want to communicate”. The nerves before a catwalk show could be intense sometimes. I enjoyed them when they were over and we were all celebrating, but before I did not enjoy it. And getting there, I literally had to convince myself to go to each one.’

People stole her underwear all the time: ‘It was insane… like being like a rock star. You couldn’t get to your car unless a path was carved for you. People would cut holes in the fashion tents and try to take pictures of us. We had security at every fashion show.’ Security was even employed to guard her underwear, she tells me, laughing. ‘When I was out on the runway I’d come back and constantly my underwear would be gone – my bra, my knickers… gone!’

She didn’t take many freebies: ‘People normally showered you with everything, really. Particularly at Chanel. Karl [Lagerfeld] would say, “Go downstairs to the boutique and take whatever you want. You can take the entire collection – whatever.” Where others may have taken advantage, I never felt I could. There’s a certain limit when someone says, “Choose what you want.” You don’t literally choose everything there is. Once Hermès offered for a handbag to be named after me and I thought, No! I don’t quite remember why now…’

On abuse in the fashion industry: ‘I have seen it and it’s not nice. I’m not talking about sexual terms, but just bullying and exercising of power that you don’t need. Or asking for things that you don’t need. I’ve seen that a lot and I’ve made a mental note that I don’t want to work with those people again. And I haven’t…. Sometimes they are not great people, but at the same time the photos are really great and sometimes you make compromises. And that’s life…’

[From Elle UK]

She talks more about how she always knew she was doing a job and she wasn’t there to party, so she never did the “let’s have drinks after work” thing. Thinking back on her reputation, yeah, of course she wasn’t known that way – that was Linda and Naomi, they would party their asses off. But yeah, it’s easy to be graceful about ageing when you’re nearing 50 and you still look this great. Genetic privilege, smh.

Rocketman UK Premiere

Photos courtesy of WENN, cover courtesy of Elle UK.

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47 Responses to “Claudia Schiffer: You don’t have to be called beautiful your entire life”

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  1. Vexa says:

    “If you know, you know.” *coughJanuaryJones*

  2. Eleonor says:

    This is how you talk about being a model and ageing.
    https://i-d.vice.com/en_us/article/j5mmj3/4-legendary-older-models-tell-the-truth-about-beauty-and-age

    And legendary italian model Benedetta Barzini who was beyond beautiful even in her 70s
    https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/benedetta-barzini-on-ageing

    Just saying…

    • MrsBump says:

      to be fair, those are just a bunch of incredibly beautiful women who have reached a great deal of financial success and status via their beauty, telling us plebs that it isn’t all it is cracked up to be :)

  3. Godwina says:

    She’s always been the most heart-stoppingly, soul-drenchingly, body-achingly beautiful of any generation of the supermodels to me.

    • StormsMama says:

      Years ago my mother (who is a breast cancer survivor and ran a non profit breast cancer org at the time) went to an event in NYC to honor and celebrate people committed to fighting breast cancer. The event was very fancy. My mom went into the fancy bathroom to collect herself and Claudia walked in behind her. I think my mom had some kind of special pin? Anyway Claudia knew my mom was one of the honorees somehow. Claudia asked my mother several questions about herself, her work, her family, Claudia thanked my mom for all her noble work and told her she was a hero to be helping others and that being a survivor was the most incredible thing. Then she insisted they get a photo together – apparently Claudia had her own photographer at the event- and when they left the bathroom Claudia was swarmed. But she took my mothers hand, introduced her to the photographer and said “I must get a picture with Barbara! She is a survivor! And a hero!” And afterwards she had the picture sent to my mom. 😊 I still have it.
      My mom looks beautiful in the picture and
      Claudia is absolutely stunning. But her personality- how she made my mom feels- is something I will never forget.

    • Snappyfish says:

      @godwina. I agree!! She was on a cover of W in the late 90s that was so beautiful I had it framed & it is hung on a wall in my closet. She was always my favorite. Christy Turlington was second. Interestingly I read an article years ago by Karl Lagerfeld & he said she was the only ‘real person’ of the supermodels & that she & Christy were the sweetest of people.

      High praise from such a curmudgeon.

    • Mrs.Krabapple says:

      I’ve always thought she is very pretty, so what I ‘m going to say is not a criticism but just something that I could never un-see: she looks like Freddy Mercury in drag.

    • EM says:

      I always thought she was pretty but not “supermodel” pretty. I happened to travel between UK and France & rode the Eurostar with her on at least 3 different occasions (once very closely) and honestly she glows. Absolutely stunning in person – also appreciated that she appeared down to earth (no special treatment although staff and guards tripped over themselves helping her).

  4. BayTampaBay says:

    I could be wrong but didn’t Claudia date Albert II of Monaco for a couple of years?

  5. Lizzieb says:

    I appreciate their attitudes on aging but they are being a bit disingenuous with respect to attractiveness. The world treats attractive people differently. None of these women would have their position or be asked for their opinion if they had not been/are attractive according to society. So again I like the message of not basing self worth on looks, but realistically they still matter somewhat.

  6. FHMom says:

    Claudia became famous for her Brigitte Bardot like looks. I never put her In the same category as Linda, Naomi and Christ because they defined the super model lifestyle. It’s funny how she comes off in the interview as aloof as she always appeared. Good for her, though. She seems happy.

  7. emmy says:

    I’ve always liked her, she seems so low-key and like modeling really was just a job to her, not what defined her.

    She looks better at 50 than I ever will so it would be easy to dismiss what she’s saying but she barely works as a model anymore so I guess maybe she’s just never, as I said, let that or her looks define her. Sure that’s easy if you have them. Like money. Rich people lecturing about how money doesn’t buy happiness … eh. And she has nothing to compare it to. But that’s her perspective and that’s fine. Reminds me of Christy Turlington. Another one of the supermodels who gave it her all and then stopped. Unlike … others who are now living vicariously through their kids.

    • BayTampaBay says:

      I think Linda Evangelista retired too. I think Naomi is the only one of the five still working as a model.

  8. ex-Mel says:

    It’s not a “goal”. But the fact is, you are treated VERY differently – by both men and women – when and while you are beautiful. And once you’ve experienced one side of it, the other can be very difficult to take – because it is an injustice (in both cases).

  9. Watercress says:

    My favourite ad of all time was (paraphrasing)

    “There are 8 people in the world who look like this…

    …and 7 billion who don’t”

    Solid rolled gold genius 👌🏼

  10. CROOKSNNANNIES says:

    “Sometimes the photos are really great and you make compromises.” This is where things get screwed up for many people I think. There are red flags about people in their industry but it’s perceived as “worth it” to compromise. If only people didn’t compromise with these assholes. I’m not blaming her or calling her an enabler, it just sucks that it happened. And if Claudia wasn’t going to stop working with someone because of that, of course some young aspiring model isn’t going to.

  11. josephine says:

    She sounds pretty normal, like it really was just a job and not her entire existence. I don’t love the cover photo though – it seems so generic and the outfit doesn’t seem right for a grown woman. Would have liked to see something a bit more interesting.

    • lucy2 says:

      She does, and I think that was smart. If your whole identity is “supermodel” what happens when that goes away? She found a good balance and now has a richer life for it.

  12. Veronica S. says:

    Eh, consider yourself privileged if you got to be called beautiful at any point in your life, to be honest. It’s a huge advantage. This being said, she seems to be taking a healthier approach than most in the industry to accepting the inevitability of aging.

    Hate the cover. The outfit just isn’t working for me. I feel like if you have a former supermodel, you put her in something more dramatic?

  13. Ines says:

    I would totally take that pill that makes you “look” 20. I just wouldn’t want to be 20 again though.

  14. Dutch says:

    “What’s this about a pill that makes you look 20 again?” — Madonna

  15. Redgrl says:

    I remember reading about 10 years ago that she was struggling with ageing because she felt she had nothing else in her identity apart from her looks(or, I guess to her only her looks from her 20’s). Her comments about not being called beautiful your whole life echoed that and struck me as being very sad. There are all kinds of beauty and she doesn’t seem to understand that. Her comment about the next generation seems to suggest she thinks beauty – or beauty that matters – is reserved for the young.

  16. OriginalLara says:

    “Poor” Tatjana Patitz. She was the original blonde in the Big 5 group, and to me just as beautiful as Christy T, and got steamrolled by Claudia’s career (not Claudia’s fault).
    But yeah, I agree with all the sentiments here, she might not be called beautiful on a daily basis but she’s still considered one of the most beautiful women on this planet, 50 or not.
    And I have to say I LOVED all of Linda’s, Naomi’s and Kate’s shenanigans. They were so much fun to read about. Claudia in comparison came off as almost boring, but that’s her choice and that’s perfectly fine as well.

  17. AnnaKist says:

    Hmmm. Yeah. Thanks for that, Claudia. 🙄

  18. Courtney B says:

    I remember the snobbery back in the day when she first came off the Guess jeans ad. She was considered too big and clunky for the runway. I think she was called a cow by other models? And maybe some comments because Guess isn’t ‘fashion’. It’s been a long time so I don’t remember all the details just that it was nuts.

  19. Kata says:

    I was pretty in my late teens and trough my 20s. Pretty enough to be called out a couple of times about it. I never was beautiful by any means, but pretty. I enjoyed it. I would lie if I would not admit it. But now I’m in my late 30ies with two little kids, a constant working husband, a huge household and garden and literally no time for myself. I just see I’m not that pretty girl anymore but I ‘m fine with it. It is a nicer compliment to be called a good cook, mother or partner for my husband. I think this is what she meant, it’s just doesn’t matter that much overtime.

  20. Granger says:

    Her genetics are insane. And I bet she exercises more than she says she does.

  21. Miumiiiu says:

    I find it condensing a bit when we’re saying people are “gorgeous” and stunning just because they are accomplished great people and also criticized. Beautiful is a complicated word in English and in French too as it’s not 100% exclusively used for aesthetics, and so beauty really is in the eye of the beholder

  22. Keiji says:

    I’ve never thought she was anything special, but I really liked what she had to say here. She looks really great, I would have thought she was 40. Great genes, but I also assume she took care of herself.

  23. L says:

    She basically looks the same to me? I was never enamored with her look but she is definitely gorgeous. She sounds pretty emotionally balanced too. Good for her.

  24. A.Key says:

    I’ve always liked her but never found her to be drop dead gorgeous like Naomi or Cindy. I also never understood the obsession with these supermodels because to me Hollywood stars almost always looked better than these women plus they could actually do something else other than pose for a picture. Like, Kim Basinger or Michelle Pfeiffer or Liz Taylor or Audrey Hepburn in their heyday outshine any supermodel I’ve ever seen.

  25. ex-Mel says:

    Computer glitch. (Incomplete post.)

  26. Rhos says:

    I absolutely agree, but with that being said beauty is power. In western societies, especially, it becomes absolute power – you can build a completely different life just on that. And you can’t escape it because that’s how people work. Try going to a job interview when you look pretty vs when you don’t.

  27. Maye says:

    “ Try going to a job interview when you look pretty vs when you don’t.”

    The ironic thing about that is I recall a study where women wearing makeup/done up vs women not wearing makeup/presentable but not beautified so to speak. Applied for jobs, men and women reviewing them.

    The men would hire the makeup’d women & not the natural ones. Unsurprising. But the saddest part? If you were the natural no makeup group, the women wanted to hire. If you wore makeup…the women didn’t want to hire.

    So while I agree the patriarchy & beauty (double) standards exist, at some point it needs to be talked about how you can’t win with either gender. You’re either a threat or a blob. It’s hard to articulate this bc it just sounds like internalized misogyny – personally I don’t think it falls under that.