It’s awesome and just a little bit creepy, but up close in person Christie Brinkley still looks like a perfect giant Malibu Barbie. The creamy, peachy skin, the sun-streaked mane, the dazzling Chiclets smile, and the athletic curves that graced Sports Illustrated covers in teensy swimsuits haven’t changed all that much in the past 30 years. Clearly a pro at maintaining her iconic image, this uptown girl also has serious business chops. She renewed her CoverGirl contract at 52; she’s marketing an eyeglass line and fitness equipment.
But her passion, surprisingly, is politics. Ask her about the upcoming elections and it’s like opening the starting gate for Seabiscuit. "We must demand that candidates reveal exactly what they plan to do about renewable energy and the abolishment of nuclear weapons," she says. "I attended the Nobel Laureate Peace Summit in Rome recently and was galvanized by the urgency of the nuclear weapons issue. We work awfully hard at war; if only we worked as hard at peace."
I don’t know what I expected from Brinkley — but certainly not this highly charged citizen, who has joined the board of directors of the Global Security Institute and this past fall spoke on disarmament at the United Nations. "I know people may think, ‘What’s a model got to do with nuclear weapons?’" she says. "I’m not an expert, but I am an American, a woman and a mother, so I feel entitled to sound off.
"My activism began full force back in 1999," she tells me. "I was living on Long Island near the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Radioactive tritium had been leaking unnoticed for 10 years, contaminating the drinking water of over three million residents. Breast cancer rates in the area were reported to be among the highest in the nation, and when cases of a rare form of childhood cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma, appeared in significant numbers, I joined a local group, STAR [Standing for Truth About Radiation]. We succeeded in closing Brookhaven’s two reactors." She adds, "I’m convinced that women can make a difference."
Citizen Christie is also amusingly down-to-earth, a little self-effacing, and a lot like the rest of us when it comes to daily trials and traumas. A few Brinkleyisms:
"...seeing or hearing my age always seems foreign to me — somewhere around 40, the number became irrelevant. I don’t try to hide my age, but my spirit is 20."
Originally published in MORE magazine, May 2008.