Supermodel Christy Turlington has been famous for over three decades and is one of the most photographed women in the world – but she’s accomplished a lot more than modeling success.
In an exclusive AOL Makers video, Turlington, 47, discusses everything from the start of her modeling career to her maternal health activism
An early highlight of Turlington’s career was her appearance in the 1990 George Michael music video Freedom 90 with fellow supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz and Cindy Crawford.
“It was sort of the end of music as we knew it, where big business really took over that industry,” Turlington says. “I think it was like George [Michael] saying ‘you know what? I don’t want to be on screen, I’m not playing this game anymore. And you know who I want to have represent me? Five supermodels.’ ”
“I was exposed to the most incredible artists, writers, people of that time,” Turlington says of her career. “I loved being the youngest in a group of creative people.”
Turlington was discovered at the age of 13 at a horse stable by a photographer.
“I had braces, I was in my most awkward years,” she says.
Within 18 months, she signed with Ford Models in New York City.
Turlington began developing her activist roots after her father died from lung cancer.
“I quit smoking when I was 25,” she says. “My dad, he had been a lifelong smoker. So when he was diagnosed, he was given six months to live.”
Turlington filmed an anti-smoking PSA after her father’s death.
“I got a feeling of what it could be like to do more meaningful work and to advocate for health and wellness,” Turlington says.
Turlington married actor and director Ed Burns in 2003. The pair have two children.
Complications around the birth of her first child 2003 ignited her passion for maternal healthcare and led to Turlington creating her non-profit Every Mother Counts. Turlington had a postpartum hemorrhage, the leading cause of maternal mortality.
“I realized that had I been in a lot of other places in the world, I probably would not have survived. I felt so compelled that this was something that I needed to do,” Turlington says.
“Hundreds and thousands of girls and women are dying, but 98 percent of the deaths are preventable,” she continues. “This is a gender issue, this is an equality issue, and that’s something that I want to change.”