Before the unfiltered candor of Chrissy Teigen, there was Paulina Porizkova. Outspoken and delightfully forthright, Porizkova catapulted to supermodel status in the 1980s, ascending quickly from Sports Illustrated swimsuit covers to contracts with Coca-Cola and Estée Lauder. After stints on reality television, including a gig as a judge on America’s Next Top Model (where, Porizkova complained, the queen of smize was habitually late), Porizkova is beginning her latest project as the face of anti-aging skin-care line Rx Genesys. The Cut caught up with the model to discuss Botox, sperm eyebrows, and what she thinks about models today.
What age do you think women should start focusing on anti-aging products?
When I started working with Estée Lauder, I was 21 or something like that. I was invited to one of those luncheons with the people behind the company and the scientist behind the creams. I turned to them and asked: “What should I be using?” They unanimously said, “SPF. Start it now, you’ll thank us later.” I’m thanking them now. Ever since they told me that, I went out of my way to make sure that I always have SPF on my face. I don’t think you’re ever too young to start. I’m a big fan of [La Roche-Posay’s] Anthelios. That’s the one I’ve been using since I was 20. I’m so up on SPFs you wouldn’t believe it. Like 80 percent of real skin damage is related to the sun. You should start when you’re, like, zero. Then you’ll look fabulous when you’re 50.
Going into the things that are actually supposed to smooth your skin and not just merely moisturize, I think it’s kind of individual. For me, it was at the stroke of turning 36. I remember it was my birthday and I looked at myself at the mirror, and said: Holy cow, where did this come from? With “this” I mean wrinkles that I hadn’t noticed until then. From that time on I have definitely been going through the skin-care shelves with anti-aging.
You’ve been very outspoken against Botox and fillers. Have ever seen a cosmetic enhancement that you’ve actually liked?
The problem with Botox is when they’re heavy-handed. But recently and probably for the first time in my life, yes, I’ve seen a Botox treatment that I liked. I took a really good girlfriend of mine to Patricia Wexler. My girlfriend is my age, and she’s into cosmetic surgery. I said, Let me watch what happens to her. She got a light amount of Botox and fillers, and I was pretty blown away because it looked like she had had a really good night’s rest.
It wasn’t lumpy, it wasn’t weird. Her forehead was a little less mobile than it used to be, but not completely blank. I was looking at her and going: Oh, I see how this can work. It can be very subtle and actually look great. As soon as you move past that subtle point is where you kind of fall into looking like a boiled hamster.
In light of seeing that a good Botox and filler job could happen, could you see yourself 15 years down the road dabbling in either or those treatments?
I don’t think I’m bothered by the subtle little things. I’m not overly fond of my eyelids getting a bit on the heavy side, but the overall effect is still me. I think I wouldn’t. But you know what? I’m never going to say never. I’ve learned at 50 that it’s a stupid thing to do. I’m just really afraid of the slippery-slope thing. I’m afraid of starting something and you just want a little bit more, a little bit more, and before you know it you look like Barbara Walters.
You’ve worked with some of the best makeup artists in the world. What are the most useful tips you’ve learned from them throughout the years?
From Kevyn Aucoin I learned about the power of eyebrows. He was an eyebrow freak, and rightly so because there’s nothing in your face that changes you more. You can quite visibly lift your eye with a higher-placed eyebrow, or if you thicken or thin it. Or, as is about 65 percent of women I see on the subway, you just fuck it up with a sperm eyebrow. God, I hate that.
Do you have a favorite brow pencil?
This is one that I learned from Way Bandy. The world may not know him as well as Kevyn Aucoin or François Nars, but he really was the first superstar makeup artist. He told me to use a No. 2 lead pencil. I swear it works on pretty much anybody’s eyebrow. The thing is genius. It really doesn’t seem to matter what color your eyebrow is.
What’s the most useful hair tip you’ve learned?
A hairstylist told me ages ago to wash my hair as little as possible, and if I’m not working, to not wash it at all. I think it really saved my hair because my hair went through a lot of abuse being worked on every day. I wash my hair once a week. If it gets stinky in between I just dry-shampoo it. I have to say, my hair is really damn healthy. It keeps growing like a weed.
Everybody thinks that if you don’t wash your hair every day it’ll be greasy, but, the more you wash it, the greasier it will be. I started using Wen about a year ago, just because I guess I fell for the infomercial. I tried it and I think it’s wonderful. I don’t really use it if I’m supposed to do a photo shoot, because if I want to curl my hair or wave it or do anything stylistically like that, my hair will look like a pillowcase. I only use it when I want to go to the Demi Moore, sleek-and-shiny look.
You’ve been a part of the modeling industry for three decades. What’s your opinion on the current state of the industry?
I feel really sorry for the girls that are modeling now. Their work, their business, their opportunities are maybe not a fourth of what we had in the ‘80s. The market has been taken over by celebrities. I also keep saying this: Adobe Photoshop killed the model. Before Adobe, you had to look perfect on the photo in order to be able to be in a magazine. You couldn’t have wrinkles. You couldn’t have pimples. You couldn’t have cellulite.
I actually had a girlfriend who was a model and once in a while her acne would flare up, and she had to go away and take a huge treatment of antibiotics because there was no way she would get work with her skin breaking out. Now it totally doesn’t matter. Anybody can be a model. Literally a 65-year-old with retouching will now look like a 25-year-old. A weird 25-year-old, but still. That perfection that was once looked for is no longer required.
Have you ever thought of coming out with your own beauty line?
I was working on it for a little while a few years back, because I have an idea of how to make makeup really simple. To me, skin makeup is the most important, so that would be foundation, powder, BB cream, and CC cream. If you have really pretty skin, then you can pretty much stick on mascara and a lip cream and look great. There’s still some unexplored little bits in makeup that I keep thinking: Hmm, I wish I had this, I bet other women wish they had it, too. You never know. You might see me doing a Paulina line.
You’ve been sort of on both sides of reality television — the judging side and also the participant side. Do you see yourself going back to reality television in the future?
I’m definitely a narcissist and TV is fabulous for narcissists. Whether it’s on one side of the camera as the judge or the subject, it doesn’t really matter. I guess if something came my way, I’d be very happy to consider it. Right now I’m writing and as soon as I get on my writing horse, I think: Oh, this is what I should be doing, screw the other stuff. But then, you know, the second I get some sort of a fun offer, I’d jump into it and go, Ooooh, it’s fun to be applauded all day! So, you know, that’s how it goes. Sometimes life just decides it for you.
This interview has been edited and condensed.