Dining & Wine
Profiles Winter 2011
One on One with Cindy Crawford
Birungi: Women empowerment can mean so many things, from Masika in the documentary "Field of Hope," where she provides a center for victims of sexual violence in the Congo that offers shelter, counseling, and a way of work for women to start their new lives, to women like yourself that provide women in the United States the opportunity to affordably determine not only how they choose to live via Cindy Crawford Home and Cindy Crawford Style, but the option to put their best face forward in the process via your skincare line "Meaningful Beauty."
In your own words, can you please explain to me how you feel that you and your endeavors contribute to women empowerment?
Cindy: Well, I mean obviously when I started modeling at 17 I wasn’t thinking in that way, I wasn’t even able to think in that way. As I grew up and matured within that world, I think that me going from a model that basically did what her agents told her to do, to eventually taking more control of my career and doing my own projects, lead to my own feeling of empowerment and just being a role model in that way. Through luck and the ability to be authentic to who I am in every different stage of my life has translated into me at 45 still modeling and doing different projects. We, as women, need to see that.
Also, I think a lot of different projects were all about sharing my access. I have the girlfriend mentality. I value my women friends almost more than anything and that’s like therapy for me. Even in the work that I have done with my exercise videos and skincare products; I want to share my secrets with my girlfriends! I think that in the spirit of being a good girlfriend and starting a lot of my projects later in my career, it’s become about sharing in an accessible way. I’m from the Midwest and when my sisters, both teachers, ask about a great skin cream, I don’t want to suggest a cream that is $500.00. Without consciously saying this, I want to empower people and it’s best to lead by example. I did an event called life is my run-way where we had a run way show with children from the girls and boys club. It was about taking that feeling, of the best version of yourself, and bringing that into everything you do. I believe confidence comes with that.
Birungi: I recently attended FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit. During the summit, the point was raised that only 18 of the FORTUNE 500 Companies CEOs are women. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, told of instances where a position had opened up in her company and that “The Men” were always quickly in her office to explain why they should be considered for the open position. However, Sheryl further explained that she did not see the same eagerness and tenacity on the part of “The Women” employees.
Have you witnessed this dynamic in your own business experience?
Cindy: I didn’t grow up feeling that I had to prove myself or wonder if I was as good as boys, I just thought I was. The first time I ever felt discriminated against was in a college class when a chemical engineering professor said, “Honey I think you are in the wrong class.” There was that snap judgment that I didn’t belong there because I was a girl. Then I got into a world where women make more than their male counterparts. Can you name a famous male model? Most people can’t. My career blossomed in this sheltered environment.
I think it’s sad that women don’t advocate for themselves. That’s not our style. Women don’t go around tooting their own horn; they do it for their children, husbands, and friends. If you look at the people who are running the companies, the CEO’s of huge businesses, they are also the CEO’s of the house. Maybe women are smart enough to want balance. Men are more single minded. My husband is a great dad and husband, but when he is in New York, I am pretty sure he isn’t worrying about the kid’s school projects. I do and that never leaves me. I still worry and always know about the dance classes.
To be a happy woman, you need to embrace that. We aren’t men and I don’t want to play like them.
Birungi: At the FORTUNE MPW Summit, Sheryl Sandberg continued to name one of her heroes, Somaly Mam, founder of The Somaly Mam Foundation (http://www.Somaly.org). The Somaly Mam Foundation advocates for women empowerment and the end of sex trafficking and sexual violence in North America and the world.This leads me to mention that you are a supporter of Not On Our Watch (http://notonourwatchproject.org/), founded by your friend George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, David Pressman and Jerry Weintraub. As you know, it's Not On Our Watch's mission to end mass atrocities around the world. One of the issues they address is the sexual violence that is one of the many aspects of these atrocities.
Is there anything that you can say about how your involvement and support of this organization directly or indirectly relates to women empowerment here in the United States and globally?
Cindy: I certainly support my friends and their causes, but that’s their cause. For me… my brother died of leukemia when he was a child. So, this is a cause that I am most passionate about. My work with oncology and children’s hospitals, that’s my cause. Certainly George is doing incredible work, and that’s his cause. George is very involved in what’s going on in the world. It’s atrocious what’s happening over there. For me to directly feel connected, I go and spend time with children with cancer and their families. That makes me feel humbled and also that I am able to give back. Sometimes people just want someone to listen to their story.
Birungi: One of my friends stated on Facebook that her 7 year old was reading the fat percentage of her yogurt. The discussion went on to address how the media and in specific how Victoria Secret ads allegedly attribute to the poor self esteem of girls. The women and mothers were up in arms, which brings me to another L.A. premiere. On Nov. 9th, I attended the L.A. premiere of Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein's "More Business of Being Born." We were shown the segment where celebrity mothers shared their birth stories. It was such an eye opening documentary. Honestly, I wish I had seen it before giving birth to my son. With everyone being so candid and honest, including yourself, I think I would have been armed better for the unknown and unexpected. Like you, I opted for a natural childbirth without drugs. But at 7.5 centimeters, I panicked over the pain and got the drugs. Right after giving birth, I had felt shame and as if I let myself down. However, hearing all of your stories had made me feel more at peace with my decision.
Cindy: In yoga class, the idea of a natural childbirth and eventually then a home birth was introduced to me. That there was a different choice that I wasn’t even aware of empowered me. Ricki’s documentary made women aware, and I feel more empowered when I have options.
Birungi: There are so many different stories of birthing and when we are entering into motherhood there is a lot of fear surrounding what to expect and the realities of what happen.
Cindy: I thought the movie touched on this a little bit. Probably having my children at home was the most empowering experience for me. Our culture has gotten us so use to the idea that if you get a healthy baby, then that’s all you can ask for, but my experience gave me so much confidence. I thought, “I am ready to be a mom now, I came out of this, and I earned this.” When someone asks a woman, “Who delivered your baby?” and they say “Dr. so and so,” I can say, “I delivered my baby.” We need to take that back! You need to be delivering your own baby!
Birungi: That is so incredibly important, but women are frightened. I think the documentary help to dispel many of those fears.
Cindy: We (women) are feelers. That is what we do. To feel that pain, but then to experience what it brings you is amazing. I don’t think a home birth or natural childbirth is for everyone. It’s like running a marathon. Christy (Turlington-Burns) just did that. You couldn’t pay me to do that! That (my home birth) was my marathon and I can’t believe I did it! It’s that feeling of “Wow” and you get a baby out of it.
You're voting yourself in. We as women empower ourselves by getting all of the information. The more we share and the more we talk, the more we can all know.
Birungi: This brings me to your most recent collaboration with Duran Duran. You play bassist John Taylor of Duran Duran in their most recent video, "Girl Panic." You, Helena Christensen, Eva Herzigova, and Naomi Campbell do an amazing job and look absolutely beautiful!
What did your children think of the video?
Cindy: I don’t know what they think of that yet! My son would be totally embarrassed, but for me it was fun. It was a fun circle. I grew up with all those girls. We were all friends with Duran Duran. For everyone to come together 25 years later was amazing. They look amazing and they are all doing interesting things. The concept was fun.
Birungi: All of you are getting better and more refined with your image and what you want to project.
Cindy: I am more comfortable in my own skin now, even though that skin might be slightly looser!
Birungi: As a woman that started as an intelligent young woman in the modeling industry and grew up in a business where many have not thrived, to now being a mother of two, (Kaia and Presley) wife, (Rande Gerber) and successful business woman, what can you share with our readers about staying the course and feeling empowered while facing all the various ups and downs that life can throw at them? With the current economic climate, a lot of women are struggling with unemployment and esteem issues because they can’t provide for their families.
Cindy: You know… as a parent, kids don’t’ care about that stuff really. They care about you being there. My kids would rather have me stay at home and not work at all. I try to explain to them that I actually like my job… so you know I’m lucky. I try to show them that it’s still work. I’m fortunate that I get to do what I like and that I am good at it. Just being authentic, I think that’s what has made me successful. At 45 I’m not trying to be what I was at 25. You have to embrace every phase of your life. Even my husband, he’s opening bars…Mr. night life. But as life goes on, you have to redefine yourself. That’s what keeps you relevant.
Growing up, there were times that we had to wait to buy milk. That gave me a real appreciation for money and how much work it is sometimes. I am grateful for the hard times because it makes you appreciate everything…every little thing.
That’s our greatest roles as mothers; to be the example. They see what you do; they don’t listen to what you say. I know my kids see me work hard and I am very lucky. They also see how much work it is and what you give up. When they grow up and face the world, they will know what to expect.
Interview by Birungi Ives
Photos and Video Courtesy of http://www.ecardmedia.eu/, http://www.ibtimes.com/, and http://www.youtube.com/
One on One with Christy Turlington-Burns
Birungi: I believe that many media outlets promote an "Us/Them" mentality, which I believe support an ignorant and apathetic sentiment toward Global issues. I also believe that it is part of my purpose through the Global Echo Online Forum to increase awareness and promote a "We" mentality, through the promotion of a lifestyle grounded in Sustainability and Guided by Global Advocacy. This is a lifestyle where "We" are all responsible for what happens to this earth and its people.
Do you think Every Mother Counts promotes a "We" mentality? If so, How? If not, Why?
Christy: I would hope that the name of our organization, Every Mother Counts, itself conveys a "we" mentality.
It’s important for the name of an organization to explain its mission and I believe that ours does that clearly as Every Mother Counts is an advocacy and mobilization campaign to increase education and support of maternal, newborn, and child health. EMC seeks to engage new audiences to better understand the challenges and solutions while encouraging them to take action to improve the lives of families through improving the health of ALL girls and women worldwide.
Birungi: I have moved around a lot with my family. My family and I have lived in places, such as the land of the Snowbirds, the Bible Belt, bustling cities and the home of the roar of Military Jets. Every place that we have lived, I have met people with varied perspectives on life.
Do you think that the mission of Every Mother Counts speaks to ALL walks of life? If so, How? If not, Why not and Who does your mission speak to?
Christy: It is our belief that this is one of the most universal issues and that for every one of us who has come into the world and survived the experience of childbirth, this issue and our campaign, we hope, will speak to you.
However, we are still quite a new advocacy organization and it takes time to get the word out to everyone. We already have gained quite a bit of traction amongst the maternal, newborn, and child health communities both domestically and internationally and are busy now finding creative ways to engage civil society as well in the US and abroad.
Birungi: I am meeting with Maggie Schmitz, the President of the US National Committee of UN Women. If you do not know already, this committee is dedicated to improving the lives of women and children around the world.
If you were at this meeting, what would you ask her on behalf of yourself and Every Mother Counts? If you so chose, What would you ask her on behalf of the children and women around the world that your organization serves?
Christy: I was at the launch of UN Women last spring and commend the UN for creating this entity. But like many of us in the room at the launch I felt it was too slow in coming and hope that it lives up to expectation. However, I have been following Michelle Bachelet closely since she was President of Chile and think she is a wonderful choice in leadership.
Birungi: Although I have been writing about Global Advocacy issues for most of my adult life, I am just beginning to step into this WORLD of Global Advocacy.
What would you have to say to those that want to make a beneficial Global Impact and reach out to the major influencers of this Global Advocacy world? In your experience, do you think building these types of relationships are pivotal to the success of a Global Advocacy campaign? Why?
Christy: I believe we live in a global community and that we must support our neighbors as though they were family. Any one of us can affect change, some maybe more so than others. When I speak to audiences I encourage people to use their voices if you are able. Too many girls and women around the world do not have that freedom.
Birungi: On my journey, many of the opportunities for me to meet people and make headway in this Global Advocacy world have occurred when I push my fears aside and just go for it!
Can you tell me of a time or times where you were afraid, while on your journey as a Maternal and Child Welfare Advocate?
Christy: When I was in the edit room with half of a movie complete, there were nights I would come home terrified that I would not be able to do justice to the stories of all these women. It was a huge responsibility to take on and I was an amateur. But I stuck with my gut and did my very best to honor everyone throughout the process and ultimately it all came together.
Birungi: As I write these questions in the midst of helping my son with his reading homework, I recognize that I feel very overwhelmed at times when trying to balance my work with the needs of my children and husband. Please let me not forget myself in that equation.
How do you try to keep sane, while balancing your family life, your work and your own independent needs?
Lord knows sometimes I feel like I am at my breaking point. I write this, just as my son gently bumps me with his elbow to pay attention! Girl, maybe I need to not do more than one thing at one time, but isn't that just what a mother does... more than one thing at one time! It's the way of the world, no matter where you are, no matter how much money you have and no matter how educated you may be, there is a mother trying her best to manage doing more than one thing at one time.
What is your definition of what it means to be a mother?
Christy: Like every other mom and wife on the planet I struggle to find balance between work, family life and taking time for myself. Becoming a mom has allowed me to prioritize in a way that I did not before. It has also taught me the valuable lesson which is that if my needs are not met or if my health is not good, I am useless to my colleagues and my family.
So while it may sound counter intuitive for most of us moms, mommy should come first.
Birungi: My ultimate dream is to have a successful global platform where I can help to influence the world towards a "We are all in this together!" state of awareness. I know there are many ways that this could transpire that I probably could not even imagine, at this point. With Every Mother Counts and everything else that has yet to come, what is your ultimate dream? What do you aim to achieve?
Christy: Many years of yoga have taught me to live in the present tense and not get too far ahead or behind myself but I have committed to using all that I have to educating and supporting maternal, newborn and child health. The EMC campaign will continue as long as 2015 when MDG 5 - to improve maternal health and reduce maternal mortality by 3/4- and then we'll take account of where we are and what needs our support.
Interview by Birungi Ives