With her beauty business booming and a new brand of bubbly hitting Philly for the holidays, actress, activist, and supermodel Christie Brinkley is trying on a new role for size: superhero.
Grape expectations: Environmentalist and longtime vegetarian Christie Brinkley has jumped into the spirits game with a new brand of organic, all-natural prosecco called Bellissima. “Natural is a really big buzz word in the wine industry right now,” she says.
America has been talking about Christie Brinkley for more than 40 years. She has appeared on over 500 magazine covers, including Sports Illustrated for a record three years in a row. She worked with CoverGirl cosmetics for 25 years, another model milestone. There was her scene-stealing acting debut in National Lampoon’s Vacation in 1983. Google the classic movie clip and you can’t help but marvel that Brinkley, now 62 and a mother of three, is just as gorgeous as ever: same blonde mane, same lithe figure, same unmistakably sunny smile.
After four decades in the spotlight, the real secret of her success may lie in Brinkley’s ability to keep that conversation going. There have always been TV and stage appearances, including a critically acclaimed Broadway run as Roxie Hart in Chicago in 2010, but the last few years have put Brinkley squarely back in the spotlight as a model for denim brand NYDJ and two beauty launches that bear her name: the Hair2Wear Christie Brinkley Collection of clip-in extensions and Christie Brinkley Authentic Skincare.
In between, she penned Timeless Beauty: Over 100 Tips, Secrets, and Shortcuts to Looking Great. The beauty and wellness guide debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list last fall and remained there for 11 weeks. Brinkley says aligning with projects that she genuinely believes in has been at least one of the keys to her career-longevity. “I like to think of campaigns as public service announcements, great products that are going to enhance your life in a positive way. That’s really why I’ve been able to stick around.”
Consider Brinkley’s latest move into spirits with a new line of organic prosecco called, fittingly, Bellissima. The Italian sparkler launched in New York this summer, where it was the season’s sip of choice around Brinkley’s Long Island hometown, and just hit Philadelphia state stores in time for the holidays. “Bubbly wines are the exclamation point on a beautiful moment. Think about it: When do you pop a cork? When your friends stop by or when someone has a baby or gets engaged or even gets divorced,” she explains.
She’s always been a fan of sparkling wines, but Brinkley says the brand’s commitment to being 100 percent organic is what most appealed to her. “I talk a lot in interviews and on Instagram about going organic because it’s good for our bodies and good for the environment. I’m always posting pictures of my garden. You don’t need chemicals to have beautiful flowers or vegetables.”
Brinkley threw herself into the project, clipping grapes in Italy, sourcing organic ink and packaging, and designing the label inspired by Botticelli’s Venus (“the lettering is similar to the credits for Fellini’s La Strada,” she says). That same tenacity went into her skincare brand, which adds five new anti-aging potions to the collection next year. “This was when I discovered how finicky I am when it comes to putting my name on something,” she says. “We spent two years working on this one cream, but it still wasn’t exactly what I wanted; I knew it could be better. I fought for my decision because I didn’t want my name on anything less than perfect.”
Pet project: Christie Brinkley adopted her dog, Chester, from Main Line Animal Rescue. The supermodel stars in the organization’s latest local billboard campaign.
Brinkley’s growing business empire nearly overshadows what really drives her: philanthropy. Last year, she traveled to South Africa and Kenya to support the First Lady of Kenya in her efforts to fight elephant and rhinoceros poaching. She has spoken out against nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants in front of the United Nations and the US Senate on behalf of the Global Security Institute and Radiation and Public Health Project, where she sits on the board of directors. For the holidays, Brinkley will skip her annual family trip to the Caribbean and celebrate across the globe with Smile Train, an organization that fixes cleft palates.
“Smile Train literally saves lives,” says Brinkley. “In some cultures, babies are shunned or even discarded for this deformity. If you fix the baby’s face, you can change their life.” It’s no surprise, then, that charity is Brinkley’s link to Philadelphia a few years ago, she wanted to adopt a dog for her youngest daughter and rising model Sailor Lee (Brinkley also has a son, Jack Paris, and Alexa Ray, her eldest daughter with Billy Joel) for Christmas. So she turned to good friend, journalist, and animal activist Jill Rappaport to track down a puppy.
That’s when Brinkley connected with Main Line Animal Rescue for the tiny white Maltipoo that she named Chester, after Chester County where MLAR is based. Brinkley and Chester currently star in three billboards along the PA Turnpike promoting animal adoption. “One of the things that makes Christie so beautiful is her willingness to help animals at risk, whether it’s opening her home to one little puppy-mill dog or urging millions to adopt shelter pets as part of our latest billboard campaign,” says MLAR founder Bill Smith.
In 2004, the supermodel spent time traveling around the suburbs with then-Governor Ed Rendell as part of the Moms for Kerry initiative. “We went all over Pennsylvania on the campaign bus to talk about saving the environment—or what’s left of it—and how environmental health affects children’s health,” says Brinkley, who also joined the 2000 and 2012 tours. “People just loved her wherever we went,” says Rendell, recalling a moment during the 2012 election when Brinkley was talking with a voter at a shopping center in Ardmore.
“An Obama supporter said that she was voting for him but that her husband likely wasn’t. Christie offered to go to their home so she could speak with her husband directly [about the election]. She was an enthusiastic campaigner, to say the least.” It’s this motivation to make the world a little better in as many ways as possible—whether traveling across the globe to save endangered wildlife or touting her secrets to the fountain of youth—that keeps Brinkley awake at night. That, along with some wise words that her mother shared early on in her career: “My mom always said to try and lead a life that makes anyone you meet feel happy to have met you.” Consider us all very happy, then.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GIAN ANDREA DI STEFANO