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C California Style

Lasting Impressions

by intern

With her modeling career spanning three decades and counting, a storybook marriage half as long and 10 years of bliss in Malibu, one thing is certain—Cindy Crawford isn’t afraid of commitment.

When Cindy Crawford was discovered in her hometown of DeKalb, Illinois, at 17, it came as a surprise both to her and to her family: “Girls in DeKalb didn’t dream of becoming models,” she says. “I think my dad actually thought model was another name for prostitute.” After sorting out any confusion, Crawford moved to New York, and the career that followed is one of the most legendary: more than 1,000 magazine covers worldwide, high-fashion advertising campaigns, long-running endorsement deals with some of the largest and most ubiquitous companies in the world (Revlon, Pepsi, Omega) and, of course, the title of original supermodel (joining other glamazons known by first names only: Naomi, Christy, Linda).

At Café Habana in Malibu, Crawford is simply a local who lives a couple of miles down the road…albeit a local with connections (her husband of 15 years, Rande Gerber, whom she met at a wedding, owns the establishment, along with a collection of other bars and restaurants around the world).

Now 47, Crawford is as radiant as ever. In a long gray cardigan, jeans and a cream-colored blouse, she is forthcoming about her years in the fashion business and the philosophy that guided her: “If we’re going to sleep together, then I want to get married,” she says figuratively of her client relations. “I’m investing in you and vice versa, and that’s been my approach to business.” This explains her long-standing contracts (she’s been an Omega watch ambassador for nearly two decades).

After years of traveling between New York and their home in Brentwood, she and Gerber moved their family to Malibu shortly before their son, Presley, started kindergarten. “We had some friends who were here, and we really liked the way they lived,” she explains. “We kept saying to each other: ‘We think they have it right.’”

“I’m much more comfortable in front of a camera now than I was when I was 20…unfortunately, I might not look as good!” she laughs. “But in some ways, I feel I have more to offer.”

Nearly 10 years have passed since their move to the beach, and Crawford can’t imagine living anyplace else. “Recently we contemplated traveling and home-schooling the kids. We brought the idea to them, but they both said if they could live anywhere, it would be here,” she says with a smile. “My son loves to surf. He won’t live anywhere there aren’t waves.”

Fortunately for him, they recently built a second home in Cabo, where the waves are plentiful, as are the visits from their very next-door neighbor, George Clooney (they own adjoining properties, with separate houses).

Crawford is quick to admit the house, recently featured in Architectural Digest, isn’t the most practical, but the weather is “always awesome,” and she insists that’s not what the house was built for: “You could never live there full time, because it’s completely open, but because it’s a vacation house…it can be more of a fantasy.”

It’s evident that much has changed since her days on the runway, but Crawford remains passionate about modeling. “I’m much more comfortable in front of a camera now than I was when I was 20…unfortunately, I might not look as good!” she laughs. “But in some ways, I feel I have more to offer.” Given her burgeoning mini-empire, that statement doesn’t only apply to her modeling career. Nine years ago, Crawford started Meaningful Beauty, a skincare line, with a Parisian cosmetic surgeon she met through a friend, and she has been actively involved in each step of the business ever since. “I felt like it was my job as a model to take care of my skin,” she explains of her love for the project. She uses the day cream with SPF 20 religiously, and her fervor for protecting her skin has resonated with her children. “It’s second nature to them,” she says proudly, but hesitates when she reflects on her own skincare regimen. “I really stopped over-sunning myself early, after a bad sunburn…still, there was the 18 years before that where I was frying in our backyard in Illinois!”

The other arm of her thriving brand is Cindy Crawford Home, a furniture collection that began as a collaboration with Rooms To Go, after her former Brentwood home was featured in Elle Decor. Refreshingly, Crawford views her business successes as shared entities: “I know what’s right for me and my brand,” she says confidently, but she credits the long-term loyal team she has built around her. “We respect what each other knows…and we really divide and conquer.”

Reinvention, it seems, comes quite naturally to Crawford, even though she still refers to herself as “old school.” She laughingly laments that her instinct at the photo shoot earlier in the day should have been to post on Instagram, as many of the young models do today, showing behind-the-scenes looks at fashion shows and their glamorous lives. “They have so many more opportunities for direct relationships with their fans through social media now,” she reflects thoughtfully. “The first time people got a glimpse of my personality was through MTV and ‘House of Style,’” the popular television show she hosted for six years in the early 1990s. Warm and surprisingly funny, Crawford transformed the image of inaccessible supermodel and made herself seem approachable…even normal.

This past year, Crawford made the familiar journey back to the “very normal, almost ‘Leave It to Beaver’ normal” Midwest. And while there, she brought her daughter, Kaia, to visit the Wisconsin hospital where Crawford is involved and where her younger brother, Jeff, was treated for leukemia before he died (he was four, and she was 10 years old). “My husband and I want to start a trust for our kids because they are old enough now to be included in our philanthropy,” she says. “Not money for them but money for them to give away. I want them to understand that when you are given a lot, a lot is expected of you, and how you give back.”

Written by Sarah Jenks-Daly
Photographed by Nino Muñoz
Fashion Editor: Karla Welch