At 61, an age when not many people might choose to be photographed in a swimsuit, supermodel Christie Brinkley joyfully poses for selfies while wearing a bikini, a hat and her trademark smile. Brinkley has appeared on the covers of more than 500 magazines, including three consecutive swimsuit issues of Sports Illustrated. Still, the mother of three barely looks older than when she debuted on the big screen in the 1983 film "National Lampoon's Vacation." She credits her good health to daily exercise, a plant-based diet, making time to relax and conscientious skin care — habits she began forming as a teenager and shares in her latest bestselling book, "Timeless Beauty: Over 100 Tips, Secrets and Shortcuts to Looking Great."
Your early photo shoots were often done in the sun. How did you protect your skin?
I regret having had so much sun. Whenever I wore a bathing suit, I kept a sarong around my hips that went halfway down my thighs. The tops of my thighs are like baby skin. Where the sarong ended I can see sun damage: I've got dark spots and places where there is no melanin. The spots are not pretty, so I encourage everyone to protect their skin from the sun. But everything I love doing, including paddle-boarding, kayaking and even gardening, involves sun and water. I liberally apply sunscreen and wear hats.
What do you like to drink? Do you ever juice, cleanse or take supplements?
I like coffee in the morning and decaf green tea throughout the day.... When I was younger and modeling, to kick-start a diet I would do a juice cleanse. You get a headache the first couple days and everybody says, "That's because toxins are exiting your body." One cleanse lasted 12 days and I got euphoric and didn't want to eat. Now, I feel it is better to eat healthful food day in and out. I tell my kids not to slow their metabolisms down by putting themselves into starvation mode.... Staying hydrated is important. If you have a headache, feel sluggish or can't sleep, ask yourself, "Did I have enough water?" All day long, I sip water. I [also] take a probiotic daily.
You are known for your smile. How do you keep it healthy?
My smile has been my ticket to the world. Smiling releases the same feel-good hormones you get jogging. Caring for your lips and gums is important. I brush my teeth morning and night, alternating toothpaste brands. In addition to flossing I use a Water Pik to massage my gums and remove food particles. I love the toothpicks with a bottle-brush-like cleaner on one end and carry them with me.... When I had my helicopter crash [in 1994] I cracked some teeth, so I had to get a couple dental implants; it was horrifying. Like many people, I grind my teeth, which can flatten and crack them, so my dentist made me a bite plate.
Bare legs have been popular since the late 1990s but you like sheer stockings.
Rather than go the Spanx route … putting on lightweight stockings makes everything look smooth and nice. Garters with stockings are the sexiest [she laughs], but pantyhose are practical. Like sheets, stockings come in thread counts, called denier. Number five denier is the best — you barely notice them. Even teenage girls who try them like them. But sheer stockings are getting hard to find as companies discontinue them.
What role has meditation or yoga played throughout your life?
I am an opportunistic meditator.... As a teenager I meditated 15 minutes in the morning and again before dinner. Now when life is stressful I give myself that moment. Recently, I panicked on a very bumpy flight. I was ready to cry but didn't want to scare my kids. So I used my breathing to calm myself.... I have been doing yoga since I was a teenager. Every day a quick downward dog and a sun salutation. Sometimes I get in very deep.... My yoga instructor's words are as important to me as the moves we flow through. She reminds us to keep our hearts open; to be aware of the world around us; not to let fear close us off; to focus on helping somebody in need and to appreciate simple beauty, like the sun bouncing off a tree branch.