Called “the next million dollar face” by Life magazine in 1980, supermodel Carol Alt went on to become one of the most successful personalities of the ‘80s and ’90s.
Gracing more than 500 magazine covers, including Sports Illustrated’s iconic 1982 Swimsuit Issue, Alt, now 54, also appeared in blockbuster films such as Private Parts and has authored several books on healthy living.
“You can look healthy and feel great,” she says “and that doesn’t have to be a gift only for the young.”
We spoke with Alt for PRIME, a special edition of City & Shore Magazine, about her long career, what it’s like for young models starting out today – and her latest book, A Healthy You, (Dey Street Books), which draws from her decades of experience of having to look and feel her best.
By Elyse Ranart
Q. You advocate eating foods raw, and you believe health and diet go hand in hand. But, besides helping to keep us trim, what role does eating play in helping us look more youthful?
A. Without getting overly complicated, the body needs nutrients – which you get from what you eat. When you cook food it becomes a lot less nutritious than when it is raw. So when you eat cooked food, the body has a hierarchy in terms of what gets the nutrients first – which is the organs, muscles and bones, all the things you can’t see. So what’s left for your skin, hair and nails is very little – and that’s where you see the aging process taking place.
Q. How has modeling changed over the years, good and bad?
A. When I was a young model coming up, I was booked on a talk show [with] models from the generation that preceded me. I remember how they complained bitterly about how easy we [had] it, how they had to carry 50-pound bags to shoots and do their own hair and make-up – so I don’t want to sound like that. But I will say the girls of this generation are much luckier in terms of rates. The money has changed significantly and the pay structure for usage is totally different. [What’s] worse for this generation is, celebrity. Now that’s all you see on the covers of Vogue and all the others. Celebrities have replaced a lot of models in fashion campaigns as well, so the girls are not the stars anymore unless they create their own brand.
Q. Speaking of branding yourself, what do you think of all the social media that’s taken over many of the traditional channels of beauty and fashion?
A. Truthfully, I think it’s become at best boring and at worst obscene. It used to be that you didn’t air your dirty laundry or other peoples’; it was kept under wraps so that the ‘stars’ were special. I’ve had my love affairs and all of that but it’s not something I would share publicly or embarrass other people with – there was a certain decorum which is now just gone, and the specialness with it. When I was modeling there was no social media but I was the first one to do posters and calendars, which was considered very controversial back then. My client, Cover Girl, had a fit because you could sort of see my nipples. Now, if you don’t have a sex tape, forget it.
ONLINE BONUS: More of our interview with Carol Alt
Q. How do you reflect on your past life and think about the present?
A. My past life is all part of my present life. I am the accumulation of everything I have done up until today. I would not want to go back and be a model again. I am happy that I am moving forward with the balance that I have achieved, because that’s not easy. I’m happy to let go of some of the things that used to seem so important at the time, but in the end turned out to not be important at all. I feel much more relaxed and happier with who I am and all of the things I’ve achieved. I look back and I see a completely different person with completely different wants and needs. I wish I knew then what I know now. I can see why they say that youth is wasted on the young.
Q. Do you think women have become more obsessed with a youthful appearance or are there just more options?
A. Both. We are obsessed with youth and all these new procedures feed the obsession. Women begin to ask themselves what risks, what chance do I take to look younger? It’s a catch 22. The funny thing is, all these things that women are doing – like plumping lips and tightening skin – actually make them look older because you know they have had something done so you figure they must be older.