Ignore, for a minute, the looks that have made Helena Christensen a supermodel: the eyes that are the color and complexity of lapis, the sculptural curves of what Gianni Versace once called “the most beautiful body in the world.” After two decades in the industry, Christensen’s still got it. But the most alluring thing about her just might be her voice.
It’s low and slightly smoky, with a lingering Danish accent. During our interview, her voice shifts from mirthful to conspiratorial as she volunteers different anecdotes. Her words tumble into each other when she’s excited about a subject, which is often. She jokes about her young son’s class cookbook project, for which he reasoned they could simply “put ‘organic’ in front of everything” to make a recipe healthy. She expresses disgust for tabloids and expounds on her love of print media, especiallyMAD Magazine and The New York Times. “I want to be buried with a MAD Magazine, on my chest,” Christensen declares. “Just in case I wake up.”
Maybe Christensen has mastered the art of the interview. She’s been in the public eye now for half her life, as a former Miss Denmark who became the face — and body — of Victoria’s Secret and countless magazine covers and runways. More recently, she’s worked as a photographer, shooting everything from Peruvians affected by melting glaciers to a Nike campaign with some of the world’s greatest female athletes. But Christensen’s also genuinely warm, with a crackling humor and disarming word choice. She describes learning to surf, while shooting for Nike in Hawaii, as “the raddest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” About two melancholic works by Henryk Górecki, one of her favorite composers, Christensen says, “[‘Sorrowful Songs’ and ‘Goodnight’ are] definitely the kind of music, if you’re feeling sad about something else, it either pulls it out of you and negates it, because it’s so sad itself — or it makes you want to slit your wrists.”
What you notice in conversation with Christensen — besides that marvelous voice — is the many interests she reveals and the evident passion she has for each. When she talks about traveling the world, her careers and, most of all, being a mother to her young son, you wonder how she has the time and energy to do it all. But the work that Christensen is most famous for is only a tiny part of her universe. And what else you’ve likely heard about her isn’t nearly as interesting (or factual, for that matter) as what she’ll tell you.
- To read the rest of this story, pick up Issue 7 of Corduroy
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