Christy Turlington Burns
Founder, Every Mother Counts
Posted on: February 28, 2012 | Go to profile
With a modeling career spanning three decades and ranging from Calvin Klein to Versace, Christy is one of the original Supers, who has embodied the phrase "beauty and brains" with two successful business ventures: Sundari, an Ayurvedic skincare line, and Nuala, a yoga-inspired apparel and accessories line. When she suffered a serious complication after the birth of her first child, Christy was shocked to learn that hundreds of thousands of women die each year during childbirth—and that 90 percent of these deaths are preventable. As a devoted mother of two, Christy has since dedicated her platform to advocating for maternal health by contributing to the international humanitarian organization, CARE, directing the documentary film, No Woman, No Cry, and launching the campaign 'Every Mother Counts'.
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: I began my modeling career at 14, long before I had a chance to consider my career interests. I began to practice yoga and meditation in my late teens and have continued to be a dedicated practitioner ever since. In my mid-twenties, I decided to go back to school because I believed that a college education would help me to figure out who and what I wanted to be. When I graduated, I started two businesses: Sundãri, an Ayurvedic skincare line and Nuala, a yoga inspired apparel and accessories line in Partnership with Puma. When I was 28 I lost my father to lung cancer. This was my impetus to get involved with advocacy and preventative healthcare. I became more focused on maternal health after experiencing a complication following the delivery of my first child, my daughter Grace, and learned the shocking statistics of global maternal mortality. I have since returned to grad school to pursue a Masters in public health, directed and produced a documentary film called, NO WOMEN, NO CRY on the subject and founded Every Mother Counts.
Q: Who is a leader that you have great respect for and why?
A: I dedicated the film, NO WOMAN, NO CRY to Allan Rosenfield, a legendary champion for women and reproductive rights. While we only met once briefly before he died, he is the one who really brought maternal health to the forefront and made it a priority. He wrote a famous paper asking the question “Where is the “M” in Maternal and Child Health?” Meaning where is the Mother? Leadership is an essential aspect to the issue of maternal health and women’s rights. The more women who hold position of leadership, the greater the chances for other women to have opportunities themselves to lead. I believe that women leaders such as, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, and so many more, have proven to inspire so many others by example.
Q: I love the quote “the bigger the vision, the smaller the first step”. Right now, what is the big vision you have for your career?
A: I have committed myself to reducing needless global maternal deaths.
Q: What simple things in life today bring you joy?
A: Sleep, laughter, yoga, hugs from my kids, connecting with other women…
ON Giving Back
Q: What cause(s) have you chosen to support and why does it resonate with you?
A: Human rights are important to me and a central aspect to maternal health advocacy. I believe that healthcare is a human right. I support every effort to create social justice and equality.
Q: What are the top 3 things that you do to stay healthy?
A: 1). Exercise (Yoga and Running)
2). A moderate, well balanced diet
Q: In the world, what are your favorite destinations?
A: I love to travel off the beaten path and discover new places. I love rural parts of most every country, but Tanzania is a place I have long traveled to and continue to discover new things about.
Q: In the world, what are your favorite places to get lost?
A: Rome, Venice, Morocco or Turkey are great cities to get lost in.
Q: In the world, what are your favorite places to shop?
A: Whole Foods. For clothes….Stella McCartney, Isabel Marant.
Q: In the world, what are your favorite restaurants?
A: Laconda Verde, Minetta Tavern, Del Posto, Michael’s…
Q: How do you balance career and motherhood?
A: I feel like the word balance is overused. The more I consider the role of motherhood and everything else I enjoy, I prefer using the word integration. I am a woman, which means all of these roles are already integrated. I am a mother and a daughter, an activist and a model, etc. You’re all of those things. These various roles that we play, they have to be integrated. Because balance sort of implies we must give and take all the time. It’s not easy at all and I don’t think anyone could attempt to do it except women.
Q: What is the most valuable lesson your mother taught you?
A: The importance of seeing and knowing the world.
Q: What’s your best buy ever?
A: I bought a scarf twenty years ago in Nepal that I continue to take with me on every trip.
Q: What are the beauty items you could not live without?
A: A good sun block and MAYBELINE Great Lash Mascara