If you read Sports Illustrated magazine and grew up in the 70s, chances are you first knew about Christie Brinkley a long time ago. After being featured in the magazine on multiple occasions, the blonde beauty queen was introduced to the wider world in 1975. Before that, she had been modeling for a few years but without much fame.
Since then, her involvement in cosmetics and acting has helped Brinkley remain a household name. She has also launched various brands and partnered with huge companies. Here we take a closer look at her fascinating life story.
How Brinkley Became Famous
In 1975, Christie Brinkley made her first appearance in the pages of Sports Illustrated, a well-known magazine, but her pictures were in the middle pages of the papers. While a big step in her modeling career, it didn’t give her much notoriety.
She had been featured in the magazine several times until 1979, when she became the swimsuit cover of the magazine. Fate was on her side, and she became the cover girl again, for three consecutive times in 1980 and 1981.
Her Career Exploded into Life
It was around this time that Brinkley was getting multiple offers and quickly became a household name. Even before she was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, she was already increasing her fame along with her business portfolio.
In 1976, Brinkley served as the face of CoverGirl and would go on to do so for the next 25 years. To date, Brinkley’s cosmetic contract at CoverGirl is the longest a model has ever held. It made sense, and the partnership paid off.
She Matched Their Slogan
At that time, this beauty brand had come up with a slogan of “Easy, Breezy, and Beautiful.” That perfectly fit in with Brinkley, who had grown up as a Californian surfer girl. In 2017, the slogan was changed to “I Am What I Make Up.”
After leaving CoverGirl, the brand called her back to promote their new Advanced Radiant line in 2005. While talking to CBC News, she said she felt like it was a time warp, taking her back to those days working with the brand across the ‘70s through to the ‘90s.
Christie Brinkley as an Entrepreneur
Brinkley is a beauty with brains because, besides acting, she also had a skincare line. She started her cosmetic career in makeup, and her passion for the products gave her the idea to start up her own business.
Every celebrity uses their big name for marketing their business, and Brinkley is no exception. She went ahead and named the skincare line Christie Brinkley Authentic Skincare. Unfortunately, the products, which were launched in 2015, have been discontinued.
She Soon Bounced Back
The products she promoted were mainly anti-aging crèmes, face wash, skin serum, and exfoliators. Brinkley was passionate about the products she was offering and thought there was a gap in the market to exploit, especially with exfoliators.
While her ‘Authentic Skincare’ series may have been discontinued, there was a relaunch in 2018 under a slightly different name of ‘Authentic Beauty.’ Brinkley’s personality showed a common theme of being determined and a lot more than a beautiful face.
Brinkley Also Has a Wine Brand
Besides modeling and cosmetics, Christie also has a wine brand. She started Bellissima, her wine brand, in 2019. The wine is made from organic Prosecco. She chose prosecco because she believes “it contributes to a healthy, happy and sweet life.”
Her brand has four types of wine; Bellissima Zero Sugar White, which is sugar-free and has a scent of white flowers and grapefruit, and Bellissima Brut, which is dry but with a smell of green apple. There is also Bellissima Rose, a pink wine that smells like strawberry and grapefruit, and Bellissima Zero Sugar Rose, a pink wine without sugar.
Brinkley’s Education in Paris
Brinkley first learned French in a private bilingual school in Paris, and after she was familiar with the city, she moved to the City of Lights to study art. She was an art student when she met a photographer who helped turn her into a supermodel. It was this discovery by the photographer that led to her rising in fame.
During an interview with Oprah.com, Brinkley said that she did not take modeling seriously because, according to her, it was for people who could not do anything else. She went to model for the man out of curiosity, and this was the decision that changed her life.
Christie Was Discovered In Paris
The model had never dreamt of modeling. She met a photographer who wanted to take random pictures of her, and she was happy to go along for the ride.
Errol Sawyer is the man who saw the young girl’s potential then and introduced her to people in the industry. Many also know Paris as the City of Love, and that was true for Brinkley as she found love and a new career.
She Was Happy In Paris
She then started modeling and settled in Paris and started a simple life. That was when she met her ex-husband, Francois Allaux, the French musician.
While in Paris, she also did some painting. Her parents used to visit when she was there, and they would stay in a hotel around Brinkley’s apartment.
Her Beauty Became Unstoppable
Her images got to modeling scouts, and brands started reaching out. She became the face of Chanel and Prell Shampoo. It was clear from early on that her life was never going to be the same again. While her career was blooming, she still found time for the things she loved.
One of Brinkley’s hobbies is surfing. This beauty loves ocean views and cool breezes. She began surfing again in 2008, after a divorce. However, this was not the first time she was learning how to surf. She used to surf in Malibu, together with her brother as a kid.
Her Children Are Like Their Mom
Her children also love water, just like her. She sometimes likes to escape the public glare, especially when she feels low, and loves to do that in the ocean. An example of those moments was during the 2008 divorce, and she has continued to enjoy her hobby since then.
Brinkley is also a vegetarian, and she has been one since she was 13. She has always been focused on what she eats since she was a kid. Brinkley said she became a vegetarian after seeing her mother’s book that depicted what used to happen to animals in the slaughterhouses.
Brinkley is an Animal Lover
She loves animals and reading about the torture they go through traumatized her. Since then, she has chosen not to eat meat. It has become a common trend for celebrities in recent years, but Brinkley has been doing it since the mid-’60s.
Brinkley says the crunch of fresh salad sounds good and makes her happy. She also loves making her soups. They are clean, healthy and they taste good. She also says that her soups warm her and make her feel great. Being a vegan keeps her happy and healthy.
She Became a Broadway Star
One of the things Brinkley is proud of doing is being on Broadway. In 2012, she auditioned for the role of Roxie Hart, and she could not believe it when the auditions contacted her. Models are often lazily criticized for lacking talent. Brinkley showed it’s simply not true.
She was excited to try it and gave it her all. The musical experience was great for her, and she says she will never forget that. It shows that she has many strings to her bow and will be great at anything she tries.
Her Business Endeavors Have Been Lucrative
Believe it or not, Christie Brinkley is worth $100 million. Celebrity Net worth researched and found that most of Christie’s wealth was from the modeling contracts. That has been added to all her other work.
She has always been hardworking, maintaining her modeling career for over 45 years now. The model also brings her wealth from her businesses like the wine business and skincare line. There’s plenty of brains behind this beauty.
Christie Brinkley’s Many Marriages
Brinkley looks young, but her love life has been a little bit of a struggle. The supermodel lived a quiet and private life, but it is known that she married four times. One thing about Brinkley is she never gives up, and this is evident because she never gave up on love.
Brinkley met a French artist, Jean-François Allaux when she was 19 years. This was the beginning of her love life, and she got married in the same year. They stayed together for eight years but did not have children. Later on, Christie divorced him.
Meeting Billy Joel and Marrying Again
After divorcing the French Musician, Brinkley met Joel at a St. Barts party. They had both gone on a vacation to the Caribbeans in 1983. They didn’t know at the time that their paths would cross and their lives change forever.
Joel was determined to get Brinkley’s attention, and so he decided to dress as he did on his album cover so that she’d recognize him. It was an interesting tactic and one that didn’t work. His efforts bore no fruits, and he had to try something else.
Joel and Brinkley Had an Instant Connection
Joel went on to play the piano at a bar where Brinkley and Whitney Houston were. He says that he used the music to introduce himself. Surprisingly, Brinkley sat and joined him in the singing. The two developed an instant connection.
She was just out of a relationship with Oliver Chandon, a race car driver and the heir to Moet. Chandon died in a car accident shortly after Joel and Brinkley met. It shook up Brinkley, and she needed a shoulder to cry on.
Joel Was There For Her
After Joel reached out to Brinkley to console her for losing her friend and ex-lover, the two started their friendship. They began dating, and the relationship caught on like wildfire. They would get married in 1985.
Their wedding was exclusive as it happened in the New York Harbor, in a 147-foot yacht. Soon after, Brinkley fell pregnant and gave birth to Alexa, their 34-year-old daughter, in December 1985. It would be the only child they had together.
Joel Loved Brinkley Dearly
People loved this couple because of how Joel would defend his wife against critics. You cannot lack critics and people looking down upon you like a supermodel and a celebrity. However, Joel did not let any of these critics make their way to his wife.
Some people assumed that being a supermodel, Brinkley was stupid and insipid because that is what models are thought of. However, her husband defended her. He loved her fiercely and always remained protective.
Joel Found She Was Far From Stereotypical
While talking to Rolling Stone, Joel said that what bothers him is when people think of Brinkley as a dumb blonde, which she is not. They think supermodels are vapid and shallow, but Christie isn’t.
Joel also admits that he always wanted people to look at her when they walked together because he knew she was pretty. He felt secure because even though people would stare at Brinkley, he knew that she was married to him.
He Fell For the Same Traps
Even though Joel would be a fierce defender of his wife, he was initially guilty of the same type of thoughts that everyone else had. At first, Joel was not sure whether to approach Brinkley because of the model stereotype.
He thought that she was a snob and also dumb, given how beautiful she was. He was also skeptical about being involved with a model. He would soon see the error of his ways and fall in love.
Joel and Brinkley Hiding from the Media
Joel and Brinkley would use fake names, Rocky and Sandy Shore, to avoid media people from following them when booking hotels. When she was still at Sports Illustrated, there was a quote that Brinkley said, “when you become famous, you need a backyard.”
This is a place where you can get away from everybody else and be on your own. Constantly having that attention is going to be tiring. The two of them found unique ways to step out of the spotlight.
How They Broke Up
Brinkley and Joel broke up in the spring of 1994. The divorce was engineered by Brinkley’s desire to go to the west coast. She was also frustrated by the touring Schedules of Joel. She wanted an intimate family life; he wanted to keep touring.
In one of her quotes, she wrote that “Just because people can express themselves through their art doesn’t mean they are great communicators in person.” It was barely a year after Brinkley broke up with Joel that she married Richard Taubman.
Marriage with Richard Taubman
After Christie Brinkley’s marriage with Joel ended, she met Richard in August 1994 and fell in love again. Their relationship grew fast, and in December the same year, they got married. Brinkley was never afraid to live love in the fast lane.
Five months into the marriage, the couple welcomed their first child and son, Jack Paris Brinkley Cook, Brinkley’s second child. It was a whirlwind relationship and one that, unfortunately, wouldn’t last very long.
A Brief and Bright Flame
Richard was bold because he proposed to Brinkley when she was not yet divorced from her previous husband, Joel. Brinkley perhaps hadn’t fully processed her breakup with Joel, who she still had a strong affection for.
The marriage did not last long because they divorced when Jack was barely two months old. Jack was born on June 2nd, 1995. Despite this setback in her love life, Brinkley wasn’t done with married life just yet.
Brinkley and Peter Halsey Cook
After the 1995 divorce with Richard, Brinkley did not give up on love. She met Peter Halsey Cook, and they fell in love. Brinkley is a hopeless romantic and yet again was happy to take things at a million miles an hour.
The two got engaged and married in 1996, marking Brinkley’s fourth marriage. Peter adopted little Jack, and it seemed as though this was going to be the life companion that she’d always hoped for.
Unfortunately, It Wouldn’t Last
Brinkley stayed with Peter for 12 years. This was the longest marriage she has been in and sadly went the same way as her previous marriages. The two had one daughter, Sailor Lee Brinkley, which is her third and final child.
Things seemed not to be working out between this couple, and in July 2006, Brinkley’s representative announced that the two were planning on separating. It wasn’t until 2008 that the divorce was finally settled.
She’s Still Looking for Love but Not Marriage
When asked why she is single, Brinkley said that it is not easy to meet people; “As you grow older, you keep assuming that everybody is married, unlike when you were young, you assumed nobody is married yet.”
Brinkley also says that it is fun to date around. She went ahead to say that she didn’t see the reason for marriage anymore. Brinkley said she always wanted to get married to have kids, and since she already has enough, she doesn’t want to complicate things. The mother of three says that she loves her life as it is right now.
Christie Brinkley’s Helicopter Accident
In April 1994, the model survived a near-fatal helicopter accident. It would go on to change her outlook on life and count each day as a blessing.
The crash happened when she was on a ski trip in Colorado. It has been over 25 years since the helicopter accident, and Brinkley never stops appreciating being alive, together with her five other passengers.
It Could Have Been Much Worse
People magazine featured the model and entrepreneur showing her injuries from the accident. She had a bandage on her wrist, which was swollen. At the time, she thought she was going to die.
The mother of three wrote in an Instagram post she made to remember the accident and said, “I know for a fact that tomorrow is not a guarantee and that each day is a gift and an opportunity to make sure that everybody we love knows it!”
How the Accident Happened
Brinkley was 40 when she and her other five friends went helicopter skiing in the San Juan mountain range. The five others were Ricky Taubman, a real estate developer in Los Angeles, Sandra Will Carradine, Telluride’s Sheridan Art Foundation founder, her 11-year-old son, Cade, and the pilot, Tom Sharp. They also had the ski guide, Mike Friedman, on board.
The model had gone on a vacation with Alexa Ray Joel, her daughter, who was eight then, but she did not take her daughter on the helicopter. Brinkley was still married to Billy Joel, who was also not present on the aircraft or even on the trip. He had gone on another trip to Chicago.
It Was Meant To Be a Fun Trip
Brinkley and her friends had not tried heli-skiing before. They did not even know the potential deadly perils they were exposing themselves to when boarding the helicopter. They came to know about all of this when they survived the accident.
However, Brinkley and her friends had a brief meeting where they discussed skiing for about 45 before flying. When they took off, they were gone for about an hour when they decided to try higher spots, and there was one nearby.
It Quickly Went Wrong
The helicopter was going towards the mountain, and just before it reached the peak, it took a sharp turn. The sudden movements did not stop, and after a while, the helicopter began to tumble down.
During the movements, Brinkley would look out and see the sky and the mountain snow, and she started thinking that that was it. She was going to die just like that, on heli-skiing.
Brinkley Refused To Die
She remembers calling Alexa’s name as the helicopter slid down. She knew she was the little girl’s mother, and life would be tough without her mom. She started refusing to die because she needed to live to take care of her children.
Amid the chaos, Brinkley fell from the helicopter’s open door. She landed on the snow, on her back. She then immediately looked up and thanked God that she was alive.
Thankfully They Were Saved
The model later realized that she was not the only survivor, and the rest of her friends were scattered in different parts of the snow. Most of them had suffered injuries, and they were rescued by other helicopters.
Brinkley arrived at the hospital and found her daughter, Alexa, waiting for her. She said that seeing her daughter after the accident was the sweetest thing in the world to her. That was the only thing she dreamt of when going through the circles in the helicopter.
The Accident Changed Her Outlook
Alexa put her hands on her mother’s face and hugged her. Brinkley told her daughter that she loved her so much. Soon after the accident, Brinkley was recovering at home.
After the crash, Brinkley started appreciating family and life more because she saw survival as a miracle. She said that she wanted to have the patience to be a better mom. She even thought of going back to medical school and becoming a doctor.
Brinkley’s Dad Was a Successful TV Producer
Christie’s mom moved to Los Angeles with her and her young brother, where she met a TV writer and producer, Donald Brinkley. The two fell in love and later adopted Christie and her brother. Christie loves Don and calls him dad. She also says that she looks up to him.
Her father was well known and well respected. The Museum of Broadcasting honored Don Brinkley when they gave him a 2-day event in Los Angeles and New York because his career was incredible.
A Strong Family Bond
Christie says that although her father had deadlines, they never knew of them because he was always present for the family. It’s where she developed a strong dedication to family life.
She also says that the mother was also there for them. The parents supported them in all ways, and her dad would work late in the night to spend time with his children during the day.
Christie Brinkley’s Life Today
Brinkley is in her ’60s now and has had a life well-lived. She remains busy and continues to model while remaining focused on her beauty products. Her real estate in the Hamptons means she still has an impressive net worth.
Many view her as one of the most attractive women of all time, but she’s consistently shown that there’s a lot more to her than beauty. The mom of three has also proved herself as a successful actress and entrepreneur.