Life Is Beautiful For Christie Brinkley

Christie BrinkleyPhoto Credit: ERICA PELOSINI LEEMAN



Christie BrinkleyPhoto Credit: ERICA PELOSINI LEEMAN

CHRISTIE BRINKLEY REALLS THE FIRST TIME SHE TOOK HER MASK OFF IN PUBLIC THE SAME WAY many might describe going to a nudist beach for the first time: with fear, awe, reverence and just the tiniest bit of glee.

Truth be told, her inaugural dining venture of 2021 — a Mother’s Day outing at Tutto Il Giorno in her Hamptons hometown of Sag Harbor — did feel a little bit like being naked in public. “It is very scary when you first unmask,” the 67-year-old model and entrepreneur admits. “I mean, I sat outside a couple of times last summer when [the cases were really low] and it seemed safe, but I couldn’t relax. Anytime anyone walked near me, I’d duck under the table. It just wasn’t worth it.” But on Mother’s Day (she’d had both doses of the vaccine, which she refers to as “getting double vaxxed,” a phrase Americans will no doubt be using all summer), “we sat down at the table, we took our masks off, and we didn’t think about it. The waiter came and took our order, and I wasn’t cowering in the corner. It was so exciting.”

The moment was memorable for another reason, too: pure validation. While riding the high of finally being out in public without fear, she also spotted several diners popping the corks on bottles of Bellissima, the organic prosecco brand she launched in 2016. It was fitting, given that Bellissima was started as an homage to the art of celebration. And really, what better time could there be to celebrate life than now?

Brinkley’s inherent bubbliness and ebullient enthusiasm perfectly complement such a sparkling business venture. “I am a person who loves exclamation marks. I use the double red exclamation marks multiple times a day in emails to friends. You could say I have a certain enthusiasm, a joie de vivre,” she confesses before explaining how the naming of her prosecco perfectly aligns with her personality.

“Bellissima means ‘most beautiful.’ It’s the perfect word for sunsets, new babies, reunions and all of these beautiful moments that are happening right now. I thought, ‘Well, bubbly wines have always been associated with celebrations of our most beautiful moments. We can and should take any opportunity and turn it into a celebration.’ I thought Bellissima was a perfect way to represent celebration. I like to say that when you pop a cork, it’s an exclamation point on that moment!” (Dear reader, please note that I would have used two exclamation points here in Brinkley’s honor had it not been grammatically incorrect.)

Christie BrinkleyPhoto Credit: ERICA PELOSINI LEEMAN

Fittingly, Bellissima is created in a location worthy of its name — one of truly exceptional beauty. The brand’s organic grapes are harvested in the vineyards of Treviso, in Italy’s Veneto region, just 30 miles north of Venice. From the unique white limestone soil of this postcard-perfect place on the banks of the Piave River, with rolling hills and ancient cathedrals as a backdrop, the brand’s four expressions — as well as an exclusive line of Aperol and elderflower aperitifs — are produced in traditional 750ml bottles, as well as “bambinis” (375ml splits), all designed by Brinkley, who looked to Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” for inspiration. These include the Zero Sugar Sparkling White Wine, made with Glera grapes, with notes of white flowers and grapefruit; the Rosé Sparkling, made with pinot grigio grapes, fresh and fruity, with a bouquet of strawberry and grapefruit and a soft, persistent foam; the 100 percent Glera grape Prosecco DOC Brut, a dry prosecco with delicate scents of green apple and aromatic notes of baked bread; and her latest release, the 100 percent pinot grigio grape Zero Sugar Sparkling Rosé, which, due to a unique fermentation process, results in a crisp, diet-friendly wine with hints of strawberry and grapefruit. The brand will soon launch its Pink Prosecco. A combination of 90 percent Glera grapes and 10 percent pinot noir grapes — vinified separately, then assembled before secondary fermentation with the Charmat method, which takes about 60 days — the wine, which contains only 10 or 11 grams of sugar per glass, will be lively and sparkling, with delicate floral notes as well as fruity hints of cherry and strawberry on the palate.

Aside from its overall ethos, several things set Bellissima apart. First and foremost, it’s certified organic. “We have never had chemicals on our vineyards — they’re pure and clean,” Brinkley boasts. “It makes me so happy to offer grapes that do not have approximately 57 chemicals on them, like some can have if they’re not deemed organic.”

Also, the wines are vegan — which was personally important to Brinkley, a lifelong vegetarian. “This means that we don’t filter our wines through animal parts, which is the traditional way wines are filtered. [Blood and bone marrow, casein, chitin, egg albumen, fish oil, gelatin and isinglass can all be used in the production of certain wines.] I didn’t even realize this until I got into the business, but the idea of drinking wine that may have an animal part in it, I find that to be really gross,” she says. [I can’t help but agree.]

And last, but certainly not least, Bellissima caters to those who want to stay, well, bellissima — its low sugar content practically guarantees that those who want to remain slim and trim can do so, guilt-free. “The icing on the cake is that we currently offer two zero-sugar wines, and I would love to expand on that,” Brinkley says.

As one of the most iconic supermodels in history — and one who is very much still in the public eye — it’s no wonder that Brinkley would choose to create a health- and body-conscious beverage. Crafting something she could personally feel good about and would choose to drink herself was critical.

Christie BrinkleyPhoto Credit: ERICA PELOSINI LEEMAN

And so, while she is enthusiastic about each of her creations, her preference du jour is the Zero Sugar Sparkling Rosé. “I have to say, you’re not supposed to have favorite children, but [the rosé] is my new baby, and I am just completely obsessed.” (For those wondering, she swears she loves her actual human children exactly the same. They are Alexa Ray Joel, 35; Jack Brinkley-Cook, 26; and Sailor Lee Brinkley-Cook, 22.)
Most brand owners shy away from expressing a personal preference, but Brinkley isn’t afraid to speak her truth. Plus, her tastes (in prosecco, not children) are constantly changing, so what might be her favorite today could completely shift in a week.

But it’s hard not to fall in love with the zero-sugar concept, especially now, after a year enjoying some truly Italian-style family meals while in lockdown with her kids.

“During the quarantine, all three of my kids were home with their significant others, and they all cook, and they all eat three meals a day. When I’m not with the kids, I sometimes forget to eat a couple meals. I just get into something, and before you know it, it’s 5 in the afternoon and I go, ‘Okay, let me make something for myself right now — something that’s good for me.’ But it was hard for me to keep my weight in check with everybody here: they were making French toast in the morning and big salads in the afternoon, and somehow, somebody always seemed to be baking banana bread or some sort of thing off of Instagram. There were always big dinners with multiple courses, and I put on a bit of weight.”
So she certainly didn’t intend to take in extra calories through alcohol. The best way to have her cake and eat it too was to not go crazy over her drinkable calories. “I feel best when I am at my fighting weight, and the best way to lose weight is to never drink your sugar, because any sugar that you drink is absorbed into your body and sets up that whole cycle, that whole glycemic response,” she says. “Since I have a sweet tooth… I love knowing that I’m not laying on that additional layer of sugar in my day [through alcohol].”

She adds, “I love it when the restaurants here in the Hamptons have Bellissima on the menu, because — let’s face it — there aren’t that many great, guilt-free choices. I’ll look at a menu and go, ‘Oh, they’ve got a pecan pie!’ Who’s going to have just one bite of pecan pie? I’ll take my zero-sugar sparkling wine happily, and I’ll have my fork ready to dive right in.”

Christie BrinkleyPhoto Credit: ERICA PELOSINI LEEMAN

ON THIS PRE-SUMMER DAY IN MAY, Brinkley is gazing up at the clear blue sky above her Hamptons home, and she’s dreamy. So dreamy, in fact, that to me she sounds a little bit like Bob Ross.

“This second, I’m outside, and I feel like I’m on holiday,” she sighs happily. “It doesn’t matter where I am in the world: for me, enjoying life is making time to get outdoors. Like the expression, I bloom where I am planted, and I am very, very lucky to be planted in the Hamptons right now. We have the most beautiful beaches and bays, and I love being near the water. To be able to be outdoors with friends is just the greatest luxury in life, you know? I’m equally as happy on a terrace in New York City as I am being at the home I’ve had in Turks and Caicos for the last 20 years. I’m looking at the blue sky right now and just smiling. There’s a chartreuse tree, a periwinkle blue sky. The colors are just so happy and gorgeous.”

And regardless of where she’ll be this summer — whether it’s here in her happy place or taking a few friends up on their invitations to visit Europe —one thing is crystal clear: life should be —and is — beautiful. “We had a dinner party a couple of nights ago; it was a 20-person-long table. We just kept saying, ‘Can you believe it? We’re all really here! We’re double vaxxed. We’re here.’ It’s absolutely thrilling. You definitely don’t take a meal at a table with friends for granted, and I never did. It’s one of my favorite things in life. But then, everything is bellissima!” she declares.

Which, in Brinkley’s world, is absolutely true. She has had the kind of enviable career that most can only dream of. After being discovered in a Parisian post office by photographer Errol Sawyer during her time as an art student in the City of Lights (just one year after graduating from Le Lycée Francais de Los Angeles, a stone’s throw from her childhood home of Malibu), she became the first model ever to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated for three consecutive years, from 1979 to 1981. She’s been photographed on six continents in more than 30 countries around the world and can boast a 25-year partnership with Cover Girl that began in 1976.

Christie Brinkley

Photo Credit: Bellissima

She has successfully done Broadway, starring in the Tony-winning revival of Chicago and receiving the Broadway Beacon Award for her portrayal of Roxie Hart; published the New York Times best sellers Timeless Beauty: Over 100 Tips, Secrets, and Shortcuts to Looking Great and Christie Brinkley’s Outdoor Beauty and Fitness Guide; and has appeared in films like Jack and Jill (and in National Lampoon’s Vacation as the completely unforgettable girl in the Ferrari), TV shows such as Parks and Recreation, and music videos including, most memorably, ex-husband Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.” Additionally, she’s thrown herself into philanthropic work, receiving many humanitarian awards, including the USO Merit Award for her efforts to entertain U.S. troops in Bosnia and Kosovo. She currently sits on the board of directors of the Global Security Institute and the Radiation and Public Health Project, and she created a scholarship fund at the Ross School in East Hampton.

In the last few years, she’s hardly been idle. She is still working with fitness training equipment company Total Gym after more than 25 years, and in May she was announced as the star of denim brand NYDJ’s newest campaign, which also features both of her daughters. (Alexa Ray is a singer/songwriter, and Sailor Lee is a model with IMG.)

And although she didn’t quite get around to launching Christie’s Cocktails on IGTV, she did continue her campaign to make other women feel beautiful by announcing an ambassadorship with SBLA Beauty to promote its neck, chin and jawline anti-aging wand earlier this year.

Like Bellissima, the partnership came about organically. “I was literally on a call with a bunch of girlfriends and everyone was like, ‘What are you all doing for your mask faces and the stress on your skin dealing with quarantine?’ One of my friends said, ‘Oh my gosh, I feel like I’ve aged so much,’ and somebody else said, ‘Me, too,’ and [a third woman] said, ‘Not me! I’ve been using these wands. They’re incredible!’ and I said, ‘What wands? What are you talking about?’”

Christie BrinkleyPhoto Credit: Bellissima

After hearing the explanation, Brinkley was sold. “There are actually visible results. It tightens the neck. It lifts the chin. It redefines your jawline. I use it on my décolletage, which I only recently discovered [was necessary after a mishap with my phone, which cast a] very unflattering side light from the sun. I went, ‘Oh, what is that? What in the world?’”

As a model, Brinkley is clearly familiar with mirrors, but sometimes we forget to really look at what we’re seeing. She says, “When I turned 60, I started needing glasses. I can never remember where I put them, and you don’t wear glasses when you put your makeup on anyway, so I never really looked at myself in the mirror perfectly. But there I am, looking at myself with my glasses on in the full light, and I see these wrinkles on my chest.”

Needless to say, she was not happy. That is, until she got on board with her girlfriend’s beauty tool. “I started using the wands along the base of my neck where I notice a bit of crepiness, as well as my forehead, around my eyes, my smile lines, and I could not believe the results. I literally called the company and I said, ‘You know, these products are really amazing. What is in them? Why do they work, and what else do you have planned?’ And I started speaking with Randi Shinder, the owner. She said, ‘Let’s merge. Let’s partner.’ So now I’m an equity partner as well as international spokesperson.”

This is just the latest trick up her sleeve. As a 45-year industry vet, it should go without saying that Brinkley has an arsenal of beauty hacks at her disposal. Which, of course, she is only too happy to share. In addition to swearing by Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Glow Drops, she says, “Men always look five years younger than women the same age, and the reason is because they shave every day. When they shave, they are getting a more rapid cell turnover, stimulating their skin. So I’ve been a big proponent of scrubbing.” 

Christie Brinkley

Photo Credit: Bellissima

Another tip reveals how she protects that fabulous figure of hers, made so famous by Sports Illustrated — though she does confide that she only wears bikinis at home these days. “I still wear bikinis in my house because I don’t want to have my body be this pale creature. If I’m in the garden, I am not going to wear a T-shirt — I’ll put on a bikini on with overalls on top, and once I get enough sun, I’ll cover up with a loose and breezy, oversize man-tailed white shirt. I also wear sunblock, of course. That’s still the most important beauty tip I can offer! Then I’ll put on a pareo [a wraparound skirt] so that I can tan in any areas where the bikini may have made lines on me. I may still wear a bikini in public, but I’ll probably just keep my sarong on.”

Her last piece of advice is this: “I think the other thing is to realize the power of a smile. When you smile, when you just put your lips in that position, it creates all kinds of healthy, anti-aging endorphins. So I would say to take a moment to enjoy your day if you can. See or get on the phone with a friend, make sure to laugh. If it’s a sunset that’s going to make you smile, get out and enjoy that sunset. Don’t miss it. Make time. People get so busy with their lives, but you’ve got to remember to also enjoy it. Go out right now and see the buds on the trees, and see how the leaves are bursting out.”

Bellissima-Rosé-ZERO-SUGAR_-687x1030Photo Credit: Bellissima 

She certainly intends to, without fear, even as throngs of tourists and beachgoers descend upon the Hamptons this summer. “I think it’s exciting when there’s lots of life and people around. I like the hustle and bustle. I like people. And this is people season,” she says. “I live out here year-round, so I know the Hamptons well enough to know how to get away when I feel like getting away from everybody. There are miles of endless beaches that are there for you to take a long, slow walk, even in a bikini, with nobody looking at you. One of the things I cherish about the Hamptons is that ability to feel like you can get away from it all. It’s a spectacular place for water lovers and people who love sailing, like me. I like to spend a lot of time on, by and in the water, sailing, paddling, surfing, all of that stuff I love. And eating. There are lots of great restaurants, from Montauk to the North Fork to Shelter Island.”

Her final recommendation? “I would call in advance and make sure they have Bellissima there!”

Exclamation point, exclamation point.

Christie BrinkleyPhoto Credit: ERICA PELOSINI LEEMAN