Fifty women milled around in a beautifully decorated Los Angeles home, awaiting the arrival of the guest of honor. At last, she entered: a stunning 5-feet-11-inch woman with a mane of golden gray hair. She beamed, made steady eye contact with a group of us in the family room, and said, as if we didn’t know, “I’m Paulina.”
As in Paulina Porizkova, the 1980s supermodel who graced hundreds of magazine covers—Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (twice!). We smiled at each other in disbelief. For many at the author event, we had met our “girl crush.”
I think there is tremendous interest in who she is beyond being the famous supermodel.
Jill Daniel, the founder of Happy Women Dinners, which organized the event, said, “So many women in their 50s grew up with Paulina’s face on the magazines we bought. I think there was and is tremendous interest in who she is beyond being the famous supermodel.” Daniel organized this second Porizkova event after the first one sold out in two weeks.
“As a teenager in the ’80s, I admired her beauty and aspired to grow up and be that beautiful. I also found her exotic since she was from Czechoslovakia. She was fascinating to me,” said Kerrie Mills, who flew from Northern California to meet and hear Porizkova talk about her new book No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful.
The Crying Lady on Instagram
Porizkova, 57, continues to fascinate, as evidenced by her 960,000 Instagram followers. One fan dubbed her the “Crying Lady on Instagram” because of her videos of herself in tears. Porizkova’s husband of more than 28 years, Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, died unexpectedly of heart disease in 2019, and although the couple was in the process of divorcing, Porizkova had recently nursed him through a surgery in the home they still shared. Porizkova was shocked to learn he had cut her out of his estate.
Isolated during the pandemic and overcome with grief and feelings of betrayal, Porizkova sought connection with others on Instagram.
Isolated during the pandemic and overcome with grief and feelings of betrayal, Porizkova sought connection with others on Instagram through un-enhanced and emotionally vulnerable photos and videos.
Strangers accused her of oversharing and labeled her as desperate for posting bikini photos. Some family and friends suggested she get another therapist and increase her meds. But amidst a sea of highly curated images of everyone’s perfect lives, Porizkova’s openness endeared her to others.
At the Happy Women Dinners event, Porizkova spoke of her regrets and mistakes. “How stupid have I been?” she asked, going on to explain that she had merged her substantial modeling earnings with her husband’s wealth, handed control over her finances to his advisors, and started using her husband’s agent.
The Book’s Birth
Perched on a stool with perfect posture in a below-the-knee floral dress, Porizkova explained how Maria Shriver called her up out of the blue. Porizkova laughed, recounting the call, “What have I done?” she wanted to know. Shriver had recently launched an imprint at Penguin Random House. Porizkova had received offers to write a memoir before but declined because “a lot of people would try to kill me,” but she was on board to write a collection of essays.
The snag was that she only had three months to deliver a draft of the book. She’d written a novel 15 years earlier, but it’d taken her five years to complete.
But for Porizkova, who competed on the television reality show On the Edge against much younger women and professional male athletes, it was game on. “My family knows I cannot turn down a challenge,” she said. “I will kill myself to succeed.”
Back then, she represented beauty and poise. Today she symbolizes authenticity and courage.
The resulting book, which came out in November 2022, covers her experiences and thoughts on love, loss, beauty, and empowerment. “Writing the book was cathartic in the sense I felt like I had removed all this stuff that was inside me and put it in a bag and set the bag down in the living room,” she wrote. “It’s still in the living room. It’s a little bag full of s- – -, but it’s no longer residing here all the time in my eyesight.”
At the sold-out Happy Women Dinners event, every attendee spoke with Porizkova one on one for a few minutes. “I was surprised she was so incredibly nice,” said Mills. “She was dressed and talked like one of my girlfriends, not a famous supermodel.”
“I was impressed by how down to earth she is,” another attendee, Susie Lines, said afterward. “I know we tend to think of celebrities as ‘other,’ but she felt like someone who would be a great friend.”
When it was time to take individual photos with Porizkova, the model and author jumped up from her seat and led a small group to the entry. “Now, one of you has to be me,” Porizkova declared. She gently moved the happy substitute “Paulina” a little to the left, a little to the right, scrutinizing how the light fell on her stand-in’s face.
“Back then, she represented beauty and poise,” Mills said. “Today she symbolizes authenticity and courage.”
As someone whose beauty was her passport to prominence, Porizkova said she was often “seen but not heard.” People dismissed her thoughts and spoke about her at modeling shoots like a beautiful but unfeeling statue. “We women are treated like objects because we are assumed to stay the same,” Porizkova said. “That doesn’t sit very well with me. We are all f- – – – – g beautiful. We are nature and nature changes.”
‘Paulina has helped me to see there are a lot of societal constructs around “older women” and that really none of them have to apply to any of us.’
“Paulina has helped me to see there are a lot of societal constructs around ‘older women’ and that really none of them have to apply to any of us. We are smart, energetic, interesting, funny, caring and . . . not invisible,” Lines said.
Like many of us, Porizkova has grown wiser with age and is more willing to speak up, unafraid of what people think. As she said, “We are seasoned . . . I have to focus on gratitude, on all the wonderful things I have had in my life, of which there have been many. I just have to focus on the positive, and then the negative slowly dissipates from a lack of sunlight.”
Yvonne Liu is a writer whose work has appeared in national outlets. She is writing a memoir about overcoming a traumatic childhood. Yvonne lives in Los Angeles with her husband. She has three 20-something children and is proud she did the work to help minimize generational trauma.