Christie Brinkley

Enhancing the Art of Living

The exquisite aqua waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands recently provided the idyllic canvas for Christie Brinkley’s 70th birthday celebration. This iconic beauty’s lifelong story continues to redefine our collective human script. 70 has never looked and felt so good, nor have the spurious tales about its limitations manifested in Christie Brinkley. Quite the contrary. A lifetime of determinately healthy choices, and a daily desire to live appreciatively – have made her the trailblazer for an enhanced quality of life. And the great news is that all of us have that choice, particularly if we cherish a life walking respectfully alongside nature.

The legendarily famous supermodel, actress, entrepreneur, and best-selling author continues to topple ageist notions so definitively that her three children, Alexa Ray, Jack and Sailor and the next generations will reap the benefits of journeying through life with extensive lenses and unlimited horizons.

Billy Joel’s song, ‘This is the Time’, was written for Christie in the 1980s, and its title is perfectly apt as we celebrate this highly accomplished frontier woman.

So, let’s get this party started with the pop of a Bellissima sparkling wine cork!

Christie’s birthday took on a life of its own thanks to her two younger children, Jack and Sailor, who were determined to ensure that their mom knew how much she was loved at their paradisal home in the Turks and Caicos. Eldest daughter, Alexa Ray, couldn’t be there due to project commitments, so she celebrated her mom from afar.

“I had thought that maybe I’d just do something small at home with my kids,” says Christie, “but unbeknown to me, they had been planning a big celebration in Parrot Cay, our home of 20 years. The planning was extensive, and the details were so incredibly thoughtful. We have the most delightful neighbors who are so creative and fun. There were surprise people who came in from New York, and I was so touched that everybody made such an effort to make this such a special occasion. They enjoyed every moment as much as I did, and that made me particularly happy. Alan and Melissa, one door down from us, sent out a note in the morning to all our friends on the island:

‘In honor of Christie’s birthday, the Mermaid Bar is open all day – featuring Christie’s Bellissima wines. Drop in!’

They lined the paths with conch shells and Melissa made me a mobile from shells and driftwood – all the things that I love. Another neighbor, Valerie, made me this beautiful collage of pictures of my mom and dad and my family. She carefully chose poignant words around the pictures. A hilarious moment was when my friends wrapped themselves in gift wrap and they proudly pronounced that THEY were my GIFTS.”

All these expressions are a testament to the fact that the people who adore Christie understand her and know that her greatest gifts are the humans with their indelibly valuable thoughtfulness. Therein lies her value system.

She also comments on how blown away she was by all the birthday love and kindness she received on her Instagram page. She says with her signature megawatt smile, “I swiped through all the comments and people’s words and affirmations made me feel like a million bucks. I hope they know how much their words meant to me.”

With the celebrations still ongoing in New York and elsewhere, Christie’s eyes twinkle as she says, “I really do believe that the key to life is to string together as many happy occasions as possible. It also explains why I have a sparkling and still wines company (Bellissima). I feel that the sound of a cork popping creates a happy vibe, and people take on a bubbly disposition and truly live in that elevated moment.”

Christie’s depth is made up of so many shades on the sensitivity spectrum and she generously shares the more complex picture:

“There’s no question that turning 70 is an emotional birthday. I’d felt that turning 30 was a big deal, that 50 was a moment of reckoning and reflection, and then of course, 64, because I’m reminded of the Beatles song.”

At that moment, she sings, ‘When I get older losing my hair – when I’m 64.’ She has great comedic timing.

For my birthday, unbeknown to me, my kids had been planning a big celebration in Parrot Cay (Turks and Caicos), our home of 20 years.

“Yeah, I really thought that when I hit the big 6-4, I’d have grandchildren on my knee. But then, when I actually hit that number, I said, ‘64 ain’t what it used to be’. I got a real kick out of that, and then, along came the looming 70. Instead of discovering that it’s the gateway to old age, I’m discovering that it’s the advent of middle age. That’s because, I’m just not having it, you know, and I’m genuinely having so much fun.”

Christie’s super model contemporary, Beverly Johnson, was in New York doing her one-woman show, In Vogue, while we were shooting the cover photographs of Christie. She paid a surprise visit to Christie at Fadil Berisha’s studio, and the two women were genuinely elated to reconnect. Christie describes it like this:

“As Beverly walked through the door, I was so thrilled to see her, and she was looking so gorgeous. Had we not had commitments after the shoot, we would have spent the evening together. I’m so proud of her for stepping out of her comfort zone by doing this one-woman show. It has received rave reviews in the New York Times, and I am cheering on Beverly’s success. It’s so important that we all push our boundaries and try new things. It’s about following our dreams and discovering abilities and talents that we might never have utilized before. What Beverly has done takes courage and strength.”

Christie concludes with this wisdom:

“What we are all doing collectively is re-branding the age of 70. It defies the ageist rhetoric that abounded until recently in which I was told that by age 30, my modeling career would be over. Done! I was also told that by age 40, I should never wear a dress above my knees. I was also told that my hair needed to be no longer than a certain length once I reached 40. All of these ridiculous rules held us back and now our generation has bust down the doors and created new frontiers. I’m so proud of that. My kids look at me and say, ‘what do you mean? 70 is not old.’ They are looking at things through a much less restrictive prism. Life is always about conquering new frontiers. That’s a much better focus than wrinkles!”

If 70 is the new 45, I remind Christie of what her dad said to her when she was a child: ‘Baby, you write your own script. Make it a great one.’ I ask her if she recognizes that she has a pretty terrific script and she responds expressively.

“Yes. I’ve always taught my three children that they write their own script. They are my greatest blessings, and they are my real pride and joy. I always tell myself that if I’m ever feeling down, it’s time to count what I’m grateful for, and when I get to Alexa Ray, Jack and Sailor, I feel really good. My kids are experts at making me cry happy tears – especially at Christmas. I feel they are in a competition with each other to see who can make mom cry the most (LOL). They know that it’s their hand-made gifts that I cherish the most, so they write me the most beautiful poems and cards, and they watch my face intently to gauge whether the waterworks are approaching. They especially love it when I start crying so hard that I can’t read the card anymore because I need eye windshield wipers! For them it’s like a mission accomplished depending on the quantity of water.”

I ask Christie whether her strong sense of gratitude was honed from the strong role models she had growing up in Malibu, or whether seeing the glass half full came naturally.

“My mom always used to remind me to count my blessings,” she says. “She was a powerful motivator in that she glowed. She was genuinely happy, warm, and welcoming, and being in her presence was so uplifting. She made everyone feel special. If I complained about something, she would check me by reminding me that I had two feet, two arms, and my health. When things in my life became out of control, I would remember my mom’s words, and that has always helped me to pick myself off the floor and move forward. One of the hardest periods of my life was when my parents were ill and suffering, and I struggled to find solace. Even then, mom and dad would assure me and tell me how fortunate they were to have me by their side. That capacity to look at the bright side – even in their suffering – had a deep effect on me.”

The impact is so great that Christie’s three children have actively adopted that motivating mindset. She explains:

“When they are greeting someone, they don’t say, ‘Have a great day.’ Instead, they’ll automatically say, ‘MAKE it a great day.’ Just that subtle word change speaks volumes about the intention. Alexa spent a lot of time with mom, so she heard that positivity right from the source. I love who my kids have become and spending time with them is such a joy. They’ve absorbed wonderful friends into their lives, too.”

2017 Sports Illustrated: Alexa Ray, Christie, Sailor Photo: Getty Images

Artists are intense observers of beauty, and their sensitivity makes them more aware of humankind’s strengths and weaknesses. Therein lies their artistic gift.

Christie is the definition of humane and she extends that compassion to all living things. During the winter, she brings all her bougainvillea and her non-frost-tolerant plants into her house and creates an indoor greenhouse that is ablaze with color. She’s like that protective mother hen who corrals all her chicks and brings them to a place of safety so that they can survive and thrive.

She became a vegetarian when she was 13 years old because her love for animals was so great that she didn’t want to participate in a violent slaughterhouse industry. That stance created its own set of health benefits, and she elucidates:

“I think that good karma has followed me because I’ve been considerate of the suffering of animals. I now credit my healthiness to a lifelong avoidance of meat that is full of antibiotics and growth hormones – the things that farmers pump into their animals to get them to market faster. If it’s aging them faster, then what is it doing to us?”

“I even stopped eating seafood because of the unchecked cruelty in that industry. Dolphins get caught in the fishermen’s nets, and they lie on decks without mercy and terrified. Endangered whale species get caught up in man-made nets. If you’ve never watching the film ‘My Octopus Teacher’ (on Netflix), do yourselves a favor and watch it. It gives us a valuable window into the world of a little-known creature.”

“It often suits us to believe that animals aren’t sentient, but they are, and understanding their sensitivities and emotions would make us more compassionate human beings if we took the time to learn from them. My next-door-neighbors have Jersey cows and I visit them at the fence to sing to them. They are mesmerized by the sound of music, and they listen intently to my singing with liquidly soulful eyes. There’s that famous story of a man playing the piano for elephants at the edge of the forest. They, too, are entranced by the beauty of the sound. Cows are such affectionate animals. They will lie down on the grass and put their head in a singing human’s lap. They respond to the sound and make sounds back. We know our dogs so well, but I’d love all of us to get to know other species better. If we gave them names, we’d be less disconnected to their suffering. Animals play with balls. They have a sense of humor, and they are loving, character-filled creatures.

Christie does substantial charity work and in 2023, she was the host for the American Humane Society for the HERO Dog Awards.

“I loved that experience,” she enthuses. “Caring for all living creatures brings out the best aspects in us. Instagram has been an amazing tool for good things and a catalyst for change. It’s especially valuable if it helps humans to form a connection with sentient beings. I had always been terrified of spiders until I met one named Rose on Instagram. I fell in love with Rose and when she died, I was genuinely bereft. We’d lost a living organism that had a personality and an identity. My hope is that through social media, people will gain that same ‘ah ha’ feeling towards cows.”

Environmental responsibility is a priority on Christie’s radar.

“I’m deeply concerned about all the micro-plastics that we’ve dumped into the ocean that fish have ingested. Even in Antarctica, they are finding micro-plastics in the fish there. Plastics inundate our lives. It’s in our water bottles, frying pans and packages in which we store food.”

The chemical industry, and Missouri-based Monsanto, in particular (the creators of ‘Roundup’, a glyphosate-based herbicide, developed in the 1970s) invoke deep concern from Christie:

“We have to boycott Monsanto and not let them put their toxic stuff on our food. Here’s the real kicker. Monsanto not only manufactures carcinogenic products, but they provide the medicine for it. They create the problem and then profit from the supposed solution. We need to understand how toxins creep into our food, water and air. Going organic is a health necessity and so is demanding (as consumers) that our administrators prioritize our health. I highly recommend a documentary film on Prime called ‘Common Ground’.”

As for climate change, Christie says she sometimes receives bored eye rolls from people who say, ‘weather changes just like it always has.’

Jack, Alexa Ray, Christie and Sailor

My kids know that it’s their hand-made gifts that I cherish the most, so they write me the most beautiful poems and cards, and they watch my face intently to gauge whether the waterworks are approaching (LOL).

“That’s not accurate,” she answers with conviction. “The scientific facts are that climate change is causing more dangerous extremes. We have more catastrophic droughts, unprecedented heat, and extensive flooding. These changes are man-made and if we don’t wise up and address what we’ve done, we are threatening our own survival. Being at the top of the food chain is not going to save us. Each species that we endanger and kill off by our actions is one step closer to our own demise. Horseshoe crabs have survived 400 million years because of their significant adaptations and one of their strengths is their highly-honed immune response to bacteria. If we wipe out horseshoe crabs because of man-made ocean devastation, we eradicate one of our best defenses against disease-causing bacteria.”

Last time Christie and I met, we discussed nuclear power extensively. I ask her if she has seen any ethical advances in the industry. She shakes her head.

“Sadly, greed still has a grip on the energy sector. Whether it’s fusion instead of fission as a response to nuclear pressure (fusion is the process where two light nuclei combine together, releasing vast amounts of energy. Fission is the splitting of a heavy, unstable nucleus into two lighter nuclei) it still leads to lots of waste. I’d be so relieved if we could really invest more in windmill and solar power. Both wind and sun are abundantly available to us through nature and neither of them is dangerous.”

Being humane invites us to become substantially kinder, more sensitive human beings.

“I am a strong advocate for peace,” says Christie, “because life is so precious, and children need to be protected and shielded from the devastation of man-made wars. Their exposure to that level of violence will scar them for the rest of their lives.

Martin Luther King famously said, ‘Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.’

President Ronald Reagan said,‘Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.’

President Jimmy Carter said, ‘We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children. Violence only deepens the divide.’”

Christie says with deep passion in her voice,

“At this time with two major wars raging in the world, it’s so important to remind ourselves of this wisdom. Even when we know who the aggressor is and how horrific their actions are (and there is no condonation of the perpetrators’ barbarism), retaliating with continued death and destruction will only lead to more hate, more bitterness, and a greater divide between people. Wars have never solved our problems, and the impressionable children who are shattered by adult wars will become the spawning ground for future terrorist organizations. My prayer is that more statesmen of the caliber of a Nelson Mandela become world leaders so that they can show their oppressors what magnanimous grace looks like. The most hardened hearts can be softened by leaders who disarm their enemy’s aggression by the power of their own humanity.”

“I’m an aquarian,” Christie confirms, “and we believe in the power of individuals. It was Margaret Mead who said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’”

Beverly Johnson and Christie Brinkley

We are, collectively, re-branding the age of 70. Our generation has bust down the doors and created new frontiers. I’m so proud of that. Life is always about conquering new frontiers. That’s a much better focus than wrinkles.

Her voice takes on an earnest tone as she gently says,

“Love is such a healing emotion and a fixer of strife. I simply want to encourage all people to love more.”

Christie and I end our chat by discussing the substantial contributions of artists in the world. She enlightens me with this story:

“Did you know that the first environmentalists in America were artists who traveled west? Thomas Moran was so moved by the sight of the Grand Canyon that he painted it and brought his canvas to Congress with a plea to protect this natural wonder. Artists are intense observers of beauty, and their sensitivity makes them more aware of humankind’s strengths and weaknesses. Therein lies their artistic gift.”

It takes one artist to recognize another. Christie started out her career as an artist in Paris – and had the modeling world not pursued her as vigorously as they did, she may have become a famous painter. She turned that passion into a hobby, and it has given her a special quality of life.

With summer approaching, Christie is entirely in her element. She still gains an unjaded, childlike thrill feeling the swoosh of the ocean water as the wind works in harmony with the masts of her sailboat. Imagining it as we speak, her megawatt smile lights up even more as she sets the scene:

“I love staring out at water. I love swimming in it, and I love having it around me. That’s my happy place.”

And I can just imagine a Bellissima zero sugar sparkling wine cork pop accompanying that scene.

IG: @ChristieBrinkley