There’s an advertisement on the subway station wall for VitaminWater or a vacation to somewhere tropical, maybe Majorca. I can’t remember. All I know is that Cindy Crawford is slinging it, whatever it is. Her face, smoothed over in Photoshop but aged nonetheless, smirks from the filthy tiled wall, hung over gum-laden concrete and corners lined with greasy dust bunnies. For some reason, the ad makes me grossly uncomfortable – not for me, but for her. Right then, at this moment, I can think of nothing worse than being Cindy Crawford.
When you’re a cultural icon who’s made your impact on this world via your brown hair and an artfully placed mole, aging poses some unique problems. No matter how beautiful Cindy Crawford is as a woman, she’ll be forever indebted to the Cindy Crawford of yore. I don’t want Mom Cindy; I want House of Style Cindy in the foreground of Central Park, sporting a leather jacket and the side-parted hair of a teenager. I don’t want refined, married Cindy with a wedding band and a mortgage; I want her standing next to a vending machine outside of the Halfway Café, guzzling from a 1991 version of a Pepsi can, wearing a tight white tank and a pair of cutoff shorts. If I could, I would freeze Cindy Crawford at 20 years old, in all her fake-eyelashed, big-breasted, teased hair glory. These are impossible expectations, but ones that advertisers and magazines have conditioned me to want. Youth and beauty, in perpetuity.
Like anyone who has strolled down memory lane only to realize that (shocker!) they looked much younger five years ago, you have to wonder if Older Cindy is as disappointing to Cindy Crawford herself as she is to us. It’s certainly not as though she’s avoiding her own Golden Era as one might avoid a mirror at a certain age. As I write this, I check her Twitter page where she touts a picture from a ’97 shoot for Elle: “talk about clash of the colored prints!” In fact, every other photo uploaded to her Twitter account is a flashback to the grander, tighter, younger days – a stock that loses value as time goes on, especially when she quotes Buddha–“do not dwell in the past” — but sandwiches his holiness in between photos ten plus years old.
Because the root of this is not that I don’t think Cindy Crawford is a beautiful woman, it’s that I can’t help but think, Shouldn’t you have found something better to do by now? Capitalizing on one’s waning looks seems undignified when, at nearly 50, you would hope a person might have gravitated towards something meatier. Sure, Cindy Crawford has had a stand-out modeling career, but I can’t help but think of women who were fated to lesser ones, only to come out shining in other fields: Grace Coddington of Vogue, Sara Ziff of Model Alliance and the documentary Picture Me, or, less creatively, those who went on to be enormously famous actresses.
Modeling, by nature of its brevity, should be a steppingstone to something else. Great success, understandably, can turn this profession into its own island, where you are doomed to an increasingly unappealing relevancy. As soon as I pass the new ad with Cindy on it, a faded icon shilling a lesser good, I forget it immediately. — Jenny Bahn