By Betsy Rothstein - 07/30/08 06:48 PM EDT
Supermodel Christy Turlington Burns has visited Capitol Hill numerous times in the past several months to draw attention to maternal health. She appeared at a press conference with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) in May on obstetric fistula as an ambassador for CARE. She returned to Washington again in June for CARE’s two-day annual conference that was to discuss the global hunger crisis, climate change, maternal health and sexual and gender-based violence. Expect to see more of her on Capitol Hill; she promises to visit whenever her schedule allows. She is married to actor/filmmaker Edward Burns and lives in Manhattan. The couple have two children: a daughter, Grace, and son, Finn.
How did you get involved in global maternal health?
I’ve been involved in health for a number of years. I was involved in tobacco cessation 10 years ago when I lost my father to lung cancer. I was a former smoker myself. I was concerned with the poor people in the world, so I got involved with CARE.
So you became an ambassador for CARE?
I don’t really like to use that word. It’s a great word for the people who truly are ambassadors. The first trip I did with CARE was to El Salvador. I was six months pregnant.
Was it a tough trip?
I had a healthy pregnancy, so it wasn’t a tough trip. I came back from that trip and had a healthy delivery. I could stop thinking of those [pregnant] women there. Did they have healthy deliveries? The numbers are staggering. Over half a million women die every year during pregnancy or childbirth.
Where did you grow up?
In Danville, Calif. It was a great place to grow up. I spent time in Lake Tahoe. It’s a great place with access to beach, mountains. We traveled a lot. We lived in Miami for a few years.
You were tapped to be a model while engaging in horse competition.
I used to compete my horses. One day a photographer took my picture. I was 14.
Did you want to be a model?
No. At the time, I was into my friends and my horses. I was tall, but that was about it.
You are known for your friendliness as a model.
Models are all friendly. In an ideal situation, it is a collaborative work.
But modeling can be stressful, yes?
Like anybody, people have their moments. People overwork themselves and don’t know what they’re doing.
You’re into yoga. That must keep you pretty balanced.
It’s been a part of my life for a long time. In terms of knowing who I was and what I wanted to be, it’s a very powerful tool. I smoked as a teen. It helped getting through that addiction.
When did you quit?
Fourteen years ago.
I read that you have emphysema — is that true?
I’m totally fine. If I had emphysema, I would be the poster child for emphysema on this earth. I was tested and my doctors said it wasn’t valid. I still really recommend that people not smoke.
Where do you like to shop?
It’s a thing I don’t do unless I have to. Being in fashion has killed that. When I travel I still get excited about it. There’s no one store. I look for something that is unique.
What part of your beauty regimen can you not do without?
I would say yoga. It’s a great thing and it teaches you what your body needs. The obvious beauty tip is water, and sleep if you can get it.
You once posed naked to protest fur. Any regrets about doing that?
No regrets. The image has to reflect what the tagline is. I still believe in the statement that we don’t need to wear fur in our culture. I think it’s unattractive to wear fur. I don’t necessarily endorse all that PETA has done. They have taken the movement back in some ways.
[Note: In 1993, Turlington posed naked for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’s anti-fur campaign in a poster that read: “I’d rather go naked than wear fur.”]
What is your impression of politicians and Capitol Hill?
I find it really exciting to come here. I’ve seen in a short period of time a lot of action on maternal health.
That’s hardly ever the case.
It has been enough to charge me. I live close by. I can come by in a pinch.
Whom are you supporting for president?
What do you think of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)?
I’m a fan of Hillary Clinton. I think she’s a powerful woman. But, you know, it’s time to move on and forward.
Have you met your representative in Congress?
I’ve met a few, but not mine, Rep. Jerrold Nadler [D-N.Y.]. I’ve met Nita Lowey [D-N.Y.] and Kirsten Gillibrand [D-N.Y.].
You’ve worked closely with supermodel Naomi Campbell. Is she as difficult as the press indicates?
I love her. I’ve known her since she was 15. I can’t condone the behavior I’ve read about, but I know another side of her.
To recommend a political personality for 20 Questions, call Betsy Rothstein at (202)628-8516 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.