For Lauren Hutton, Modeling Was Never the Dream

The Unstoppables is a series about people whose ambition is undimmed by time. Below, Lauren Hutton explains, in her own words, what continues to motivate her.

I turned 80 in November. Sometimes I feel like I’m 33. Sometimes I’m 572. I’ve been writing a book — a memoir — writing almost every day and, doing it, I realized I’ve had an extremely lucky life. Obviously anyone who has success has luck, but there are three or four other things you need — intelligence, a certain amount of talent for the gig, a strong work ethic.

I’ve said this before, but modeling was never the dream. At the start, I had this childhood idea of seeing the world. I grew up, the early years, in Charleston, S.C. Later we moved to mid-Central Florida, and I was this wild creature, growing up in the swamps and running through palmetto groves, with a backyard full of snakes and alligators and turtles and wild boys who would tree me.

I already knew then I had to get out there and see the world. I had to. By now I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been around the globe.

When I got into modeling, I was totally ignorant about the business — and about fashion when I came to New York. After six months in the city, the only gig I could get was as a house model for Dior — showroom modeling. The other model, who despised me for some reason, kept telling me: “Well, this is as far as you’re ever going to go in this business. You’re cross-eyed, you’ve got that gap between your teeth, you’re too short.” And that was that.

But then she happened to be looking at some fashion magazine and mentioned that, while we were making $50 a week, the people in the magazine made $50 an hour! I swear, I saw a giant lightbulb that took up the whole mirror. I knew that if I could figure out how to do that, I’d be able to get to the Far East, to Africa.

So I went after it. I got myself in front of Diana Vreeland, and suddenly I was being used by Avedon and Penn and other photographers.

Now I’ve been in the business for 60 years. Why do I keep doing it? Except that I take care of a bunch of people, I almost don’t need the money anymore. I do it because I think it’s useful to wave the flag for full-grown women. I looked around and saw that there were no older women in ads or on magazines. There were all these guys getting old — actors, athletes who still had value — but no women. So I keep working.

Recent and upcoming projects: Covers of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue Germany; J. Crew 40th-anniversary campaign; campaigns for David Jones, Cuup lingerie and Saint Laurent.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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