Times Union: "Paulina Porizkova on aging gracefully, modeling, authentic life"
Porizkova will join us Tuesday, March 7, for a conversation on beauty, aging, love, loss, grief, and joy
By Jack Rightmyer, published in the Times Union on March 1, 2023.
Reprinted with permission
In 2019, upon the death of her husband, Ric Ocasek, who had been a lead singer with rock group The Cars, Paulina Porizkova discovered her husband had written her out of his will even though they had been married for 30 years and had lived together for 35. Ocasek declared she had abandoned him. Porizkova believed the only way to get through her despair was to let the world know about her pain.
“Instagram was my way of speaking out,” she said. “Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with social media, but at that time I was feeling extremely isolated and that was a way I was able to connect with the outside world. I was amazed at how my posts resonated with so many other people.”
At the peak of her popularity in the 1980s and 1990s when she was one of the highest-paid supermodels in the world, she thought people most likely saw her as an ice queen who lived in a castle. “People were shocked to see me so vulnerable in my posts, but I’ve always been a very honest person who spoke her truth. During my popularity no one cared to hear that. My outer surface was so shiny and new, that’s all people cared to take in. They weren’t interested in my ideas or what I had to say.”
From this pain has emerged the 57-year-old's third book No Filter: The Good, The Bad, and The Beautiful (Penguin Random House), a collection of essays detailing her childhood growing up in Cold War Czechoslovakia, her years as a model, her time married to Ocasek, and profound lessons she learned by living an authentic life. She will participate in a Conversation/Q&A at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, at Page Hall as part of the New York State Writers Institute.
“I didn’t write this book (with the intention of) catharsis. I had just come through the three worst years of my life. I had spent an immense amount of time thinking about all that pain, and I was trying to process it, trying to figure out what my purpose was and where I was going next. I had taken all that and placed it in a bag and publishing this book is like publishing that bag.”
She knows she would have never survived such difficult times if she had not had her grandmother, her babi. “Without my grandmother and her love I don’t know what would have happened to me. We were very poor in Czechoslovakia, but I was happy and felt loved. When I moved with my parents to Sweden I was called a dirty Communist and all the mean girls hated me, but my grandmother was the one person who saw me as wonderful. She made me feel there was a reason why I was alive, and I always remember her and how she loved me whenever times are tough.”
Much of Porizkova's book is about her grudging acceptance of aging. “The beautiful part of aging is that I have a much better understanding of who I am. I’m more confident in my capabilities and better able to weather the difficulties of life. I miss being young, and there’s a reason why so many women in Hollywood get so much plastic surgery. They are rewarded if they look young.”
But Porizkova believes that aging should not be something we suffer through.
“When I was 17 years old, I felt so much insecurity and trauma. I did not know who I was. Today, I have so much more self-acceptance and wisdom. I like to think of aging as just something that’s part of nature. Trees change, the seasons change, and we also change. Change is not embraced in our culture. We’re scared of it because it’s the unknown. The women I look up to are just a little bit older then me, and they’re inspiring me and showing me ways to accept my aging. I hope this book will do the same for other women who read it.”
In No Filter she writes about the peak of her popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. “I was famous for the way I looked. Nothing shuts you off from being a regular human being than being a celebrity because of the way you look. My beauty intimidated people and when I was the most seen I was the least heard. I much prefer today when I’m being heard and celebrated for what I say.”
As a model she often felt she was living a shallow life. “My body was rented to sell products. I didn’t feel I was contributing anything valuable to the world. What was my message? ‘Buy this lipstick and you’ll look like me’? I accepted the financial awards this provided me, but I didn’t feel very good about it.”
Looking back, Porizkova sees her career a bit differently. “Our idea of beauty has expanded today, and I think that’s fantastic. I’ve also heard from women that as a model I had inspired some of them to look their best. Maybe by selling these products I was selling a dream. I tell women not to measure yourself against how a model or a celebrity looks or dresses, but focus on what makes you feel and look beautiful.”
During the years she was raising her two boys and enjoying her life as a wife and a mother, Porizkova believed her celebrity bubble had gotten very thin. “It was a private time for me. I had some privacy in my life which I wasn’t used to. I’ve been a public figure since I was a child in Czechoslovakia. What is marvelous about today is when a woman will come up to me, hug me, and say how much I mean to her, how my posts or my book have meant so much to them. It feels like I’ve made a connection with that person, and isn’t that what it’s all about”?
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, 2023
Conversation / Q&A with Marion Roach Smith
Page Hall, University at Albany Downtown Campus, 135 Western Avenue, Albany NY 12203 View map
Free and open to the public. No registration required.