The Transformation Of Christie Brinkley From Childhood To 67 Years Old

Christe Brinkley began working at the age of 18 in the early 1970s and never stopped. "A friend was just saying something today about retiring and I said, 'Oh my God, retiring? Don't do that," she told Porter in a 2018 interview. After skyrocketing to fame with her record-breaking three consecutive Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue covers in '79, '80, and '81, the supermodel branched out and developed other sides of her talents, as well. 

Now, Brinkley's repertoire includes illustrations, photography, sunglass designing, writing, film, television, and myriad business ventures. On top of all of that, Brinkley also found time to dedicate to humanitarian causes, including the environment and human and animal rights. Throughout her career, she took a stance on political issues, even though models weren't encouraged to voice their opinions back then. "I'm an Aquarius. We believe that one individual can make a difference. It's your responsibility to leave this world a bit better than you found it," she told Long Island Press in 2017, referring to her sun sign.

Brinkley also always found enough room in her schedule to dedicate to her three children, Alexa Ray Joel, Jack Paris Brinkley-Cook and Sailor Lee Brinkley-Cook. "I'm a very protective mom and even though my kids are grown, they're still my babies," she told Long Island Press. Brinkley has spent her entire adult life in the spotlight. Through it all, she never stopped going after her dreams and evolving. Keep scrolling to check out Brinkley's transformation over the years.

Christie Brinkley received her last name after being adopted

The daughter of Marjorie and Herbert Hudson, Christie Brinkley was actually born Christie Hudson. As Porter magazine pointed out, Christie was born in Michigan, but moved to Los Angeles with her parents and older brother, Greg, early on. The couple divorced soon after relocating to California, where she later married radio and television writer Don Brinkley. Per the magazine, Don adopted both Christie and Greg, giving them the last name we associate with the supermodel.

Christie developed a close bond with her adopted father, who passed away in 2012, stating he never let his busy career as a screenwriter in Hollywood keep him from dedicating lots of time to the family. "I know he had deadlines, but we never knew about them. He was always there for us ... I remember hearing my dad typing away late at night and I'd fall asleep listening to it," Christie told Dan's Papers in 2013.

Throughout her life, Christie remained close with her mother, as well, whom she called "my biggest teacher, my inspiration, my role model" in a 2015 interview with Elle. Marjorie was "the original health nut," she said, which instilled in Christie a love for a healthy lifestyle. At 13, Christie opted to adopt a vegetarian diet, a lifestyle that later evolved into veganism. "I was actually inspired by a book she was reading," she said, referring to Norman Mailer's "Miami and the Siege of Chicago," which includes graphic scenes of slaughterhouses.

Christie Brinkley was discovered in Paris thanks to her dog

After completing middle school in the public system, Christie Brinkley's parents enrolled her at the Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles in the 9th grade (pictured above). "I loved my school Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles, because my classes were conducted in French, and my uniform included a Beret!" Brinkley posted on Instagram. "Underneath that beret was a head full of dreams of living in a chambre de bonne (a [garret]) with a window looking over the rooftops of Paris, painting canvasses into the night while singing along to Edith Piaf, Serge [Gainsbourg], and Jacque[s] Brel."

Her dreams would eventually come true. After high school, Brinkley moved to Paris to study art at the age of 18, according to Porter. Brinkley did live in a garret, like she had wished all those years earlier, and married an artsy Frenchman, illustrator Jean-François Allaux. Early on in their relationship, Allaux was drafted into the French military and was away for long periods of time. To make up for this loneliness, Brinkley adopted a puppy, according to Porter. 

It was, perhaps, thanks to this dog that Brinkley was discovered. According to New York Magazine, her companion, Bianca, got sick one day and, lacking a phone at home, she put the dog in a basket and walked to the post office to place a call to the vet. On the way, a man approached the blonde beauty.

Christie Brinkley was reluctant to pursue modeling

The man turned out to be American photographer Errol Sawyer, who asked Christie Brinkley to stop by the offices of modeling agencies in Paris, according to New York magazine. She initially declined his invitation. Brinkley, as it turned out, had no interest in being a model. She wanted to live the artist's life in The City of Light. "You have to understand that I came to France to be so bohemian. It was all. How can you mo-dell. Is so bourgeois," she told the magazine.

But she later decided to check it out and Sawyer introduced her to John Casablancas, founder of Elite Model Management, per Porter. "The day I went in, there were two young photographers doing test photos for the agency: Mike Reinhardt and Patrick Demarchelier. They drove me back home and went straight to the post office to call Eileen Ford of Ford Models," to whom they raved about the "California girl with a beret," Brinkley said.

Brinkley had never seen herself as a model. Back then, Brinkley already boasted the phenotype she became famous for: strong and athletic. "I was basically a surfer girl from California. I never looked like a model. Models were thin, and they were very sophisticated, and their poses were kind of like — Hoity," she told New York magazine. Apparently, that's what the industry needed because Brinkley was immediately booked to shoot national campaigns, bringing her back home for good. "She was so gorgeous," Ford said.

Christie Brinkley shot to stardom with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit covers

Christie Brinkley proved early on she was a force to be reckoned with. In 1976, she was booked to shoot a campaign for CoverGirl, igniting a 20-year contract with the brand that remains one of the longest agreements ever signed by any model, as New York magazine pointed out in 2008. Just three years later, Brinkley rose to supermodel status when she was featured on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, a feat she repeated in '80 and '81, marking the first time a model had ever graced the magazine's coveted cover three times in a row, as SI Swimsuit noted. And that's not all. At that point, no model had ever even landed the cover two consecutive times.

Even though she was a household name by then, Brinkley continued to try to branch out and demonstrate her expressive personality in other ways. Back then, before the advent of social media and more direct ways of connecting with the public, models weren't expected to speak on any issues unrelated to fashion, she told Porter. "I learned to use it to my advantage. Sometimes, I would go to Washington to testify before a Senate subcommittee hearing on nuclear power plants," she told Porter.

Around this time, in 1981, Brinkley divorced Jean-François Allaux. Two years later, she met five-time Grammy winner Billy Joel in St. Barts, marrying him in 1985, the same year she welcomed her first child, Alexa Ray, per InStyle

Christie Brinkley has no interest in retired life

Christie Brinkley continued to rock the fashion industry's world throughout her life. According to The New York Times magazine, she has been featured on more than a whopping 500 magazine covers. In 2017, at 63, she once again graced the pages of Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue, this time in the company of her daughters, Alexa Ray Joel and Sailor Brinkley-Cook, whom she had with her fourth husband, architect Peter Halsey Cook (who adopted Brinkley's son, Jack, fruit of her marriage to real estate developer Richard Taubman). "This is a real full circle moment for me," Brinkley told SI Swimsuit.

While modeling, Brinkley also developed a noteworthy acting career. She starred opposite Chevy Chase in 1983's "National Lampoon's Vacation," a role she reprised in its 1997 sequel and again in 2019 in "The Goldbergs." In 1994, Brinkley appeared in a popular episode of "Mad About You," earning her praise from critics. "NBC has promoted this episode so much that the appearance of Christie Brinkley is no surprise — but the playful high level of her performance is," The Baltimore Sun wrote. She went on to host "Living in the 90s with Christie Brinkley" on CNN. Since 2017, she has been a panelist on "Match Game." 

Clearly, Brinkley has no desire to take her foot off the gas. "Why would you retire? I can see taking longer vacations, but always keep your foot in the door," Brinkley told Porter in 2018. "Otherwise, that's when you get old."