With a modeling career spanning more than 27 years Carre Otis is widely known as one of the most beautiful women in the world. In her new book Beauty Disrupted: A Memoir she talks in-depth about her struggle with eating disorders, marriage, spirituality and being a new mother.
Interview with Eric Bangle
Eric Bangle (EB): Your first paid modeling job was in 1985 and you most recent was Fashion Week in Milan last Fall (2011) a career spanning almost three decades. Do you ever see yourself not being a “model”?
Carre Sutton (CS): The concept of ‘modeling’ has changed for me. When I was younger I was well aware of why I was being selected for a job; it was about my looks. Not my voice nor any other quality I had to offer. In that sense it was an unsatisfying experience because I think most women, on a deeper level, want to be seen more than just at face value. Its fine to be ‘pretty’ but its much better to be respected and celebrated for all the other amazing pieces we can bring to a table. In this way modeling has changed profoundly. I utilize the opportunity to exercise my voice, and to educate others on the bigger picture of being a woman at this time in this world. I use my voice for activism. My intentions are much more altruistic than when I started out. Now that I’m a mother of two daughters I take the role very seriously and i’m acutely aware of the impact women have in the world.
EB: As the subject of many an iconic photo who do you see when you look at these iconic pictures of yourself. Which ones stand out to you and what comes to mind?
CS: 1. Definitely my early work with Herb Ritts stands out for me. I was so open and raw and really quite innocent then. Herb had such lovely clean energy. Not all photographers seemed to honor women and their naked form in the ways that Herb did. We had the best trips to Hawaii, adventures to black sand beaches and active volcanoes. Somehow in front of Herbs camera, even in the most uncomfortable of places (like covered in itchy salty black sand!) you could muster up the goddess within. He allowed that. He invited that. He was just so brilliant and kind.
2. My ads for Calvin Klein when I was on the Harley Davidson stand out as well. I loved being that girl. That wild and empowered free spirit. Its definitely who I am at heart but I wear a helmet now. That’s a joke. I don’t have a bike anymore! Too much of a gamble now that I’m a mama!
3. Ironically some of the pictures I took when I was considered ‘plus’ size were some of my most celebrated memories for me. I was finally living and working out of the box, and the rebel I had always been was able to take a very vocal turn and do something and participate in something that wasn’t industry ‘standard’. That truly was when I began to find my voice as an activist and educator!
4. Sports Illustrated was of course another ‘moment’. No one knew what was going on with me.. not even I did then. It was a shoot that took place just a few weeks before my first heart episode. A condition I later had surgery for and one that was brought on by years of excessive dieting and severe malnutrition. I might have looked fabulous but I was really not doing well at all. The lie I had been living, of being anorexic for nearly 20 years finally caught up with me. Thankfully.
5.Although its not a shoot, my turn on Elena Miro’s catwalk for Milan Fashion week was such a blast because it was the first time after becoming a mom that I stepped out and worked again as a model!
EB: Would you say that being a model and celebrity prepared you in any way for being a mother?
CS: I’ve carried myself down the most prestigious catwalks in the world wearing the worlds most coveted couture in front of the worlds most famous faces but none of that prepared me for the walk out my five year old daughters classroom on her first day of kindergarten.
EB: Talking about traumatic life experiences is therapeutic but hard to do. What decisions led you to put your experiences down so matter-of-factly in a novel for everyone to read? Was there more to just “setting the record straight”?
CS: I have always written. From journaling when I was a kid to having the once class I loved be a writing class. It was always a way for me to express myself, as well to gain clarity. In so many forms of therapy, writing is part of the process. Its always been an important part of mine. I dabbled in writing for several online magazines and always knew the day would come to share my story. But I also knew I needed to wait for a time that it could truly be of service and benefit to others.There’s been a tremendous outpouring of support since BD was published. Writing it took courage. And it is heartening that it has also given other people courage as well. I have felt a sense of community around it and definitely I have found community because of it.
EB: What are some of the things that you grapple with everyday?
CS: Wow. I definitely grapple! As much as I intellectually embrace aging, its something I have to practice softening around on a daily basis. I have to soften my expectations. Soften my idea about what aging should look like. It looks so different for all of us. And in my mind I am still the same as … before. But I don’t look the same. My ass doesn’t look the same. I have grey hair and wrinkles. But when I get to the heart of it, really the most important thing is my health. My mind. My sense of happiness. And yes, my strength. I would rather be able to hike and bike than be wrinkle and grey hair free! Being hearty and outdoors is what makes me happy. Not being perfect looking! And definitely as a parent I grapple. I strive daily to do better. Be more patient. I tell my kids I am far from perfect but I do give it my all and when and where I fail, I continually try to do better.
EB: What are some things that you used to struggle with but have overcome?
CS: I have to say that for many years it was my behavior that I struggled with! I think I grew up in a way that was ill-informed and un-empowered. I didn’t have survival skills or tools. I wasn’t educated in the ways in which I could seek help for myself. So in that way I was not proactive. Habits and hardships got the best of me. But things I used to struggle with, like my eating disorder and a chronic magnetic pull towards danger and dysfunctional relationships are things of my past. I’ve overcome much in my life and I’m so happy to be able to report the freedom, respect and love I live with today!