The New Alphas
Chrissy Teigen and the Rise of the Social Supermodel
Sports Illustrated covergirl Chrissy Teigen—who has become a Twitter phenomenon for her raunchy, funny, oversharing posts—is a far cry from the remote supermodels of old. And we like her that way.
With her candid personality, social media over-shares, and bubbly, ‘could easily be your new best friend’ vibes, it’s no surprise that Chrissy Teigen has been referred to as the “Jennifer Lawrence of the modeling world.”
“Some people, I think, think that because I don’t take it as seriously as a lot of the girls do, that I frown upon modeling or think it’s stupid,” the 28-year-old tells The Daily Beast when asked about the comparison between herself and the actress. “I don’t at all. This is my life. I would be nothing without this. But I really don’t take it seriously.”
It was the same sentiment that Teigen had expressed a few days earlier while appearing on Late Night With Seth Meyers: “I am paid a good amount of money to not blink for 12 hours,” she explained. “Listen, you get to travel, meet a lot of people, it’s fun, but I don’t take it very seriously, no.” She was—as she normally is—being blunt and unfiltered. And yet after the interview, Teigen was criticized for the cool, down-to-earth demeanor that has made her nearly half-a-million Twitter followers fall in love.
“I got a lot of comments saying, ‘Well at least Jennifer Lawrence respects her craft.’ I was like, ‘I have so much respect for my craft, but I am also not like the girls that—I’m not an editorial girl.’ It takes talent to be that type of girl, and for me, I go in and have a good time. But I definitely respect the craft of modeling. Do I take myself seriously in it? Not at all.”
Regardless of how ‘seriously’ Teigen may or may not take herself, she’s certainly succeeded in what is typically known as an extremely cut-throat industry. She burst onto the scene in the 2010 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue where she was named “Rookie of the Year;” this past year, for the magazine’s 50th anniversary, she earned a spot on the cover alongside Nina Agdal and Lily Aldridge. She’s starred in campaigns for the likes of Olay, Nike, and Gillette Venus (“I had a razor campaign and I think I maybe had a little too much to drink one night and I was like ‘I HATE RAZORS,’“ she told Meyers. “And that’s not exactly good for endorsing any kind of brand”), and has been shot for the likes of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and GQ magazine.
It’s no surprise that guys—and girls—are obsessed Teigen. Aside from her looks, it’s obvious that she’s fun. She boasts on social media sites, and her blog So Delushious; the site’s tagline says it all: “Personal random ramblings from a girl who loves bacon and can’t be fat.” She’s turned Twitter and Instagram into outlets for fans to feel like a part of her life—be it her marriage with singer John Legend, her obsession with her three bulldogs—two English, one French—Puddy, Pippa, and Penny (whom she refers to as her “dog family), or her increasingly successful career. Sure, an incredible husband is on any girl’s childhood wish list (as is a dog or two), but was modeling a lifelong ambition?
“I always wanted to be a teacher or wanted to do something with food,” she explains. “But modeling, I just never thought I could do it myself really ever. I still have trouble calling myself a model. I just never thought I was tall enough or skinny enough. [When I was starting] it was the time of the very thin, waify runway models. So, I knew I couldn’t do that.”
Teigen found her way similar to how Kate Upton did, utilizing her curves and sex appeal as an advantage rather than, as many aspiring models see them, a disadvantage. Although older than most would expect for a model just starting out (she was 18 when she was discovered while working at a “little surf shop,” as she calls it, in Huntington Beach, CA), she quickly learned that other types of models existed beyond the catwalk.
“I got an agency and did regular catalogue stuff, nothing too glamorous,” she says of her career’s early days. “I remember talking to my boss at the surf shop—I had gotten booked for some stupid brochure, I’m sure something lame, and I was like, ‘This is my moment I need the day off.’ And he was like, ‘Absolutely not.’ So I said, ‘Well I quit then!’ And I was crying [laughs] To me at the time, that was the biggest job ever… In the beginning of my career I went down to Miami—for four years, six months out of the year, I would call Miami home. I would live in a model apartment with four or five other girls sometimes and would just do basic catalogue-type stuff. That’s where I got hope that you could make money just kind of being not a runway girl [Laughs].”
Sure, her types of jobs may be more Maxim than Vogue, but it’s not just her curviness that makes her different than a typical runway girl. She shows a side that’s rarely seen in supermodels: personality. She loves to talk. And she loves to eat.
Teigen has become a bit of a phenomenon on social media with her unfiltered, racy comments and photos; highlights include, “That was the longest two minutes of my life since a boy named mark,” “Fun fact: I’m allergic to champagne but I still drink it because 1 I don’t play by the rules and 2 barfing isn’t an inconvenience,” and “haaaaa i just realized i got my period dates mixed up and i’m not pms’ing i just love pizza and ranch and being a bitch.” We laugh with her, we laugh at her, and most of all, we appreciate her transparency. She does it not for the attention, but because she’s actually passionate about it. “I really do love social media, I’ve always been crazy about—even like, remember AOL chat rooms?” she laughs. “I always loved message boards and I was always interacting on the computer.” But with her shares of drunken tirades (and eating), photos of John Legend hanging in bed, and her trials and tribulations of experimenting in the kitchen, it’s hard to think there’s anything we don’t know about her life.
“It’s funny, a question I get all the time in interviews is, ‘What’s something that people don’t know about you?’ she says. “And I’m always like, well, that’s a tough question and probably not good that I can’t answer that, because that means I’ve totally over-shared completely.” So can there be a balance between connecting with your audience and maintaining a personal life? “I find the balance by trying to maintain my own persona so people don’t feel like they can judge me or criticize me,” she explains. “You can’t scold people for judging for not knowing you when you give them so much information. You’re like, ‘Well you don’t even know me,’ but in their mind, they do know you, because you have gone out of your way for so many years to be so relatable to them.”
The shining facet of Teigen’s relatability comes not with her gorgeous looks or hilarious personality, but with her love for food. “When I wake up I’m like—I gotta go to Whole Foods. I’m constantly reading cookbooks, I bring hardcover cookbooks with me on the plane and tag pages. I just have this crazy food obsession.” But a fascination with cuisine and cooking isn’t something she necessarily appreciated when she was younger.
“It’s so funny because my mom is Thai and my dad is this big American guy—and our food tastes were so similar growing up,” she says. “He was meat and potatoes, I was meat and potatoes. We’d do corn beef and cabbage and we were big on breakfast—huge omelets—and just hearty, hearty American food. And my mom would always be doing, to me, what was this crazy Thai thing in the back of the kitchen, where she would bust out the ‘masher,’ as I called it—the mortar and pestle—and make something that, at the time, I found funky. My dad and I would be like, ‘What’s that?!’ and go back to our corn beef or something… I really truly wasn’t into food then. I definitely grew into it… once I started being able to travel and see things. Of course, John opened me up to this whole world of wonderful cuisine that I wasn’t used to or ever getting to have. I remember we would go to dinners and then I would try to come home and recreate it because, this is one of the differences between John and I—John actually does love going out, he loves going out for dinner, he likes staying home too—but I’m definitely much more comfortable just being in the house and cooking, drinking wine, and watching TV. That’s why every meal I do takes four or five hours. It’s a long day, because I truly enjoy it.”
Today, Teigen’s blog is home to some of her recipes, from “The Perfect Scallop” to “The World’s Best Caesar Salad Dressing in the Universe.” She’s starred on two Cooking Channel features: Chrissy Teigen’s Hungry, which followed she and John’s pre-wedding food tasting adventure, and Cookies and Cocktails, an on-screen holiday gift swap with the channel’s Kelsey Nixon. Most recently, Teigen served as a judge for MTV’s new cooking competition show, The Snack-Off, which premiered this week; she refers to as “Top Chef for young people.” Growing up eating many TV dinners (which she says she still loves, “even those horrible Salisbury Steak ones.”), Teigen saw the show as a perfect way to feed her guilty pleasures.
“I have never been ashamed to say that I love really dirty food that maybe has high-fructose corn syrup, maybe the ingredients have stuff from old yoga mat parts or whatever,” she says. “I’ve always loved snack food, it’s very comforting to me. I don’t have a sweet tooth—I would take an entire turkey over a chocolate cake… I love a ham & cheese Hot Pocket. I love White Castle frozen burgers. Taco Bell. I actually will doll up the frozen White Castles with fresh onions and cheese. That’s so sad, but I love it. There’s not many frozen foods I won’t eat.”
This coming from a woman who’s a model. Sports Illustrated and White Castle burgers may seem like an odd pairing, but in Chrissy Teigen’s world, it’s a match made in heaven.