When Madonna sung about “striking a pose” in her 1990 hit Vogue, the fashion world took the song as its own. More used to strike a pose in front of fashion photographers, an increasing number of models are trading in life in front of the lens for posing of a different kind: on a yoga mat, as teachers of one the most ancient forms of exercise.
Following the lead of a number of high profile models such as 90s wonderkind Cameron and Christy Turlington, models looking for a change of career are using their natural physical advantages and supplety to work within this ever-growing industry.
But waking up at 5am to practise asanas (yoga poses), studying Buddhism and healthy eating seems completely at odds with the sort of hedonistic lifestyles that the headlines suggest the likes of Kate Moss and Agyness Dean lead: partying till dawn with a Marlboro Light constantly stuck to the lips, falling out of cabs backwards, drinking as much booze as possible and, well, eating a whole lot less.
The typical post-modelling career is in acting (Cameron Diaz and Jason Stratham for example), so why the new trend for yoga? After years working within an industry that is fun but obvioulsy concerned with image, some models are looking to re-educate themselves and find a more spiritual and satisfying line of work.
Synonomous with the supermodel tag, Christy Turlington first started modeling at the age of 14 and rose through the ranks to become one of the most sought-after models of her generation and the face of Calvin Klein’s Eternity fragrance. Just four years later, Christy began her journey into yoga by attending her first yoga lesson.
From that point on she was hooked. So, in 1994, at the height of her career she packed up the catwalk for classes, taking a degree in Comparative Religion and Philosophy in New York, which also encompassed Buddhism and yoga studies. And while working within fashion often puts emphasis on looks, Christy disagrees: “I sincerely feel that beauty largely comes from within” she says, “When you are balanced and when you listen and attend to the needs of your body, mind, and spirit, your natural beauty comes out”.
Christy has turned her passion for yoga into a successful business. In 1999, Sundari (meaning ‘beautiful woman’ in Sanskrit’) was launched and a year later she launched Nuala, a yoga clothing range in partnership with sportswear giant Puma. She’s also the author of Living Yoga. Talking about it, Christy says: “I really wanted to share with people the day-to-day joys that yoga can bring into one’s life – not just the physical aspects. And I wanted to do this from the perspective of a student who is constantly learning and evolving – which is what we all are when it comes to yoga.”
Indeed, it can take years to become a teacher and requires a lot of dedication, so don’t expect to be able to jump from the catwalk to the yoga mat in a few months. It’s a long process which involves a lot of study. That’s something former male model Cameron knows only too well. He had a guru for 16 years guiding him along his spiritual path and yogic journey. It was his guru’s death that prompted Cameron – named Model of the Year in both 1990 and 1994 – to move to Kerala, India, for seven years to study yogic philosophy and Ayuverdic medicine. Now known as Yogi Cameron, like Christy, he is a successful businessperson and can command $20,000 a week to come to your home and educate you in the benefits of a yogic lifestyle. Based in New York City, where he lives with his Spanish supermodel girlfriend, Almudena Fernandez, he works educating people (as well as a long list of celebrity clients) in the benefits of yoga.
For Cameron, his career change was more about giving something back to others and connecting with people: “After my career in the fashion business – where people took care of me and gave me everything – I decided that I wanted to work with natural medicine and serve others. Now, as a practitioner, I give seminars and put on retreats, not just for yoga but also for individuals who would like to understand more about themselves so they can live a happier life co-existing with other living beings.”
Following in the supermodel footsteps, a number of younger models have also made the leap to yoga. German-Uruguayan model, Veronica Blume, not only shares a 5am alarm call with Yogi Cameron (both practise yoga and meditation at this time until 6.30am), but also their reasons for working within yoga. Now a mother, Veronica, who was a Guess Model at just 16, resides in Barcelona: “I discovered the benefits of yoga during my pregnancy and now I am setting up my own studio in Gràcia. Teaching classes is a nice way to get close to people, because as a model, it’s about creating distance.”
If all this has made you want to jump up and do a Downward Dog, take some final inspiration from Christy Turlington: “I think more than anything, yoga has brought me closer to myself – to who I really am and who I aspire to be. Yoga is the absolute best set of tools I can recommend to help one feel and look one’s absolute best at any age. Simply because it helps establish and maintain interconnectedness between the mind and body – an important connection to nurture throughout one’s entire life.”