Christie Brinkley (born February 2, 1954) is an American model best known for her three appearances on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in the late 1970s and early 1980s, for her long-running contract with CoverGirl and for her marriage to musician Billy Joel.
Brinkley has also worked as an actress, illustrator, photographer, writer and designer, and as an activist for human and animals rights and the environment.
Her financial holdings are worth an estimated USD $80 million, primarily as the owner of real estate, much of it in the Hamptons.
Born Christie Lee Hudson in Monroe, Michigan, Brinkley is the daughter of Herbert and Marjorie Hudson. Her mother moved to California, where she later married television writer Don Brinkley, and Christie adopted her stepfather’s surname. Brinkley attended Palisades High School in Pacific Palisades, California, graduating in 1972. During this time, the family lived in Brentwood, Los Angeles. Brinkley was educated at Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles and moved to Paris to study art in 1973.
Brinkley was discovered in 1973 by American photographer Errol Sawyer in a post office in Paris. He took her first modeling pictures and introduced her to John Casablancas of Elite Model Management agency in Paris. Brinkley stated later: “I was basically a surfer girl from California. I never looked like a model.” After being introduced to Elite, where Brinkley also met the French photographer Patrick Demarchelier, she returned to California, and by the end of a lunch meeting with Nina Blanchard, Eileen Ford affiliate in Los Angeles, she had been booked for three national ad campaigns.
Multiple appearances on the cover of Glamour soon followed, along with a record 20-year contract with cosmetics brand CoverGirl, the longest in the history of the modeling industry. In 2005, CoverGirl again signed Brinkley, using her in ads in magazines and TV commercials for mature skin products.
Brinkley appeared on three consecutive Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Edition covers (1979, 1980 and 1981) – the first time that had happened – and appeared in the publication’s annual swimsuit issues and television specials for years to follow.
Brinkley was featured exclusively in the first Sports Illustrated Calendar and also released two of her own exclusive calendars to unparalleled success. In 2005, Brinkley was featured in the special Sports Illustrated 40th Anniversary Issue’s Hall of Fame, celebrating the most revered figures in the magazine’s history.
As an editorial model, Brinkley has appeared on over 500 magazine covers, including US, Vogue, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Glamour and the best-selling issue of LIFE ever. She has held major contracts with Chanel No. 19, Prell, MasterCard, Breck, Diet Coke, Anheuser-Busch, Got Milk?, Healthy Choice, Max Factor, Nissan, Noxema, Revlon, Clairol, Borghese Cosmetics, Danskin, Nu Skin, Yardley of London, Halston, Vogue Patterns, Gottex and Black Velvet, among others.
Brinkley played her first role as an actress in the 1983 hit National Lampoon’s Vacation as “The girl in the red Ferrari” opposite Chevy Chase; she reprised that role in the 1997 sequel Vegas Vacation. and later spoofed it in a 2008 DirecTV commercial interspliced with footage from Vacation.
As for television, Brinkley hosted Celebrity Weddings InStyle, the highest rated special in Lifetime’s history, and her appearance on NBC’s Mad About You was the broadcaster’s highest rated half-hour episode, since the finale of The Cosby Show.
In 1983, Brinkley appeared on the Today Show in a four part segment featuring beauty tips and, in 1992, began her own television series Living in the 90’s – With Christie Brinkley, a daily half-hour show on CNN.
Brinkley made further television appearances, including Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Specials and music videos for Billy Joel (Uptown Girl, Keeping the Faith, All about Soul, River of Dreams, A Matter of Trust and Leningrad) and Mick Jones Just Wanna Hold.
In 1983, Brinkley wrote and illustrated a book on health and beauty titled Christie Brinkley’s Outdoor Beauty and Fitness Book, which topped the New York Times best seller list.
Brinkley has designed clothing patterns for Simplicity Pattern and in March, 1994 helps design, for brand Nouveau Eyewear, her line of prescription glasses and sunglasses called Christie Brinkley Perspectives with worldwide sales.
Brinkley has appeared with Chuck Norris in a long-running series of cable TV infomercials promoting Total Gym home fitness equipment.
In Spring 1998, released her own signature fragrance, Believe. Her jewelry collection is manufactured by Swank.
Brinkley was one of three models featured as dolls produced by Matchbox Toys called The Real Model Collection.
Brinkley illustrated the cover art for Joel’s 1993 triple platinum album River of Dreams. For this, Rolling Stone Magazine awarded her the honor of Best album cover of the year.
In 1998, Playboy readers voted Brinkley one of the 100 sexiest women of the 20th century.
In 2008, Brinkley and Dr. Carlon Colker promote National Family Fitness Day with Xbox 360 at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club Brinkley is in the 3rd position of the AskMen.com Top 10 Supermodels Of All Time.
In 1982, Brinkley had a romantic relationship with Olivier Chandon de Brailles (born September 17, 1955 in France), heir to the Moët-Chandon Champagne fortune. The two met at Studio 54 in New York City at a party promoting a calendar in which Brinkley appeared. Chandon died a year later on March 2, 1983 in an auto-race car crash during a private pre-season practice session.
Christie Brinkley married four times:
French artist Jean-François Allaux (born in Rabat, Morocco), (1973–1981).
Billy Joel (born May 9, 1949 in Bronx, New York), (1985–1994). Brinkley and Joel met in 1983 on the Island of St. Barts, in the Caribbean. Joel and Brinkley were married on March 23, 1985 on a yacht on the Hudson River and this was the second marriage for both. Joel was 35 and Brinkley 31 and took their vows in a private ceremony attended by 175 family members and friends, including Paul Simon and the Straycats Band.
Real estate developer Richard Taubman (born 1948), (1994–1995). Brinkley and Taubman met in 1994 when a mutual friend introduced them. He proposed to her in May, 1994 although she and Billy Joel were still married. They were married on December 22, 1994 in Telluride, Colorado near the area where they were both in a helicopter crash in March, 1994. Brinkley was 40 years old and Taubman 46 and she announced at their wedding that they were expecting a baby boy.
Peter Halsey Cook (born January 1, 1959, New Jersey), an architect (1996–2008). Cook and Brinkley first met in 1979 when he was modeling; their paths also crossed a few times after that. They were later reintroduced by a mutual friend, NBC’s Jill Rappaport, and announced their engagement in August 1996. They married on September 21, 1996 a ranch in Bridgehampton, New York. Brinkley was 42 and Cook 37. They had nearly 120 guests at their wedding, including Billy Joel.
Brinkley has three children:
Alexa Ray Joel, (born December 29, 1985), with Billy Joel. The name “Ray” was given to Alexa in honour of Ray Charles.
Jack Paris Taubman, (born June 2, 1995), with Richard Taubman. He was later adopted by Peter Cook and named Jack Paris Brinkley Cook.
Sailor Lee Brinkley Cook (born July 2, 1998), with Peter Cook.
Brinkley and her children are fans of the New York Islanders ice hockey team. Brinkley began doing promotions for the team after being noticed at games. In 2007, she showed her support by writing a blog for NHL.com and filming a commercial.
Brinkley has one brother named Gregory Donald Brinkley, nutritionist and father of one son and one daughter: Ian Amadeo Brinkley (born January 15, 1990) and Elliott Marie Brinkley (born January 5, 1997).
Brinkley became a vegetarian when she was 13 years old and then got her entire family to become vegetarians. She lives on Long Island in Sag Harbor, New York; previously lived in Bridgehampton and Amagansett, Long Island.
Brinkley helped found a club for cutting, an equestrian sport in which a rider has two and one half minutes to cut as many cattle from a herd as he can.
Since 1998, Brinkley has given nearly $100,000 to organizations and candidates of the Democratic Party of the United States, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Democratic National Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, America Coming Together and Moveon.org. In the New York delegation, Brinkley served as a delegate on the 2000 democratic national convention in Los Angeles.
Brinkley supports animal rights, most notably through the organization PETA, having previously spoken out against the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. She has also been involved in anti-nuclear activities and campaigned against the restarting of the High Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR) located at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
In February 2007, Brinkley had emergency back surgery to correct a herniated disc that occurred after a ski trip in Aspen in December 2006, Colorado.
Cook divorce case:
Her lawyer in the case was Robert Stephan Cohen, a top divorce attorney. The divorce proceedings, held in the summer of 2008, were regular tabloid fodder, in part due to Cook’s admission that he had committed adultery with eighteen-year-old Diana Bianchi. Press and public interest increased with Cook’s revelations that he had paid $300,000 to Bianchi in the hopes of forestalling a lawsuit and had spent thousands of dollars each month on internet pornography.
Brinkley and Cook settled out-of-court in July 2008, with Brinkley granting her fourth husband $2.1 million in exchange for custody of their two children and the retention of 18 disputed properties in the Hamptons. Additionally, Cook was granted parenting time with the children. Further details of the settlement were kept private. The children became a focus of public attention when the former model contended that Cook used “overwhelming” physical force when unhappy with or disciplining the children. Alexa Ray Joel, Brinkley’s daughter with ex-husband Billy Joel, testified about such behavior toward her, which Cook denied.
In July 2008, a court-appointed psychiatrist, speaking during child custody proceedings in Brinkley’s fourth divorce, testified that while he believed Brinkley should gain custody of her and Cook’s children, both she and Cook need therapy. Her divorce from Peter Cook was officially finalized on October 3, 2008.
Awards and achievements:
- Top Picks, in 1993 by Rolling Stone Magazine for the artistic work Brinkley did on Billy Joel’s cover album River of Dreams.
- 2001 Merit Award, given by USO-The United Service Organizations Inc.. Brinkley traveled with the USO on goodwill missions to Sarajevo, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Italy entertaining the peacekeeping forces and visiting aircraft carriers and refugee camps. After participating in USA Secretary of Defense William Cohen’s Christmas tour to Kosovo, she was given the award in Washington DC for her efforts on behalf of American troops.
- Spirit of Achievement Award, at 2003 by “The Women’s Division” of Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University presented Brinkley for her charity work.
- Christie Brinkley Scholarship, at February, 2007 by The Ross School in Easthampton, Long Island, New York. This scholarship allow students interested in art or environment sciences get four free years at Ross High School.
- Heart Award, special honor from the American Heart Association in the “12th Annual Heart of the Hamptons Gala” for her commitment to helping children live healthier lives. Brinkley said she was very honored to receive the award from the AHA being convinced that the research from the organization made it possible for her mother to be alive after suffering five strokes.
- Smart Cookie Award, April 21, 2008, honored her and three other amazing charitable mothers in New York at the “Second Annual Smart Cookie Awards Gala”, voted by Cookie Magazine readers.
- Humanitarian Award, given by March of Dimes. This organization is dedicated to improving the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality through research, community services, education and advocacy.
- Merit Award, by the non-profit USA national organization Mothers Voices which mission is strengthens family communication about sex, sexual health and HIV/AIDS/STD prevention through education and awareness, mobilize parents and caregivers to become their child’s frontline sexual health educator.
- Mother of the year, given by The National Mothers Day committee at a ceremony held in New York City.
- .Merit Award , given by Make-A-Wish Foundation in New York. They work granting the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.
- Americas Mothers and Shakers, named by Redbook Magazine for her involvement in “STAR – Standing for Truth About Radiation”.