It pays to be Linda Evangelista’s son.
More than 25 years after she uttered one of the most famous lines in fashion history — “We don’t wake up for less than $10,00 a day” — she filled me in the other night in Toronto about her 11-year-old son getting wind of the wily quote not so long ago.
It was when they’d heard it riffed on in the animated television series Teen Titans, of all places, and she’d had to explain it to him, shortly after which dear Augustin, her boy, serendipitously found himself in a trivia competition at the family-friendly haunt Dave & Busters.
“They asked, ‘Who said, “I don’t get out of bed for less than $10K a day?”’ . . . and he screamed ‘Mommy!’ And then: ‘Linda Evangelista!’ I couldn’t believe it. He came home with the biggest prize . . . it was a miniature pool table or something. He couldn’t get it through the door!”
A funny undercurrent, however: forever etched now as one of the ne plus ultra “supers,” together with the likes of Cindy and Christy et al, the Canadian icon’s most enduring bequest to the culture might indeed be her contribution to the vernacular. (Move over, Margaret Atwood.)
Heck, her wake-up quote even ended up getting a workout in the movie Mr & Mrs. Smith, except that Brad Pitt changed it to not waking up for less than half a million. Touchè.
“It’s your greatest legacy,” I deadpanned to Evangelista, a one-time Miss Teen Niagara.
“It might just be,” she deadpanned right back.
Ready to build on that largesse, it would appear? The reason for the 52-year-old’s appearance this week was a small, swell sit-down held in her honour at the cafe inside Holt Renfrew on Bloor; one that had Evangelista basking in her latest role and one that is more boardroom than catwalk.
Yup, that’s right: coming on the heels of a career that’s long rested on superlatives — 700-plus magazine covers (95 of them Vogue), a haircut that once became a zeitgeist moment and a face that’s been substantiated by all the biggies, from Richard Avedon to Francesco Scavullo — she’s revelling in her side-job these days, as vice-president and creative director of the boutique anti-aging company Erasa.
She does good lab coat, too, I can report. The beauty has made herself at home in the lab, as Erasa’s chemist and chief scientist, Jules Zecchino, informed me with delight during the dinner. I had the pleasure of sitting next to the gentleman who is something of a legend in beauty circles, having served as the head of R&D at Estée Lauder for more than 20 years, where he worked on a whole fridge full of lotions and potions, and now the brain behind Erasa’s one solo product (thus far): the reportedly Botox-without-the-Botox, science-sounding serum XEP 30.
“We just clicked,” Zecchino said of his alliance with Evangelista, who was introduced to the product by an in-the-know friend about two years ago. After trying it on a lark, and noticing that after three weeks her pores were smaller and her skin seemed definably brighter, she was a convert. And this from someone who, when she finished the bottle, actually “thought the pump was broken,” seeing how “I’ve never finished any beauty product in my life. Ever. I never went out and bought the same line twice. I always moved on to the next brand!”
Long story short, she decided to do more than just be a consumer of the product: she wanted in. (She was one of the very few people in her industry to even admit to doing Botox, way back when.)
So what does one serve for a supermodel homecoming, plus the launch of a potent serum, on a cold winter’s night?
Well, Holt’s served up a zestful enough menu, starting with a red beet and tangerine salad (the pistachios in it got top marks), then a choice of beef tenderloin or seared halibut (the capers with the latter made all the diff) and, finally a classic Pavlova (the only dessert I know that’s named after a ballerina, Russian prima Anna Pavlova). Meanwhile, the flowers — a long range of pink and white peonies, ranunculus and hydrangea, facilitated by Earthwork Floral Design — provided at least the illusion of spring.
“Growing up, she was fashion to me!” one attendee was heard to exclaim, summing up the buzz in the room about only-one-name-necessary Linda. Seen around the table: social fixtures like Suzanne Rogers, Vanessa Mulroney, Donna Kuczynski and Simona Shnaider. Likewise: Jeanne Beker, a legend unto herself in the fashion-verse.
“Versace is dead and George Michael is gone,” I couldn’t help remarking, alluding to the role of muse Evangelista had once played to both men in an era that’s now softened into sepia tones. To that effect, the conversation around me cycled to the forever-fresh “Freedom” video that’s such a part of the lore of the original supermodels, and then on to the ’90s-era Ryan Murphy miniseries on currently, The Assassination of Gianni Versace. (I’m into it!)
Curious about what Evangelista makes of the newer crop of model high flyers? Well, although there can never be “supermodels” in the way she and her merry band were “supermodels” — that term has been way overinflated — she’s generally positive in her outlook. Yeah, it’s a new world, especially with the hall of mirrors that is social media, but fashion is fashion.
While Cindy Crawford’s daughter Kaia Gerber is currently having a real moment, Evangelista doesn’t expect a similar scenario in her own household. Her son, she once said, “can’t stand having his picture taken. It breaks my heart! He did not get that gene from me.”
On a related note: as dinner was wrapping, she mentioned she had to be at a school function that night, back in New York, for Augustin (the son who counts François-Henri Pinault as his father). Mom duty.
“Actually, I do all of that,” she said. “At first, they (the other parents) were like, Linda Evangelista . . . really? But I’m always there. I love it.”
What hit me later, when I was walking home from the dinner, was this: in our current era of female empowerment and a more frank than ever conversation happening around gender pay parity, Evangelista’s quarter-century-old quote takes on a new dimension today. By declaring her worth, and being brazen enough to call her own shots, she was, you might say, a prophet from the future.