Age has not mellowed Lauren Hutton.
The model-actress-makeup entrepreneur is completing an eight-hour photo shoot for WWD Beauty Inc’s “Age” issue with as much vim and vigor as fellow cover girl and new kid on the block Ashley Smith. Hutton seems a perfect choice as cover model. At age 67, she’s experiencing a career renaissance, and can be seen in everything from magazine features to J. Crew catalogue and Web site spreads and Club Monaco’s spring ad campaign. But Hutton, who’s appeared in more than 30 movies, served as a Revlon spokesmodel and single-handedly put women over 40 back on the beauty map, has probably spent as much time letting others know she has an opinion as she has posing in front of a camera, and rightly so.
This story first appeared in the February 11, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I want to give you a big lecture about longevity and money,” she calls out to Smith after the shoot. “I love this girl, Ashley. She’s terrific—a plain-good Texan. I’m almost 50 years older than her!” she says.
Smith, who shares Hutton’s gap-toothed grin, shares other commonalities, too: She’s also a Southern girl, like Hutton, who hails from Charleston, S.C. And, says Ruven Afanador, who photographed this story, the two share the same girl-like spirit.
Wearing black leggings and a casual white shirt, Hutton sits down for an interview in the Lower East Side studio, tucking one leg beneath her, leaving the other out as she speaks. Her face, especially at certain angles, reflects why she remains as in demand today as she was when she was a teen.
Hutton’s been in the modeling business, on and off, for nearly 50 years. One of the modeling superstars of her day, her longevity in such a fleeting business can be attributed to her need to fix things. Take the reason why she and Revlon parted ways: Hutton says she was fired from the cosmetics company at age 41 after a 10-year relationship—she was told women over 40 don’t wear makeup.
She became bent on reentering modeling at 46, after opening up a magazine for the first time in five years. “I couldn’t find anyone who looked like me,” she says. “My generation had become invisible.” Hutton then spent a year calling up the fashion editors she knew and telling them it was time women her age were represented.
During her modeling hiatus, and especially when she returned to modeling and acting, she also began messing around with makeup, tweaking product formulas, since many had “too much mica, too much sparkle,” which settled in her pores and fine lines. She addressed this gap, too, in 2000, when she put up $600,000 to start her own makeup line—one designed for women 45 years and older. At its peak, in 2005, Lauren Hutton Makeup generated $17.4 million in sales.
Smith, 20, on the other hand, is practically fresh off of Southwest Airlines. She arrived in New York a year-and-a-half ago, and has a story model wannabes love to read about: Barely out of high school, working as a grocery clerk in Austin, Smith was spotted at a music festival by a local scout who saw her potential. Within months, Smith was in New York meeting with agencies and soon she signed with Trump. Posing next to Hutton was intimidating, if not also an opportunity to learn that celebrities—at least some of them—are approachable. “I didn’t know if I should touch her!” says Smith. To prepare for the shoot, Smith watched Hutton’s interviews on YouTube and came away knowing that Hutton “is an outspoken American female icon.”
So, what does Hutton’s take-no-prisoners attitude translate to for Smith, who is at the start of her career and is surely in a much more competitive environment than when Hutton was modeling? What could she learn from a legend?
A lot, says Hutton, who’s about to leave the studio, but instead perches herself on a coffee table 2 feet in front of the budding model and gives her some sage advice.
Lauren Hutton: The main thing is to remain true to what you know. What do you love?
Ashley Smith: Drawing and painting and writing stories.
L.H.: Great! You can go to any art school on the planet. You can buy your way in. Just don’t let your agent run your life. And do a little bit of everything—editorial, catalogue, advertising. It was different when I was a kid. A girl who did Vogue wouldn’t be caught dead doing catalogue. It’s different now.
A.S.: So I should keep it balanced?
L.H.: And when your agent wants you to wait around for a job because it might go to someone else, just tell them yes and then disappear. Go until you really want to get back in the saddle. Make sure your brain stays alive or your face will change. Read your ass off. Most of the girls don’t take [modeling] seriously.
A.S.: I’m always asking questions. I don’t want to feel disconnected. But not everyone is easy to talk to.
L.H.: It’s hard to understand very much when you come from a small place when you are 19. It was a genetic accident at birth [that you look like this] and you have fallen into this thing. It is much more up to you than your agent if you make it. And if you think someone else will do it for you, you will not make it.
A.S.: I’m taking online courses, workshops, dance class. Things I can do on the weekend or overnight in case I need to go at the last minute.
L.H.: Stay busy. These girls are young and they are sitting around with nothing to do, so call back anyone you showed your book to, call them and keep volunteering to test with young photographers because that should be free, and ask everyone you can to get frames of everything you do and show them to who you respect and ask their advice. Don’t spend time sitting around or going into shops. Go out and see people every day. Make appointments. Look in magazines, buy old magazines and copy old poses and break them down and relax them.
A.S.: Thank you so much!
L.H.: I adore you!
After the two hug, Hutton stays on to talk a bit more about her multifaceted career. Hutton, who calls New York her home base but also has a house in Venice Beach, Calif., is a free spirit, a world traveler who says that, while she loves her makeup business, she has stayed put for much too long because of it. Subsequently, she is eager to sell it, and recounts that last year Lauren Hutton Makeup, which she says is so easy to apply “a tree can do it,” generated between $4 million and $5 million. She is simply eager to get back to traveling, doing what her friends are doing: going to Bhutan, going on diving excursions, dog sledding with friends. She’s currently planning a dive with humpback whales in Silver Bank in the Dominican Republic. She used to go diving four times a year, mainly in the South Pacific.
“I could close [the business] right now, but I want to keep it alive. I have 80,000 to 90,000 customers a month. It gives me great pleasure to give what I know to other women,” she says.
In regard to her amazingly preserved—and natural— looks, she attributes having avoided some of the more popular places supermodels like her frequented 20 years ago: Saint-Tropez, Gstaad, Saint Moritz, places she avoided because of the sun. She prefers dog sledding in the Arctic Circle, actually.
Hutton is keen, too, to talk about her love for reading and traveling. Her travels to Africa are well documented, from living with hunters and gatherers to being on safari. Reading is another passion, and she says she reads The New York Times every day, The Economist and she often revisits many of the 4,000 novels in her Manhattan apartment, including her favorites, such as The World in 2050, Annals of the Former World and Must You Go?. She is also working on her own biography, which will document her “interesting experiences in Hollywood” as well as her travels and her youth, which started in South Carolina and led to “a swamp” outside Tampa, Fla.; college in New Orleans, and then a global modeling career.
If Hutton sounds indefatigable, it’s because she is. She even met up with Smith the following weekend.
“I took pictures of her and we talked about angles and lights.”
Does Smith have what it takes?
“We’ll see. [Models] are in a whole other situation now. They may have a job a week, whereas I worked five days a week and on weekends and all day, every day. I look at my agenda book from 1964–1965 and I was walking and taking the subway everywhere, not taking taxis. It’ll be up to her the amount of energy she has to make it in fashion.”