What is it about Lauren Hutton that has managed to capture hearts for nearly six decades? In 1964, the surprisingly fresh-faced, gap-toothed 22-year-old began posing for the likes of Bert Stern and Richard Avedon, quickly charming her way to the cover of Vogue (a feat she achieved not once but a whopping 27 times) and a lucrative million-dollar modeling contract with Revlon (an industry first). In recent years, between her scuba diving sojourns around the world, Hutton continues to enthrall designers, be it The Row’s Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen or Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli—and with good reason: At 77, Hutton is more beautiful than ever.
As for how she does it? There’s the usual weapons—Pilates and powerful skin care (she’s been the face of StriVectin since 2019)—but mostly an unbridled joie de vivre. “I always thought it was just plain dumb—even as a kid—that because someone was 65 they were supposed to be put out to pasture,” Hutton, at home in Venice, California, tells Vogue in her signature deep Southern drawl.
Here, she sounds off on modeling in a changing industry, meeting Princess Diana, and her ultimate beauty secrets.
Lauren Hutton: Hey Zoe.
Zoe Ruffner: Hi Lauren, thanks for calling. How are you?
You know, walking and talking. Still walking and talking. This has been a tough year.
It certainly has been… Where am I catching you right now?
You’re catching me in LA where I have been for 11 months. I got back here on Christmas Day. [At the time] I was reading The New York Times everyday, and you could tell that [COVID] was just getting bigger and bigger, so I just stayed here and sort of isolated. I’ve never been very social anyway, unless I was out, you know, living with people, like pygmies or something. They’re very social. Every night you’re around the fireplace dancing and singing and carrying on and having fun.
I know that you’re known for taking these extraordinary adventures…
Yeah, I used to be…
So what have you done during this time to try to occupy yourself?
First of all, I’ve had to postpone my trip to the Solomon Islands three different times in the past year. I’ve been trying to go there because they’ve got really, really interesting people and fantastic art, which I first came across in 1975 when Revlon sent me to Australia. I was in a museum, a little small rickety sort of one-room wooden building, and there was this mask in it that was about three-feet tall. It was from the Solomons. I was so taken by it that I decided it wanted me to steal it and return it to the Solomons. I’m generally pretty law-abiding actually, but I went and hid in the bathroom of this little place and put my feet on the toilet seat, so if anybody looked in the bathroom [it looked like] there was no one in there! In the end, I didn’t steal it, so I must have talked myself out of it, saying it was a vicious, savage thing to do, but boy, did I believe in it. I’ve been wanting to go to the Solomons ever since. First to dive because it’s got great seas around there, and then I was going to go inland and see if there was any art left anywhere and see what people there were.
What have you been doing instead?
Instead, I have been reading a lot. Really a lot. I make the odd run to Pasadena, which has the best old bookstores, like Book Alley where I just got The Lessons of History. About every ten years, I try to reread everything I read before that I loved because, you know, you’ve grown and you’ve changed. If it’s a smart book, you’ll learn a lot more because you’ll be a different person. I’m rereading John McPhee’s The Pine Barrens and a lot of Cormac McCarthy, especially his early books before he became famous. There’s this book that just came out, Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, that’s great. I’ll probably read it again right away ‘cause it’s so good. There’s been almost no information about [Marie-Madeleine Fourcade], but she was basically the biggest leader of the French Resistance. They have pictures of her in the book, and I think she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Ever. As you know, that was something I was deep into. I’ve seen an awful lot of beautiful women all over the world, but particularly in New York working, and she was something else… I’ve actually just redone my bookshelves out here because of earthquakes. I’ve had to put a rubber strap across all my bookshelves because there’s a real big bookcase by my bed and I don’t want to be blinded in the middle of the night.
So you’ve been reading a lot. What else have you been doing to stay busy?
My TV broke luckily. It’s just gotten fixed unfortunately, and so I’m trying to figure out what to watch on that. I didn’t like The Crown. I liked the first season, but this last one seems to be about Diana. It seems sort of cheap and cheerful… I didn’t know her, but I went to a couple of the bashes when Charles first found her and was bringing her out. I was always sitting at a table full of Monty Pythons and rockers, and she would always have to be sitting next to these walruses, and she would be looking longingly over at us and we’d be waving back and forth to her, but she couldn’t really wave. She was just this beautiful, young, lively girl that was sort of thrown into this unlively scene.
I’m sure you were at the fun table.
Yeah, I was. There was no way of getting her out of her table because she was of course at the big long main table with all of the marquises and lords and people like that.
On another note, what are you wearing these days? Are you in sweatsuits like the rest of us?
Let’s see. Well, yes, I guess I am! I’m wearing a pair of those black pants that hug your legs…
Leggings, yeah. I’m wearing a pair of black leggings and a great old torn-up green sweatshirt that I’ve worn forever from J. Crew.
I know you’re not on Instagram…
No, I have no social media.
…but pictures of you in your Levis or rattan backpacks come up on my feed quite regularly. What’s your uniform been lately?
I don’t like to think too much about what I’m going to be putting on. I like to put on old friends, and god knows I’m old enough now to have a whole lot of them. I have a bunch of good jackets that I’ve gotten from Armani or Huntsman, which is a great place on Savile Row where I had things made for me. I also have a pantsuit from a new company called The Deck. I’ll tell you: From that [motorcycling] accident [in 2000] I lost an inch-and-a-half. I was always short for models. I was always like five-foot-seven, and that’s probably partly lying. I mean I was probably more five-foot-six-and-a-half… But these pants—I don’t know how they did it—make my legs look fantastically long. Really long. I’ve tried on thousands of pairs of pants. Literally. Maybe even ten thousand pairs of pants in my day because we used to put on 20 outfits for every single Vogue page and then they’d pick one. These pants are magic.
Speaking of modeling, I read that when you were first signed by Eileen Ford you promised that you would save your money to have your nose fixed and teeth capped, which obviously never happened. Were you ever considering doing it or were you just buying yourself time?
Well, I certainly didn’t want to do anything like that, but I also wanted to see the world. I was making $50 a week working with Christian Dior as a house model at the time, but I sure wanted to become a photography model because I knew that those girls were making a dollar a minute back then, which was a huge amount of money. I had a burning desire because it was the only way I could see that I could make my dreams come true to go off some place for two months. So I certainly agreed with the boss that yes, I would do whatever necessary, but I kind of thought that I would make it somehow [without doing that]. Also I had met a really smart born-and-bred New York man, and when I told him what she said he laughed. He laughed. I had already invented a little piece of very soft wax. It was called mortician’s wax, and I could make a little bead out of that and stick it between my two front teeth and then take a butter knife and make a line.
Right, on one of your early covers of Vogue in 1970, your gap is filled in.
That was my bead of mortician’s wax. That’s what that was… So no, I was never going to do it. But who knows? If I hadn’t had the encouragement of someone I believed in and loved, maybe I would have. I also was very old for a model. I was 22, so I was sort of older and hipper, and I knew very much what I wanted by then. I wanted to see the world.
There’s another Vogue story from 1973 about your makeup routine.
God, you’ve got to send it to me. Maybe I can learn something. I’m sure I’ve forgotten all of it by now.
I will! You said in it that you allow yourself a maximum of 15 minutes to do your makeup. Is that still the case?
I was always embarrassed because when I first started they used thick black eyeliner and white eyelids—it was mod makeup—and I would sort of hide my face against the wall as I walked out. I never went for that Kardashian business. I thought that was masking beauty because beauty really is about health, and those masks don’t look healthy to me, so little by little I took makeup off instead of putting it on. So yeah, I take about 15 minutes to do my makeup now.
What’s your routine these days?
I’ve always been a skin-care minimalist. I used soap and water for years and years. That was about the main thing that I would do, and it would be a big deal if I got into cleansers and things. But now my skin—I guess from so much sun and age—has gotten rough and funny looking. I got really wild in my 50s, and I was spending eight months [a year] out diving. I never wore a hat or that lotion you put on to keep the sun from coming in, so I now have parchment skin. I discovered retinol with Strivectin. I had never used retinol at all, and it’s wonderful. I put on a few drops of their S.T.A.R. Light Retinol every night before I go to sleep, and I always put on a moisturizer. It’s like a slip under the dress. I put on a matte moisturizer that’s not shiny because if it’s shiny on old skin, you are basically putting runway lights in your lines. You don’t want to do that. You do not want shiny skin at all, but you do want a makeup slip. I like Strivectin’s Wrinkle Recode Cream. It’s helped my skin a lot.
I had a makeup company for a while, and I kept a whole mess of [the products]. To this day, I always buy everything just to see if anything’s better than what I use—that’s a 50-year habit—and my concealer is still the best concealer I’ve ever seen. I put that on the sides of the eyes and I make a straight line down my nose. You have to look at your nose very carefully for that because sometimes they list to the right, sometimes they list to the left. If they go left, you want to put it going right, and vice versa, because you’re trying to get it straight. I almost never use full-face makeup, but I’ll do patchwork. I always make the inside of my lips darker because, like I said, beauty’s health, and if you look at a three [or] four-year-old child, the inside of their lips is always a deep red. That’s always where the most blood is. I’ve been using Clinique’s Black Honey tint for years. I’ll put the Black Honey towards the inside of my lips, on the top and bottom, and then I use Pink Honey [on my whole lip]. I’ll also use a little bit of Kryolan’s Faceliner pencil in 23. It’s really, really light, and I just fill in the holes of my eyebrows. It’s the best eyebrow pencil I’ve ever found.
You’ve mentioned looking healthy a few times. Do you have any wellness habits?
I drink a lot of water. I really try to drink eight glasses of water a day. The other thing is generally I try not to mix carbohydrates and proteins. I eat meat with vegetables or carbs with vegetables. I don’t mix the two. For some reason that seems to work. When I mix them I start putting on weight immediately. It’s the exact opposite of what we’re taught.
What about fitness?
I do an hour of Pilates almost every day and I walk a lot. I walk all the time.
Do you have any other beauty secrets?
Love is the best one. Just love. Try to find someone you love, even if it’s a kid. Just love as many people as you can… It’s really nice to roll around with somebody and feel skin. I’m saying all these things I shouldn’t be saying!
Ha, these are great tips! You were famously let go by Revlon when you turned 40, but you just turned 77—happy belated birthday…
…and you’re still represented by a beauty brand—not to mention that you’ve walked a number of runways in the past few years, from Valentino to Tom Ford and Bottega Veneta. Did you think you’d still be modeling at this age?
Hm, I didn’t think about it. When I was in my 20s and 30s and 40s, I didn’t really think about that. The barriers that women have broken continually make everything possible now. I always thought it was just plain dumb—even as a kid—that because someone was 65 they were supposed to be put out to pasture. A lot of people are tired and want to be put out to pasture, and that’s fine—they should go do what they want to do—but if you don’t and you have all this experience, it seems like a dumb thing. It certainly doesn’t take too much for me to go walk down a runway once in a while—unless I fall down in front of the press, which I did at Valentino. You know, they were doing new boots, and the boots weren’t really finished!
Shoes aside, how do you feel now about where the industry is heading?
It seems to be all about the internet now and how many likes people get and whether they’re known. That’s what I’m told because I don’t look at [social media]… And we’re finally seeing beautiful people of every color and size! It’s beyond high time for that, isn’t it? Kids are just smarter. It’s a wonderful thing. It was a great joy that after George Floyd [was killed] everybody hit the streets [in protest]. That was one of the proudest things I’ve seen of any generation at any time.
Yes, I’ll never forget it.
Well, Zoe, it’s been fun. Thank you. Chin up and keep walking and talking. That’s our duty… Okay kid, take care. And read that Madame Fourcade!
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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