Among thinkers and aesthetes who monitor culture, Cindy scholars are a breed apart. Their insatiability knows no limit. At random moments, day or night, they can be found hotly debating Crawfordian nuance (topics may range from the Melanoma Question to the always loaded Hats: Pro or Con?). Certainly, theirs is a ceaseless but important pursuit. And here’s why: The object of scrutiny — Cynthia Ann Crawford, born amid the cornstalks of Sycamore, Ill. — may well be the purest embodiment of human perfection in our evolutionary continuum. Even Darwin, were he alive today, could not have ignored the evidence at hand, most notably the swimwear calendars and fun new exercise video, Cindy Crawford: The Next Challenge.
Supermodel, MTV hostess, Revlon Girl, celebrity wife and winsome social critic, Crawford is no different from you or me. She wakes in the morning and sleeps at night. She sunbathes topless and regularly flies the Concorde. She is afraid of Madonna and snakes but not of horses and being alone. She has bad hair days and homes in Malibu, Calif., Bel Air, Calif., Westchester, N.Y., and New York City. She rents movies at the neighborhood Blockbuster and shares her bed with a movie star (Actor-Husband Richard Gere). She eats corn typewriter style and charges $10,000 a day to pose for photographs. “It’s kind of amazing that someone like me is as famous as I am,” she says, genuinely incredulous to find herself where she is today. Here is how she interprets her unique sinecure of fame: “I am fast food. I am. But it suits me really well right now.”
Without the mole, she does not exist. Without the mole, she is someone else. “Without it, my face is really not symmetrical,” she says, speaking aesthetically. “It provides, I don’t know, a balance. British Vogue once retouched it off, and it looked really weird.” Chocolate brown, some 88 degrees directly above the mouth’s left vertex, it both declares and defines her. “My little friend,” she has called it. “I hated it when I was a kid,” she says. “My sisters used to call me Mole Face. I’d go, It’s a beauty mark!’ And they said, ‘No, if it’s on the right side, it’s a beauty mark; if it’s on the left side, it’s an ugly mark.'” She withstood much derision, yes, but not in vain; today, moles are enjoying widespread popularity among young and old alike. “Girls come up to me and show me theirs!” says the one who has made it all possible. At such times, she feels her power.
Curiously, nowhere in Crawfordian text has there been mention of the second mole. But it is there, nonetheless, cleaving gently to the sternum. “My mom had one there, too, but she had it removed,” Crawford reveals, somewhat ominously. “It was changing shape or something.”
Inside a leather shop on Melrose Avenue, in Los Angeles, the musician Lenny Kravitz hands Cindy a hat, floppy and unkempt. She is repulsed. “Isn’t grunge over?” she asks him in her official capacity as doyenne of MTV’s House of Style program. She places the hat on her head and looks foolish. A camera crew records all. “No grunge!” she says. “It’s over!” Then she says, “I am not a waif!” By this, she refers to the bedraggled, emaciated look now prevalent among younger models. (If waifs are skin and bone, then she is flesh and blood, exultantly so.) Next, she asks Kravitz about his tattoos and says: “I like the stick-on kind better. Some girls get tattoos that look great now, but how will they look at 50? How would I look once my body drops two inches?” Kravitz, alarmed at the prospect, sputters: “You’re not gonna drop! You’re not gonna drop!” Fear and disbelief register in his eyes. “Gravity gets all of us,” she says, blithe but resigned.
She will be 28 in February. Her voice is small, sometimes inaudible and generally incongruous with the magnitude of her appearance. (This is perhaps her way of apologizing.) On her first House of Style broadcast four years ago, she seemed unaccustomed to talking altogether. “Oh, my God!” she says, reliving the memory. “It was very bad. I’m nearsighted, and I couldn’t read the cue cards.” To simplify matters, she learned to conjure and memorize all of her on-camera introductions, for which she receives the show’s sole writer’s credit. Also early on, the man whom she would later marry offered wisdom gleaned from the movie trade. “He was trying to tell me not to talk into the camera,” she recalls. “Because he is someone I respect immensely, I actually thought about it. Then I said: ‘No! You know nothing about television, Richard!’ ”
There’s something mysterious and unknowable about that relationship,” asserts Camille Paglia, renegade feminist author of the cult manifesto Sexual Personae. She speaks of the Crawford-Gere union, a topic of great national concern. “I find all of these rumors about his sex life and her sex life really peculiar,” she continues. “Yet they keep surviving all of it.” Indeed, they are impervious to speculation. “It doesn’t bother them,” observes House of Style producer and Crawford confidante Alisa Bellettini-Sirulnick. “She knows what she’s got, he knows what he’s got — and if you know what you’ve got, then screw everybody else.”
They got what they have thusly: They were introduced in 1988 by the mother of photographer Herb Ritts at a barbecue for Elton John. (“My mom kind of pushed them together,” says Ritts, slyly.) Courtship ensued and escalated. Smote down by the nubile beauty, the rogue film star — famed for frontal nudity and Buddhist bent — hedged until he could hedge no longer. (“I was a holdout at age 42,” he has said.) “We talked about it a lot, he wasn’t ready,” she says now. “Finally, it was one of those days where I was like ‘Are we doing this or not?’ And he finally believed that I was serious, and he said, ‘OK, we’re doing it.’ But I didn’t know we would do it that night.” Hours later, on Dec. 12, 1991, they flew with friends to Las Vegas to exchange vows and Reynolds Wrap rings (made by the bride) at the Little Church of the West. Celebration followed suit at a nearby Denny’s, and it was there that the groom promised to serve his wife breakfast in bed for the next six months. (“I’ve never had breakfast in bed,” she says two years hence.) At once, they returned to Los Angeles, where he was back on a film set by dawn. Her memory of a wedding night consummation: “I don’t think it happened. We fell asleep on the plane, we fell asleep in the car, we probably just went right to sleep at home. All I know is that the next morning I was sitting at the carwash, and I was married.”