Christy Turlington: ‘It’s a funny balance, but it works’

Christy Turlington has a reputation for being one of the friendliest people in the fashion business — and she cares off the runway, too. The Cha­nel and Calvin Klein model re­cen­­tly completed “No Wo­man, No Cry,” a film about ma­ternal mortality. Turlington often visits Africa as an ambassador for (RED) as well. She tells Met­ro why wives can’t escape HIV and how she combines modeling with activism. And yes: Turlington is friendly, as ever.

Each year, 430,000 women pass along the HIV virus to their children. Why is this happening?

There has been too much emphasis on treatment and too little on prevention. For example, more condoms should be handed out. Most women are monogamous, but their partners are not. Their partners get infected and then pass on the virus to their wives. And because of the stigma, the wives don’t dare to get tested.

Should people have just one sex partner?

That would be ideal. But in some countries, if you’re successful you have many sexual partners. Of course, we shouldn’t discourage people from being successful!

Would you let your children play with HIV-positive children?

Absolutely! I’m from San Francisco, and I’ve known HIV since it started. And now that I’m studying for a degree in public health at Columbia University, I’ve learned much more about it. The quantities of body liquids that children exchange when playing together are so small that HIV won’t spread that way.

“No Woman, No Cry” focuses on maternal mortality. Why are mothers still dying while giving birth?

Because the status of women isn’t where it should be. If you look at the countries where the most women die in childbirth, it’s where women have the lowest status.

Does modeling feel frivolous when your travel around the world meeting dying mothers and children?

It’s a funny balance, but it works. Because of my fashion work, I’m able to do volunteer work like being a spokesperson for (RED). I paid for my documentary myself, too — and university is expensive. Without my fashion work, I wouldn’t be able to bring media attention to theses causes.


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