By: ANETTA NOWOSIELSKA
A compelling exploration of heartbreak, grief, and aging, Paulina Porizkova’s newest book titled “No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful,” headlining at this year’s Miami Book Fair, is a soul-bearing series of essays that once again cast our collective gaze at the recently widowed supermodel and budding wordsmith. She invited us into her New York City home to talk about the complexities of womanhood, widowhood, and the sorcerous power of social media. Stunning and self-assured, for the beauty-seeking Porizkova, the best is yet to come.
“No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful” may well be a testament to reinvention. Does that ring true for you?
I hate that “butterfly” metaphor. I find it very tired but so true. It feels like I was a larva that emerged from a cocoon and came out miles away from who I was just five years ago. People still know me as “just the model.” Paulina, the intellectual… there are maybe only two people who see me as such so far. The model “box” I will have to live in for life. Now, I am using the tools I was given to do something else. You can call that reinvention for sure.
How would you describe this book?
I think the title is a good description. It’s essays of my thoughts, the things I’ve learned and continue to learn, my challenges, my life – honest and unfiltered. I never thought of myself as someone with an important message of any sort. I’m a writer. I love to write. I was offered to write a book– and that’s why I wrote it– not because I’m trying to spread a message.
“[Vulnerability] is one of the most powerful and important things we can share with the world if we seek connection. This is what my book and my Instagram account are all about.”
This is your third book. What’s different about the way you approached writing this time around?
First and foremost, I’m the biggest reader. I ended my formal education at 15 years old, so my writing style came partly from reading so much. I had to take classes on how to write correctly because English is technically my fourth language. I didn’t quite know how to use quotation marks and things like that. I did not know how to write dialogue, either. That became very clear when I worked on my first novel. There was no dialogue for the first three chapters. This time the process was different. A lot of tragic and great things have happened in my life, and that has influenced my choices. This book is a collection of essays based on experiences I’ve gone through as a woman, a widow, a mother, and a public person on social media. I’ve matured as a person. Even the way I’ve been accidentally using Instagram has played into [writing this book]. I don’t just post things like “Happy Sunday.” I post my thoughts, emotions, and feelings that are melded in my book, so it feels like I’ve been writing it every day for a few years.
Tell us about your writing process.
When I was writing my novel titled “A Model Summer,” I was very antisocial. That process required creating a different world. I worked hard on that every day for like three years. I had only three months to write the new book. My days were literally like, “wake up, start writing, and don’t stop until your brain completely dissolves.” I would eat dinner, go to bed, and repeat that cycle daily for three months. No weekends, no holidays. I am extremely disciplined about things that I need to be disciplined about. I’m not super disciplined about everything in my life, but when it comes to working, I want to do my very best no matter what it is.
Extremely so. I’m still fighting for self-acceptance. I am still fighting and not because I have reached the golden chalice. I am not shouting at you from the top of the mountain like, “this is how to conquer.” No, I’m scrambling along with everybody else. Beauty is not something you can develop, although these days you can do just about everything to your face. For me, it was fortuitous and unfortunate, at the same time, to have beauty define me. If I didn’t start modeling at 15 years old or had I been less photogenic, maybe my life would have been all about my intellect, and maybe I would have been happier for it.
Is vulnerability powerful?
It’s one of the most powerful and important things we can share with the world if we seek connection. This is what my book and my Instagram account are all about. What I’ve always wanted was to connect with others. When I was in my 20s, people recognized me as “that model with an unpronounceable name.” Then came the invisible age when nobody would bother to look at or consider me. I would wonder how it is that I had disappeared…I wasn’t even aware of this slow erasure of my person. And now when I walk down the street people shout “I love you… I follow you on Instagram. Keep up the good work.” I get that from women now, not men anymore. They are strangely quiet on the streets these days. But this support from women is the best compliment I’ve ever gotten.
Doesn’t your rawness on Instagram about the mourning of your deceased husband (Ric Ocasek of Cars), the financial hardship that followed his passing, and an unbashful celebration of your ageless body and sensuality invite a lot of pressure and judgment?
I’ve been famous my whole life. First as a political refugee, then as a famous model, then as someone married to a famous musician. I’ve been scrutinized my whole life. It is part of the job, and it doesn’t hurt my feelings anymore. I also out myself, so there are no skeletons in my closet.
How do you mend the hypercritical world of fashion that you are still part of and the world of acceptance and empathy that seems to define your journey these days?
The fashion world is of no specific significance to me. I’ve always considered myself an accidental model. And I’m super grateful for how wonderful the fashion industry has been to me; I’ve made an entire career and life out of it. I feel so blessed for the opportunity to have done it, but honestly speaking, I could care less about clothing. What I do care about and talk a lot about in my book is beauty. The thing that I figured out is that the beauty we celebrate is not what beauty really is. What we call beauty tends to be prettiness and attractiveness. Meanwhile, real beauty can actually be ugly; it can be discomforting. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this because that was my whole world. I was always judged based on the way I looked. It’s hard to admit, but I, too, judged people’s appearances when I was younger. I was very unkind and judgmental back then because that was what I had learned. But a wonderful thing about getting older is realizing how extremely limiting and silly that kind of thinking is. Today I know that true beauty touches you. I’m just finding so much beauty in my world right now. I used not to see it and now I’m just overwhelmed by it.
If you could go back in time to reassure your younger self of anything, what would that be?
I don’t think I could reassure her of anything. Life is hard. There are no assurances. I would tell her she is worthy of love– but she wouldn’t believe me.
With a new book and a newfound purpose, is it safe to say that you like yourself these days?
I spent so many years hating myself and being ashamed because part of being a model is being shamed for everything that you’re not. Models get deconstructed into tiny measurable sections that are criticized and analyzed. As a teenager, how was I supposed to feel good about myself? It’s easier to live in my skin today. I wouldn’t say it’s painless, but I like where it’s going.