Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Christie Lee Brinkley was born in Monroe, Michigan, on February 2, 1954. Together with her family, she later moved to California, and Christie grew up in the neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Early in life, Christie got connections to the entertainment industry and Hollywood. Her mother, Marjorie, married a high-profile figure in the television industry: writer Donald Brinkley. Donald wrote over 400 teleplays but was most famous for writing and producing popular shows like Medical Center and Trapper John M.D.

Donald would later legally adopt Christie and her brother Greg. They referred to him as their father and not step-father.

After graduating from the French School of Los Angeles in 1972, Christie moved to Europe to study art in Paris and ”to be so bohemian.” She worked as an apprentice illustrator for a couple of years and seemed to have settled down.

But the move to Paris would change her life forever ¨when American photographer Errol Sawyer discovered the blonde beauty in 1973. Sawyer spotted Christie walking down the street, carrying her dog in a basket on the way to call a veterinarian. The photographer asked if he could take some modeling pictures of her, which became the start of a long and successful career as a model.

But Christie could never imagine that her face would end up on thousands of magazine covers worldwide.

”I was basically a surfer girl from California. I never looked like a model,” she told New York Magazine in 2008.

Thanks to Errol Sawyer, Christie came in contact with other modeling agencies. Eventually, she had a lunch meeting with Eileen Ford, who ran one of the largest modeling agencies in the world. After that, Christie signed a deal to do three major national advertising campaigns across the U.S.

A lot of jobs followed. The young model appeared on the cover of Glamour magazine and signed a record-breaking contract with the cosmetic brand CoverGirl.

The contract lasted for 25 years – one of the longest model contracts ever written. From 1979 to 1981, Christie appeared on the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover – that was the first time the same model adorned the issue for three years in a row.

”When I started out, I remember very clearly a group of successful models saying, ‘You will be burned up and thrown away by the time you’re 30,” Christie told People in 2011.

Christie the very idea of American beauty, also got two calendars of her own made by Sports Illustrated. We hardly need to mention that her face was practically visible everywhere in the early 80s.

In fact, she became a symbol of the entire decade. New York Magazine wrote that Brinkley’s look defined the Reagan Cold War years and that she was ”a kind of aggressively innocent American sunniness.”

After her modeling breakthrough, Christie wanted to explore acting and set for Hollywood. In her first acting role, she played opposite Chevy Chase as ”The girl in the red Ferrari” in the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation from 1983. She also appeared in another Vacation movie in 1997, reprising her role as the blonde beauty with the red Ferrari.

Christie has also done a lot of television appearances, and she’s also starred in a lot of music videos – the most famous one was probably Billy Joel’s iconic music video “Uptown Girl.”

Many people also recognizes her as Gayle Gergich, wife of parks department employee Garry Gergich on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation.

In 2010, Christie took another bold step as she made her stage debut on Broadway, portraying Roxie Hart in the long-running musical Chicago. And most recently, the iconic model appeared as a contestant on popular show The Masked Singer.

Having been through four divorces, you might not ask Christie for any advice regarding relationships.

But looking at her ex-husbands and what she’s been through, there are definitely many interesting details that might be worth sharing.

As she has previously stated, Christie wanted to leave the United States and live a bohemian life in Paris in the 1970s. Perhaps the strongest symbol of this? Her marriage with French artist Jean-François Allaux. The couple tied the knot in 1973 and were married until 1981, but they had no children together.
After the divorce, Christie started dating another Frenchman, Oliver Chandon de Brailles. He came from a completely different world than Christie’s ex-husband – Oliver was heir to the Moët-Chandon Champagne fortune.

The couple met at the legendary Studio 54 in New York in 1982, during an event when Christie promoted her calendar for Sports Illustrated.

At the time, Olivier commented on the relationship and told the media that he loved his girlfriend’s beauty, but “her simplicity is very important to me”. However, Christie felt that she had to interject and said: “He doesn’t mean simpleminded!”

But their love story would have a very tragic end. Oliver Chandon de Brailles, a race driver and skydiver, died in 1983 after a horrific car crash on a racetrack in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Christie and Oliver, often seen together and followed by paparazzi, were about to meet that same day Oliver passed. She had called him just an hour before the fatal crash to arrange their meeting in Palm Beach. But when she heard about the tragic event, she chose to stay in California.

Marrying Billy Joel
Superstar model Christie and singer-songwriter Billy Joel met in 1983 on the Island of St Barts in the Caribbean. He was five years her senior.

They fell madly in love, and the Grammy-winning artist reportedly wrote the hit song “Uptown Girl” for Christie. Two years later, the celebrity couple tied the knot on a yacht on the Hudson River in front of 200 guests.

Christie Brinkley and Billy Joel / Getty Images
Christie’s close family attended the wedding, but some more well-known guests, such as the artist Paul Simon and members of the band Stray Cats, were also present.

The two superstars stayed together until 1994 and had one daughter, Alexa Ray Joel, born December 29, 1985. Alexa’s middle name is a blink to Ray Charles, one of Billy Joel’s musical idols.

Even though Christie and Billy Joel went separate ways, their marriage between the uptown girl and the piano man is still iconic and they remain close friends.

”We had Alexa together and we knew that was going to bind us together for life so we wanted to make our divorce work,” Christie said in The Wendy Williams Show and added:

”Of course as you’re going through it, you know, you can get a little bit raw, but you cannot find him saying a bad word about me or me saying a bad word about him, no matter what happens.”

Christie Brinkley, Alexa Ray Joel and Billy Joel / Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Helicopter crash
In 1994, while still being married to Billy Joel, Christie was introduced to real estate developer Richard Taubman. He proposed to her even though Christie was a married woman at the time.

In December 1994, the couple wed in Telluride, Colorado. The couple tied the knot in front of 100 guests, in ski boots, at 12,000 feet.

Then the newlyweds skied down the mountain into the sunset.

The area was a special place for the supermodel. Just months before her wedding with Taubman, she survived a helicopter crash five miles north of the wedding spot. The scary incident took place during a heli-ski trip in April 1994. Christie, Taubman, and two others were left stranded on the mountainside for hours as their helicopter crashed.

Christie Brinkley and Ricky Taubman / Getty Images
”I don’t know what happened. It felt as if the mountain was sucking us into it,” Christie told Entertainment Tonight in 1994.

At the time of the accident, the media reported that Christie suffered minor injuries. Taubman suffered broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a punctured lung.

Christe had to deal with the scars and trauma for a long time. She suffered years of hip pain due to the crash, and in 2021, she finally had a complete hip replacement. Fortunately, the surgery was successful.

”I had my surgery at Thanksgiving and I was dancing in my kitchen by New Years Eve and today I put on my long fins and explored the coral reefs propelled by my new hip,” she wrote on her Instagram.

Last marriage
Christie and Taubman’s marriage ended after only one year. They divorced shortly after welcoming their son, Jack Paris Brinkley, born June 2, 1995.

In 1996, Christie reunited with architect Peter Halsey Cook, whom she met while modeling in 1979. After being introduced to each other again, they married at a ranch in Bridgehampton, New York. Christies ex-husband, Billy Joel, was among the guests.