By Rory Winston
Photos by Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Eliana and Luisel Ramos, Ana Carolina Reston, Isabelle Caro: While the list of renowned models succumbing to anorexia has become all but too familiar, it wasn’t all that long ago when most of the media was oblivious to the damage elicited by the fashion industry in their celebration of a distorted ‘ideal body’ at any cost.
That eating disorders went relatively unnoticed by all but a few academic researchers and psychiatric specialists through the early nineties is indicative ofjust how acceptable it was to think of emaciation as a ‘natural part’ of the beauty industry. Alternative lifestyle diets were considered nonsensical while devastating quick fix crash diets were advocated on network television. Though Karen Carpenter’s death in 1983 briefly stirred those like Cherry Boone into publicly addressing their own afflictions, there was little in the way of education for the many who suffered from bouts of starvation coupled with binge eating.
While the Zeitgeist kept mouthing Coco Chanel’s ‘you can never be too rich or too thin’ mantra, and while the paragons of style confirmed that ‘natural beauty’ was the result of a highly unnatural means of controlling one’s appetite, Carol Alt — arguably the world’s first officially recognized Supermodel — was in the throes of a life-altering reevaluation. Unwilling to settle for a lifetime of self-induced starvation, Alt went in search of the contemporary cosmopolitan’s Holy Grail: a way to remain sated, healthy, fit and spiritually sound without sacrificing 24 hours a day in pursuit of that goal. As Alt’s much acclaimed series, The Healthy You and Carol Alt, on Fox attests, she has found the elusive chalice. Although her vivacious appearance suggests that she has been dipping her mythical cup into the Fountain that had once been eagerly sought by Ponce de Leon, it seems clear that her youth is the result of insight rather than divine intervention; while her drug of choice is: information and more information.
Granting the Resident magazine an exclusive interview, Alt elucidated on her career and its inception. Unlike many today, Alt’s foray into modeling wasn’t driven by an insatiable urge to be famous at all costs:
“Modeling wasn’t something I especially set out to do. I initially did it because I thought that it might be a good way to help my dad, who was a firefighter, pay for my education. I was waitressing in this steak and beer joint on the Island — a regular stopover between the City and the Hamptons - when this photographer came in, and said I should consider making a call at Ford (Ford’s modeling agency). I knew he was legit because he told me to contact the agency rather than him. For the record, young models do need to be wary of random people introducing themselves as photographers. Funnily enough, it wasn’t until the guys at my workplace noticed me on the cover of Vogue and suggested that I might want to give up my “lucrative waitress- ing gig”’ that I even thought of quitting my day job. Needless to say, I soon ended up doing everything from Mademoiselle to Glamour to Cosmo to Harper’s Bazaar.”
Alt added that those were all the magazines in those days and, in her inimitably candid style, went on to highlight a paradox of which I was duly aware — namely, that there were far fewer publications back then despite the fact that people read far more print than they do today. Alas tis’ true, ‘where have all the readers gone, long time watching cable...?”
“Precisely,” reaffirmed Alt who knows that although the books she’s written may speak tomes on nutrition, TV allows her to communicate with a far vaster audience.
Prancing about with more energy than nearly all her twenty-year old modeling counterparts, the ebullient Carol Alt informed me how the woman who had twice graced the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, hosted TV and radio, starred in over 50 movies, won numerous awards in Europe while being the first ever Super Elite model who started the Supermodel trend with John Casablanca, nearly destroyed her own health prior to finding her salvation in raw foods.
“Being from a working class family in Queens, in my teens I ate wheat, gluten, sugar, and the normal junk many of us stuff ourselves with. By 16, I was working in a Bakery; and by the time I started modeling I was told I needed to lose 15 pounds. So I began to starve myself. actually, to the point of fainting. At one point, I was pretty much afraid of putting anything in my mouth. And, after all that time of utter abstention and useless suffering, I still overheard someone say, “She’s not in bathing suit condition.” Well, at that point, my entire world unraveled. I was in my 30’s; and 12 years of starving myself and putting my health at risk and I wasn’t even looking my best. People gave lots of advice and after a while, I was pretty resistant to most of the noise. But then, suddenly, I was put into contact with this amazing doctor —a man renowned for curing much more fatal sicknesses - and, the long and short of it is that after speaking to him and following his advice, I realized I didn’t have to starve at all. I could eat as much as I wanted of raw food and never have to worry about getting fat or sick. The pain of total abstention had ended and I could freely indulge my appetite as long as I chose raw foods. it was that simple. And all ofit came down to having the proper information. The doctor had given me the most valuable thing a person can give: information. Healthy information; information that saved my life. Since 1996 to this day, it is this information that has allowed me to thrive. And this information I wish to impart to others.”
As a living paean to youthfulness wrought of understanding, Carol devotes a great deal of her time to presenting experts to the world at large: “Since I’m not a doctor, I often bring those best capable of explaining things on air. I am so very grateful that Fox has allowed me to do the kind of show where I get to give all the information I’ve absorbed over the last 17 years back to a large number of people. And since I’m always in the process of learning myself, I find it fulfilling to share my findings with others”.
When asked about how this form of celebrity compares to her days posing in front of a camera, Alt gives way to her infectiously carefree laugh and states, “The modeling and acting I did was pretty egocentric - actually, the whole field is and, at the time, maybe it helped me compensate for not having been the center of attention as a kid. But once I accrued a certain amount of money and had traveled, my desires shifted. I wanted a home, a family; I wanted to work with people who knew me. I wanted to be able to help others as I had been helped.”
Dividing her time between Nassau County and Tribeca, when Carol isn’t working 24/7 on her highly informative weekly show, she’s fine-tuning a line of new products that include everything from slenderizing underwear with botanicals to sunglasses.
“Where will I be in 5 years.? What will I work on next.? I’m not even sure I could answer where I’ll be next week, let alone after a year. But what I do know is that I will be feeling a lot younger, happier and healthier than I ever did in my mid-20’s. And it is really my diet and lifestyle that has made that possible. And it is this feeling of fulfillment and general well being that I wish to go on sharing with others.”
If joie de vivre, good health and great looks are validations for the value of a theory, then it is evident that the Carol Alt alternative to fad diets is hard to dispute.