Christie Brinkley’s modeling career, which spans decades, started totally unplanned. While in Paris, where she studied, Christie was spotted by photographer Errol Sawyer. She was carrying her dog in a bag and was headed to the vet’s when Sawyer asked her to take a few photos of her.

When she agreed, Christie had no idea that it would be a start of something huge. Ever since that serendipitous meeting, which took place back in 1973, this typical American beauty’s face was all over the magazines.

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

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The photos Sawyer took of her helped Christie sign with three major American advertising companies. So, the Michigan native soon found herself on the cover of one of the most prestigious magazines, Sports Illustrated.

”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.

A lot of people told her how her fame would last for just a couple of years, but she proved everyone wrong and remained one of the most famous and most wanted models in the world.

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

Wikipedia Commons / John Mathew Smith

Once she reached enormous success in the fashion and modeling industry, Christie decided to try herself on the big screen. One of the movies she starred in is National Lampoon’s Vacation from 1983 in which she played opposite Chevy Chase as ”the girl in the red Ferrari.” She later reprised the role.

Her record-breaking contract with the cosmetic brand CoverGirl lasted for 25 years and is one of the longest lasting model contracts ever signed.

Christie was married four times. Her first marriage, with Frenchman Jean-François Allaux lasted from 1973 to 1981. The two didn’t have children together.

In 1982, Christie met another Frenchman she fell for, the Moët-Chandon Champagne fortune heir, Oliver Chandon de Brailles. The two met during an event at the famous Studio 54 in New York. They were very much in love with each other, but Oliver tragically died in a car crash on a racetrack in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was into racing and skydiving and adored Christie. Speaking of her, he once said that he loved her “for her simplicity,” to which she added: “He doesn’t mean simpleminded!”

When Christie learned of the horrific crash in which her boyfriend lost his life she was utterly heartbroken.

Christie Brinkley and French racing driver Olivier Chandon de Brailles / Getty Images

Later in 1983, the famous model met singer Billy Joel. They welcomed daughter Alexa Ray Joel in 1985. It is believed that Billy’s famous hit Uptown Girl was written for Christie.

Their marriage ended in divorce, but the two remained very close friends. What’s most, Billy was among the guests on the Christie’s wedding ceremony to her third husband, real estate developer Richard Taubman. Shortly before marrying him, Christie, Richard, and some of their friends suffered a helicopter crash. He ended up with a broken rib and collarbone and a punctured lung. She suffered minor injuries, but was forced to undergo a hip replacement some years later. ”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.

The marriage lasted for a year. Christie and Richard have son Jack Paris Brinkley together.

Christie Brinkley, Alexa Ray Joel and Billy Joel / Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Her last marriage, to architect Peter Halsey Cook, lasted for 12 years. Their daughter, Sailor Lee Brinkley Cook, was born in 1998 and has followed into her mom’s footsteps.

The marriage ended after it was revealed that Peter had an affair with an 18-year-old woman whom he met at a store and later hired as his assistance. The divorce was a long and a nasty one.

According to the divorce settlement, Christie gained full custody of the children and the couple’s properties. Peter had a financial payment of $2.1 million and ”parenting time.”

”I din’t want this trial. It’s humiliating for all of us,” Christie said.

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Today, Christie is 68 years old but she looks as stunning as ever. She lives in a 20-acre gated mansion located in Suffolk County, on the South Shore of Long Island, New York that she bought some 23 years ago for $3.2 million.

”I like to exercise so I am always able to move and go with the flow, and I like to eat foods that are healthy so I am fueling my body and I must say, usually I am the one still going when people younger than me are fading!” she said in an interview with Hello Magazine.

She says that she has never had any plastic surgeries but did use non-surgical anti-aging procedures.

Today, beautiful Christie Brinkley is an outspoken activist for animal rights and the environment and she works as an entrepreneur.

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