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Supermodel Linda Evangelista loves her job, a glass of wine and a good cigar.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95

(continued from page 1)

A model of perfection. Make that a supermodel of perfection. Because the model in question, finishing a long day's magazine-cover photo shoot at an East Fourth Street studio in downtown Manhattan, is Linda Evangelista.

In the intense, competitive, fast-lane world of fashion and modeling, with its glitz and glamour, celebrity and gossip, only a few of the best and most beautiful rise to and stay at the top. In recent years, there have been but a handful. They include Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington. And Linda Evangelista.

For nearly a decade, Evangelista has graced the covers of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Allure, Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, W and scores of other major magazines. She has starred in ads for Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Versace, Perry Ellis, Lanvin, Guy Laroche, Capezio, Bloomingdale's, Barneys New York, Donna Karan, Valentino, Calvin Klein and countless other top-name designers, as well as for perfumes such as Opium and Jil Sander. She and her companion, actor Kyle MacLachlan of "Twin Peaks" fame, are regulars in newspaper gossip columns and on television gossip shows. Even the well-known fashion writer Michael Gross (not one of her favorite people) has called her "the most accomplished model of her time."

Evangelista is sitting in the outdoor garden of a trendy Italian restaurant in Soho one muggy, late-spring evening, her 9-to-5 day of work over and a glass of ruby red Chianti resting before her. Just turned 30, but looking at least five years younger, she is getting ready to talk about what the life of a supermodel is really like. She will reveal that sometimes she must create an imaginary cocoon to shield her from the glare of success. She will reminisce about her childhood in Canada, just north of Niagara Falls, where she was raised in a working-class Italian Catholic family and where she began dreaming at age 12 of becoming a model. She will discuss the difficult early days of her career and what she had to do to rise to the top. And she will speak about cigars, because she smokes them and loves them.

But there is also another topic, a best-selling book called Model, by fashion writer Gross. Model describes the world of fashion, of models and supermodels, as rife with sex, drugs, mindless orgies and hard-nosed business brutality. He also has a few less-than-nice things to say about Evangelista. She does not really want to talk about the subject, which she finds unpleasant, but because she has been asked, she will.

"I have not read the book," she says. "I don't want to. But I do know his style of writing, and I do know that he has never had anything positive to say about me or about a lot of my colleagues and friends. And I can paint a picture for you right here of what I have seen in my career. I have never slept with anybody I did not want to sleep with. I have never slept with a photographer to get work. I have never slept with an art director. I've never had to sleep with anyone to get a job. That does not happen in this business. Maybe way down at the bottom of the ladder it does, but I didn't even see it there. No one forces you to sleep with them."

And as for drugs, she says, "Everyone knows I have never tried cocaine. I've seen it a couple of times, and I've walked away from it. I just say no, I'm not interested. I'm not saying I'm Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, but I never have used it, and I never will. Yes, drugs exist, but they exist everywhere, in every business. And people sleep with people in every business. This business is full of the most amazing characters and the most fun people. I don't see them hurting people, and I don't see them doing drugs."

Gross writes that "wags at Elite" have called her "Evilangelista" (and, indeed, some gossip columnists have accused her of being bratty and bad-tempered). But Evangelista says it just isn't so.

"He doesn't know me," she says. "He's never talked to me. If he wants to write about me, he should talk to people who really know me. I don't think they call me Evilangelista. I say 'sir' to my taxi drivers in the morning. I'm so nice to people when I go into stores because I'm afraid that something negative might get out. I'm Miss Polite. I'm not a slut. I'm not this awful person. I'm a businessperson. I do my job. I go to work, and I go home, and I have a very normal home life. It all makes me want to do a documentary and have a camera follow me from my bed all the way through a shoot and all the way home so I can tell my side of the story."

She pauses and takes a sip of wine. She has begun to tell her story--and in doing so she will be unfailingly polite. There is no trace of brattiness or bad temper apparent, and indeed, it is difficult to conceive of her ever being so. Her eyes, her face, her sinuous lips, her classically prominent cheeks radiate sincerity, just as her longish, thin nose makes apparent that she is a fashion model cut from a different cloth.

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