By Hannah Morrill | January 2, 2019 | People Feature
There is no doubt that Elle Macpherson was blessed with killer genetics. But what's even more impressive is how the Australian supermodel has chosen to use her gifts.
We could fill every page of this magazine recounting the storied success of our covergirl, supermodel Elle Macpherson. You might start with the tale of how at 18, after enrolling in law school in her hometown of Sydney, Australia, she moved to New York City to model for a year—the idea being she'd earn a little extra money for textbooks. You could then move on to how a 30-second Tab commercial—she's strolling down the beach in a teeny bikini, sipping the famously two-calorie soft drink—catapulted her almost instantly to international superstardom. There were the five Sports Illustrated covers (she still holds the record). And the Time magazine cover that bestowed the nickname—The Body—a nickname she'd carry with her for a lifetime. The recurring role on Friends. The Hollywood film career. Her groundbreaking lingerie line, Elle Macpherson Intimates, which launched in 1990 as one of the first ventures in which a celebrity capitalized on her own brand. We could go on.
But all of that is past tense. And as you can see by our cover—the champagne waves, the impossibly long legs—Macpherson, 54, is still very much here in the present. And she would be the first to admit that transforming one career (’80s/’90s supermodel) into another (global entrepreneur) is not something that happened automatically, and it’s not a privilege many of her peers from that era have enjoyed. "Growing up modeling in the 1980s, we were larger than life and there was a real distance between us and the public. The more iconic you were, the greater your success,” she recalls. “Today with the advent of social media, the closer you are to your public, the greater your success. And being in business has meant there’s no room for separation or star treatment." Unlike The Body and The Hair and The Skin, all of which she was born with, Macpherson’s achievements are not a genetic inheritance. They have been hard won, and are the result of grit, good luck and an ever-changing perspective.
“Some people say they’re open to change and yet do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results,” she says from her new home in Coconut Grove. “Consistently re-evaluating personal, business, beauty and wellness choices has helped me evolve and stay relevant.” And that’s not just a line. Macpherson is passionate about change.
Don’t believe her? Let’s take 2014 as a case study. In 2014, Macpherson turned 50. In 2014, after a lifetime living in the concrete-bound metropolises of New York and London, she traded parkas for palm trees and moved to Miami with her two sons and her new husband. And she also launched her most successful and personal project to date: WelleCo, a range of alkaline, plant-based supplement powders derived from whole foods. “In my 20s, I believed there was a correlation between beauty and age, but as I’ve matured I’ve realized that beauty and wellness are more aligned,” she says. In 2014, she appeared on the cover of this magazine a few weeks after her big move and told us, “There is nothing more beautiful than watching Miami wake up, and seeing the pink and purple skies and the blue sea... [but] this is a very different experience, settling here.”
So do we meet her four years later in just that same spot? Not a chance. In the years since, WelleCo has expanded from one hero product, The Super Elixir Green, to a range of products beloved by celebrities, wellness gurus and healthy moms across the world. The latest addition: Super Boosters, targeted therapeutic supplements for men and women. “Australians are renowned for being health-conscious, curious and authentic. And we ask lots of questions. Is this organic and where did it come from? What practices were used to make this food? Asking the tough questions has allowed WelleCo longevity and ongoing relevance,” she reflects.
“The greatest thing you can give your kids is time,” says Macpherson, here with her son Cy.
Other notable changes: Her oldest son, Flynn, now 20, has headed off to business school in Boston. And her relationship (she married Jeffrey Soffer in 2013) has taken a pause. But one constant for Macpherson, now, is calling the Magic City home. After waking with the sun and scribbling in her journal, she meditates and handpicks her wardrobe—a uniform she describes as classic (Céline, Hermès, Zimmermann) during the day and rock ’n’ roll (Off-White, Balmain) at night. “I’m not a big online shopper. I prefer the retail experience,” she says, citing the Design District as a shopping mecca.
Of course, as a native of Australia, the outdoor-driven lifestyle came rather naturally. But getting up and out isn’t the only way she’s found her place here. Macpherson has also become deeply entrenched with the people and places that bring Miami to life. She’s sat on the board of the Institute of Contemporary Art and hosted fundraisers for The Women’s Fund, an organization dedicated to advocating for change in women’s lives. “People used to think of Miami as a transient city. But today there’s such a strong sense of community and an innovative spirit in the people who live here. Maybe it’s the mix of Europeans, Americans and South Americans, but it feels more multicultural than other American cities I’ve lived in,” she says, adding, “I must learn Spanish!”
The international focus of the people here is a lifestyle Macpherson shares. WelleCo is based in Perth. Elle Macpherson Body Lingerie is in Melbourne, and public relations firms for both companies are in New York and London. A low estimate has her traveling to New York every 10 days; in the month that this interview was arranged, she, per her Instagram, was in Tasmania, Bondi Beach and Munich, among other farflung locales. “I love to fly,” she says, and maybe that’s because it’s one time she can take a breath, using her trans-Atlantic flights to catch up on TED Talks, Game of Thrones and, most of all, sleep.
“A daily exercise routine is crucial,” says Macpherson, an avid stand-up paddleboarder and water skier.
Perhaps the single most important reason Macpherson has fallen for Miami? As so many of us know, it’s a wonderful place to raise children. “Parenting is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s brought a lot of joy to my life,” she says. “That’s why I’ve persisted in dedicating time and space to my family.” Each morning she still wakes her 16-year-old son, Cy, a sophomore—he’s “fortunately not a grumpy teenager”—fixes him eggs and toast, and drives him to school (he picks the music). Then it’s Elle time. “I head off for an hour to do something I love,” she says. Whether it’s yoga, stand-up paddleboarding or water skiing, “a daily exercise routine is crucial for keeping me grounded and feeling good about myself.” She feeds her body with plant-based goodness throughout the day. (Favorites include vegetable pasta, vegan ice cream, espresso on the weekends and lots of WelleCo.) Late afternoon, she picks Cy up and shifts into mom mode once again, parenting being the ultimate exercise in the inevitability of positive change. “Someone wise once said to me that the greatest thing you can give your kids is time. It’s a truth that resonated with me. And I have to say it’s that simplicity that has often provided us the best times in our lives.”
Photography by Simon Upton