Paulina Porizkova Is Unfiltered and Opens Up Like Never Before

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model touches on love, heartbreak and reinvention.
Paulina Porizkova

Paulina Porizkova

She has become a voice for her generation thanks to her candor and vulnerability on social media, and now, Paulina Porizkova is pulling the layers back even further in her book, No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful. The collection of nonfiction essays, available now from Open Field, a Penguin Random House imprint founded by Maria Shriver, is a way for the 57-year-old SI Swimsuit model to bare her soul even more. “It’s having this direct connection where [people] can tell who I actually am,” Porizkova says. “I’m a person who loves to connect with other people and was unable to do so, by circumstance, for most of my life.”

Written over the very quick span of three months, the novelist wrote day and night, during Christmas, her stepson’s wedding and through her travels. “If I feel bad, well, write while you feel bad. If you’re tired, you write through being tired,” she shares. “Writing through jet lag was really challenging, but actually one of my essays, the one about occupation, that one literally just fell out of me on my first day in Israel and Russia had just invaded Ukraine. I was completely jet-lagged and all I could think about was that, so that one just showed up.”

Porizkova chronicles her life growing up during the Cold War in Czechoslovakia, what she experienced as a young woman modeling in Paris, her whirlwind romance with her late husband Ric Ocasek of The Cars and a betrayal that would follow (at the time of his death in 2019, she learned that despite thinking they were separating amicably, she was cut out of his will and left with a large amount of debt) and feeling “invisible” after a certain age. Below, Porizkova talks about her new book and more.

You open up about so much in this book. What do you hope somebody reading it will take away?

“I think the main reason I wrote it is to connect with women like us. I know that when I was in my dark space, I so desperately wanted somebody who had gone through something, whatever money, grief, beauty, that I wasn’t alone with all those thoughts. I want to be your companion. I want to be able to metaphorically hold your hand if you need it. We are all human. And I think it’s helpful to know that somebody that you think is in such a shining, high, glorified position might not feel dissimilar from you.”

What were the easiest and the hardest parts about writing the book?

“I think the hardest part was just the time crunch because I had to write a book in three months. I didn’t even know if I could, quite honestly. The things that I’m writing about, I was so close to it because that’s all I had been thinking about–trying to reinvent myself, trying to find out where I belong, who am I now that I’m not a wife and not a mother who needs to attend to her children all the time, and I don’t really have much of a career. Like, who am I? Where did I get lost and why did I get so monumentally lost? What am I supposed to do next? And then of course, grieving my husband, and money issues and all of that. That was in my brain permanently 24/7, so it was a pretty easy reach. It was one of those moments where you just open the vein, let the blood flow. I’ll tell you one of the hardest [essays] to write was about falling in love with my husband because I was not necessarily yet at the point where it was easy for me to look back at how much I loved him. And now I’m going to start to tear up…”

Through the book, those emotions are very prevalent and still raw even after dealing with the will and betrayal you felt.

“I think they do get less raw, but they won’t go away. It’s getting better. Time is the great healer. Time is the one that takes care of it, but yeah, I think grief is kind of an open wound for the rest of your life for all of us. And after COVID, I think way too many of us got to know what that’s like, so I was in a lot of company shortly after my husband’s death.”

Have your sons read the book?

“Of course, I could not publish this book without having my sons approve of what I’ve written. What kind of a mother would I be? I passed all the sensitive chapters by them, and they had a couple of little changes and some things that didn’t make it into the book because of their request.”

You talk a lot about your love always being for somebody else, so is this your self-love book, a gift to yourself, so to speak?

“It’s funny, I didn’t really think about that as a gift to myself because there’s so much pain in that book and there’s so much processing I had done in order to get there. Then writing it was such a crunch, but yes, it was a gift. It was a gift to myself. I didn’t necessarily know it was a gift until you just told me, so thank you.”

Different essays cover your childhood to the present day. Looking back, what is something you’ve learned from each decade of your life?

“I think in your first 10 years, in the first decade, you learn how valuable you are to the world, to the people who love you. That’s where a lot of our ills begin because maybe you weren’t valuable enough or you didn’t feel valuable enough. In my teens, I learned all about my sexuality and who I was as a young woman. My thirties, I learned about motherhood, who I was as a mother and a wife. What did I learn in my forties? My forties were... actually that’s when I wrote my novel, so in my forties, I started kind of trying to reclaim myself to some extent. You know, I’m not just a mother and a wife. I can still also do my own thing. I still have something in me. And my fifties, well, how about just say we erase the whole thing and start from zero. No, start from like minus two!”

You started modeling in your teens. Any career highlights?

“My Sports Illustrated cover is kind of what blew me up overnight as a household name and model with a name. Then, of course, the Estee Lauder contract. Those are pretty damn big highlights for a career, but nothing feels as good as right now, honestly. I’d trade it all in for this in a heartbeat because in my twenties I would get, ‘Hey, Paulina Porizkova. You’re hot.’ And now I get women coming up to me on the street saying, ‘Thank you. I follow you. You speak to me; you speak for me. I just want to thank you for what you’re doing.’ Or it’s ‘You have taught me that it's okay to be vulnerable.’ That’s the best thing ever. I used to be a glossy surface; now, I’m a person.”

You touch on this on Instagram as well as in your book that the modeling industry is still geared toward 20-somethings…

“I think women my age are mostly really grateful that there are people out there speaking up for all of us, and they’re like, Yay, carry the banner, I’m right behind you. I’m still a token old lady over here! You’re not supposed to be older and look older and be seen as sexy. That is a complete societal taboo in the United States. I guess advertising falls where I can’t breed so therefore I should not be sexy. That should not even be in the same realm. I do think that MJ [Day] has actually done a tremendous civic duty in her way of expanding sizes, including body positivity and putting that in Sports illustrated. We need representation of all of us, but it’s still pretty slim on the aging thing. Ageism, I think, is kind of the last frontier, the one that people don’t think is important.”

With age comes wisdom and the deep pockets to buy the products…

“But yet, us women, we don’t buy products from other older women. We are doing this to ourselves. We prefer to buy a wrinkle cream from a 17-year-old with an online face and hope that our application of said cream is going to make us look like that, rather than purchasing it from a woman that actually looks like you. As long as we buy into it, that’s what we get.”

Recently, there are more products geared toward menopause like Naomi Watts’s Stripes on the market.

“Oh yeah, she’s like, I had to deal with this, and I want to push it out there for other women because I know what a low place it was. And we need this. We need more for us, and I think we are insisting on it. It’s not like somebody came to us and said, ‘Genius marketing idea, menopause.’ It’s because we are stomping our feet; they have to listen. This is how you get heard, by going I’m not going to sit down and shut up because you tell me to.”

Your book is also about love–your great love, your heartbreak after and learning that you can be, metaphorically speaking, your own candle while searching for the light switch…

“I am my own candle. I know that I’m capable of shedding light, but I don’t want to be a candle in a vacuum. I mean, I want to be a candle for others, that means love turned outwards. I’m still seeking from the outside. I am not entirely happy by myself. I know who I am; I know I can function by myself. I’m O.K. being alone, but it’s not my preferred state. Do I love myself? Still working on that. What I think is far more important is that I accept myself. I think you’re fine as long as you get to the level of acceptance. It’s like, do I have to celebrate myself all the time? Do I have to forgive myself for all my mistakes? Not really, but I have to accept that this is who I am as a person. I’m a person with this face, this inside. I’m an anxious person. I’m a person who has been judgmental in the past. I’m a person who has made a lot of f----- mistakes, and I’m a person who most likely will keep making mistakes. I don’t really want to forgive myself for making mistakes because I want to do better, but I have to accept that I will make them. That is a part of life; it’s inevitable, and it’s O.K. I’m kind of working from that platform—self-acceptance for who I am and believing that love should be primarily turned outward.”

What’s next for you?

“I’m sort of feeling my way through to what my heart is out here, and I’m kind of getting a hold of it. What’s next… it’s going to be beautiful.”

No Filter is available now in hardcover, e-book and audiobook.

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