Lead With Love: Paulina Porizkova

Paulina Porizkova, supermodel and author of No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, shares life lessons.
Porizkova, unfiltered, on the streets of Manhattan. Photography by Cathrine White

CATHRINE WHITE: What have been some of the lessons you’ve gained since writing the book?

PAULINA PORIZKOVA: What I have discovered is something I have long suspected: that our failures connect us better than our successes. In opening myself up, unfiltered, it has allowed for people to open up to me, fostering real emotional connections that I have not had access to before when I was seen as just “that model.” Vulnerability breeds true connections, because it is based in truth. And although I have always tried to access that sort of connection to others, my celebrity and perceived success did the opposite; it stranded me on top of a very tall, lonely mountain. My book and my Instagram account, which I use mainly to write about my thoughts, has done what I thought of as impossible: It lowered the mountaintop enough for people to join me.

CW: How has this city shaped you as a person?

PP: Living in New York is bracing. You either have to have a lot of money or be extremely ambitious to take this city on. It’s not for anyone who wants an easy life. I have lived in many places at this point in my life, and they were all very different from one another. From my beginnings in a very small old town and its safety, which was also extremely restrictive, to the cleanness and law-abidingness of Sweden followed by the joie de vivre of Paris, New York was at first incredibly overwhelming to me. It seemed messy and dirty and seedy and just—too much of everything. What I came to discover was that this was a mirror of my life: extreme in every way, both good and bad. And once I plugged in to this stream of life and all its potential, it fed me and kept me limber. Living in New York has contributed to making me a woman who can take some hard knocks, but be flexible when needed.

CW: What has forgiveness taught you?

PP: Forgiveness is for me and created by me. Its existence is there for my benefit, not anyone else’s. Looking hard in the mirror and accepting the things I have done wrong makes me able to understand other people’s failings. We all fail. And the acceptance of this is when we can also truly connect. To be honest, I’m still working on parts of it, and have by no means perfected it. But the acceptance of imperfection and an open heart to gratitude is the path I want to take, the one I’m working on and the one at which I want to excel.

CW: What does a perfect Sunday morning look like for you?

PP: A cup of coffee, bathrobes, my legs thrown over my lover’s, music in the distance, my door to the garden flung open to warm air and sunshine, the knowledge I am loved for who I am, sweaty feet included.

CW: Aging is an individual and collective human experience. How are you taking care of yourself differently today than in the past, and what has been the most important piece of that process that you gained understanding for?

PP: Aging is unavoidable, if we are lucky. A huge part of coming to terms with it is the acceptance of change. That things will change and I have to stay flexible enough to go with it rather than resist. There are so many battles to fight, I simply do not care to expend my energy on something that is inevitable. The beauty of aging is manifold, but one of the most important parts is coming to terms with who I am as a person and being able to set my priorities. And thus, reserve my energy to fight the battles which matter to me and can be won, and let go of the ones which can’t.

CW: I am a believer that in our most broken moments, there are deep-seated lessons. What has that been for you?

PP: True lessons in life come with a great deal of pain. This is the impetus for change; this is why we learn things we’d otherwise turn away from. They are of incalculable importance to personal growth. Still, sometimes I wish I didn’t have to learn what I didn’t sign up for, even if it makes me a better person in the long run.

CW: What are you currently reading?

PP: The Group by Mary McCarthy, a novel about a bunch of young women in the 1930s written in the 1960s, and feels as relevant today, about the relationships of women and the patriarchal world we still inhabit.