There’s a reason some models earn the designation of “super,” and for Christy Turlington Burns, those qualifications extend far beyond the photo studio or runway. Not only has she been one of the top faces in fashion for nearly three decades, having scaled the heights of modeling alongside other original ‘supers’ like Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Stephanie Seymour, but Turlington Burns has more recently harnessed her fame to found Every Mother Counts, a non-profit organization dedicated to maternal health programs around the world.
After experiencing potentially fatal post-partum hemorrhaging following the birth of her first child, Turlington Burns became acutely and personally aware of the issues surrounding pregnancy and childbirth faced by women worldwide. “A woman dies every two minutes bringing life into the world,” the 47-year-old mother of two says. “Ninety percent of these deaths are preventable with treatments and medicines that are widely available. We don’t need to invent anything new to save these lives—we just need to make it a priority to save them.”
It was her passion for the cause that prompted Turlington Burns to produce and direct No Woman, No Cry, a documentary film about the maternal health crisis. From there, the project grew to the point where she founded Every Mother Counts, of which she now serves as CEO. We recently caught up with Turlington Burns to learn more about the organization, why it’s so important to her, and—because we couldn’t help but be curious—the must-have items that define her own personal style. Scroll on for her picks and to read more about this incredible organization.
The Window: Congratulations on the incredible work of Every Mother Counts, having impacted more than 600,000 lives to date. Can you talk a bit about the work that’s still to be done in maternal health, specifically here in the states given the current political environment?
Christy Turlington Burns: This is only a drop in the bucket. Sadly, more than 300,000 women die each and every year from complications related to childbirth and pregnancy. The good news is that almost all of these deaths are preventable. While 99% occur in the developing world, the United States is the only industrialized country with a steadily rising maternal mortality rate. The current political climate will not be helping to change this. In fact, we can expect to see increases in maternal and infant deaths over the next four years simply from limiting many women’s ability to access prenatal care and defunding organizations which provide a range of quality healthcare at an affordable price. Our US grants provide childbirth education and quality care for low-income women.
Were there any specific activations with EMC surrounding Mother’s Day?
As an organization focused on improving maternal health, Mother’s Day is always an opportunity to educate others about the importance of prioritizing the health and rights of women. We have an annual campaign that launched in the days leading up to Mother’s Day, which features the Orange Rose, a symbol for safer motherhood that Every Mother Counts introduced last year at this time. We also had many wonderful product partnerships with designers and companies who created special Mother’s Day gifts that benefited EMC programs.
As a mother yourself, what’s the most surprising lesson you’ve learned since having kids?
If a mother isn’t healthy and strong, it’s really difficult to ensure the health and well being of the rest of her family.
You seem to be the living definition of “having it all,” between your kids, your work with EMC, and the fact that you were on four magazine covers this month alone—including French Vogue. How would you define “having it all?” What is “it all” to you personally?
I wouldn’t say I have it all on most days, but each day there is motivation to strive for that. Kids have a way of teaching you what matters most and that helps to prioritize things. And my work with Every Mother Counts is really important and keeps me engaged and feeling purposeful. I feel fortunate also still to have the option to see friends from the fashion world periodically and even partner with some to help make pregnancy and childbirth safer for every mother, everywhere.
How would you describe your own personal style when you aren’t in front of cameras?
Less is always more for me, even in front of the camera.