Inspiring Thursday: Christy Turlington

“If we can’t support a woman while she is giving life, then we don’t support women.”

Christy Turlington was born in 1969 in California into a middle-class family. When she was 14 years old, she was discovered by a local photographer, and soon after that, she started modeling. During her very successful modeling career, she has appeared in many international fashion magazines such as Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar and has been featured in advertising campaigns for brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and most famously in Calvin Klein’s Eternity campaign.

During the peak of her modeling career, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in concentration in Comparative Religion and Eastern Philosophy from New York University, and later she continued to study at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

In 2003, Turlington gave birth to her daughter Grace. Immediately, after the birth, she suffered several complications as her placenta was retained and could not expel itself. She lost a few liters of blood but thanks to having access to special and critical care, she was lucky to survive without any consequences. Upon that she learned that over 500,000 women die each year during childbirth and more than 90% of these deaths are preventable. After this experience, she became an activist and advocate for maternal health and safe childbirth.

In 2005, she became an Advocate for Maternal Health with the international humanitarian organization CARE. In 2010, she directed and financed her documentary movie No Woman, No Cry which focuses on maternal health in Tanzania, Bangladesh, Guatemala, and the USA.

Following her documentary debut, she founded the non-governmental organization Every Mother Counts which is an organization dedicating to make pregnancy and childbirth as safe as possible. Every Mother Counts informs, raises funds, and engages the audience to support programs in Haiti, Uganda, Malawi, Indonesia, and the USA. In 2013, Burlington directed a short documentary Every Mile, Every Mother that indicates the problem of the too great distance some women must journey in order to gain the benefit of maternity care.

In addition, she openly spoke against the banning of abortions and highlight the risks of unsafe abortions. She argued that more than 13% of maternal deaths are from unsafe abortions and therefore it is inevitable to support access to abortion as it is one of the ways how to lower maternal deaths.

Currently, Christy Turlington serves on the Harvard Medical School Global Health Council and as an advisor to the Harvard School of Public Health. Moreover, she is a member of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood.

As Christy Turlington said “If we can’t support a woman while she is giving life, then we don’t support women” and therefore it is crucial to support women in every stage of their life and be sure that their right to health care is fulfilled.

Written by WAVE Intern Mária Trubanová