Do you roll your eyes whenever a skinny model swears she loves junk food and never works out? Chrissy Teigen feels your pain.
Cover girl, food writer, TV host and social-media maven, Teigen is the first to admit she diligently exercises and watches her diet, and is sceptical about those who say they do otherwise. “Models notoriously love to say they love eating pizza, and I always thought that was annoying. It’s, like, we’re not stupid.”
But the wife of Grammy-winning musician John Legend and mother to their one-year-old daughter, Luna, is just as scathing when she catches herself unwittingly spouting the same spiel. “When I hear myself say those things, I’m, like, ‘I am that annoying girl that I hate.’”
Reality, of course, is rather less glamorous, reveals Teigen, who was born in Utah to a Norwegian father and Thai mother. “I love eating bad [stuff] but, obviously, I can’t eat like that all the time. And I’m not Instagramming or Snapchatting my workouts so it does seem like I might just eat bad food and never work out.”
Related article: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Chrissy Teigen
It is this sort of truth-telling, of course, that has endeared Teigen to her fan base, which includes an army of 20 million or so followers on Instagram and Twitter. She may have first found fame in the pages of Sports Illustrated, but it was on online networks that Teigen has become something of a cultural phenomenon.
The star is one of the most adept social-media users on the planet, her well-crafted posts combining piercingly witty observations and comebacks with images from her personal and professional life, which run the gamut from glamorous to goofy. In 140 characters or less, she also routinely schools trolls such as British host and gadfly Piers Morgan (her response when the latter implied that boxer Muhammad Ali had said more racist things than President Donald Trump is a masterclass in the art of the subtweet). Underscoring it all is a self-deprecating candour and infectious sense of humour that is pithily captured by her Twitter bio, which reads: “Yes, I agree that I have kind of an odd face.”
In a media landscape dominated by hyper-curated depictions of perfect lives, this 31-year-old model has somehow cultivated an air of authenticity—a quality now deemed so rare, it’s become a marketing buzzword—and expanded this into a career. As one of the key online “influencers” making food fashionable as never before, Teigen parlayed her food blog into a bestselling cookbook last year, but is taking her time to write a second one because she does not want it to seem like “just a celebrity cookbook, or recipes that we don’t really love—I want to make sure if I include a recipe, people have seen me make it for John and my family 10 to 15 times”.
As a model-slash-foodie, Teigen could make a killing if she endorsed a branded diet. Instead, she acknowledges how complex and contested nutritional science is today, and the fact that the same approach may not work for everyone. “Because everybody is different, right? For me, I can eat candy all day and not gain a pound, for some reason. But if I have one sandwich, it goes straight to the belly. So I think you just find what works for you. I don’t want to promote anything because the second you do that, people think it’s going to work for them, and it may not. So that’s why I never really talk about diets or workouts.”
Teigen is not the only celebrity to claim foodie credentials, of course. But whereas you can’t really picture clean-eating guru Gwyneth Paltrow demolishing a bowl of pasta, you easily believe it with Teigen, who champions heartier, and less trendy, fare.
“I’ve never been into food trends—I always catch on last because I love classics. ‘Trend’ means it’s going to come and go, and I want things to last forever. When I go to a restaurant, I want the thing that’s been on the menu for 30 years, not what they’re testing out to see if hipsters will think it’s cool to take a picture of.”
She is properly food-obsessed, though—and delightfully unselfconscious about it. Chatting with Harper’s Bazaar Singapore in Los Angeles, she gushes about her favourite spots to eat in the city, which she now calls home.
“I wake up thinking about food and I go to sleep thinking about my next day of food—I really have it on the brain all the time. We’re constantly getting a grocery or food delivery or cooking something at home—it’s a revolving door of food. Food is very emotional for me. There’s something wonderful about being able to sit with your family and gossip, laugh or watch bad TV while eating a delicious bite that brings everyone together.”
Related article: Chrissy Teigen is the Star of Our August 2017 Issue!
Cooking and eating have been a cornerstone of her relationship with Legend, 38. “Food is the way I show my love. When I first met John, I was working but could never keep up with him career-wise, and didn’t have much to offer him in the value of gifts or lavish trips the way he was doing for me. So the way I felt I could reciprocate was to cook for him, and that made me really happy.”
Preparing meals is also a way to stave off the blues—another thing Teigen has been admirably open about. In a women’s magazine earlier this year, she wrote an essay about struggling with post-partum depression and anxiety after the birth of daughter Luna last year, bringing much-needed awareness to the still-taboo subject.
Staying busy in the kitchen when people come to visit “is also my way of being able to control my anxiety. So in some respects, it’s kind of a selfish thing for me to love. But I think everybody wins,” she shares.
Legend and her continue to bond over their love of food. “John loved eating and going to restaurants when we first dated, but he’s since grown a passion for cooking and goes out of his way to love it more for me. It’s something we enjoy doing together,” she says, adding that she cannot top his fried chicken and macaroni-and-cheese.
But ask if they ever use food as an aphrodisiac, and Teigen bursts out laughing. “Honestly, it’s probably the opposite. Because I’m an overeater—when I eat, I eat. And I’m eating till I do not want to be seen or felt. We’re so full, and we eat very late, around 10.30 or 11pm, because my meals tend to take a very long time. So I cannot tell you the last time we had night sex. We’re very much into, like, middle-of-the-night, morning and random daytime sex—because that’s how important food is. We stuff ourselves silly, then we go upstairs and I take a melatonin and we go to bed watching Big Little Lies. That’s what happens,” she says with a giggle.
Related article: 8 Styling Tips for Women with Fuller Busts
This is Teigen in a nutshell: More than happy to overshare, poke fun at herself and tell it like it is. Yet, although she is celebrated for this realness now (Legend famously paid tribute to it in his 2014 chart-topper about their relationship, “All of Me”, singing “What would I do without your smart mouth?”), early in her career Teigen paid a price for it, as many outspoken women do.
“It wasn’t really an accepted thing within my modelling and TV career early on. I would get in trouble, lots of phone calls from agents saying ‘Why did you tweet this? Now we’re in trouble with such-and-such a contract because you were too outspoken.’ I got so much feedback that I needed to watch my mouth if I wanted to work with certain people. And I remember sobbing so much because it was just the worst feeling, letting people down. I definitely lost work because people would shy away from being associated [with me], and I totally get it, too—they have to appeal to everybody.
“But I’m just stubborn and never listened, and I’m happy I didn’t because now they look at you for the way you are, and I love being an open book. I feel like everyone knows what they’re getting now and it’s a very comfortable place to be in life.”
Teigen’s feisty honesty may also be why her fans are mostly female. “I think women who speak up more tend to lean towards me. Not that men want you to shut up or anything—thank god, I have a man who is the ultimate feminist—but I’m definitely not the type to be posting lots of sexy, racy photos that are going to get the men going.
“And I love that. I love that when I walk down the street, the girls are going to come up to me and the guys are just going to walk right past me. I love talking to my girls—that’s really important to me. Any time a guy does come up to me, they always say the same thing: ‘My girlfriend/wife loves you.’”
Now watch our exclusive behind-the-scenes video of Chrissy Teigen with our EIC Kenneth Goh:
By Alison de Souza
Photographed by Yu Tsai
Styled by Deborah Afshani
Styling assistant: Kirsten Alvarez
Makeup: Fiona Stiles/Starworks Artists
Hair: Laura Polko/The Wall Group
Manicure: Christina Aviles/Opus Beauty
Set design: Alex Bain/Opus Beauty
Producer: Trever Swearingen/88 Phases
Digital Imaging: Luis Jaime/88Phases