Helena Christensen hates missing a shot. She’s in the back seat of an Uber SUV, heading home across the Williamsburg bridge, mid-sentence about her befuddlement over the long-standing interest in “the supers” when she cuts herself off.
“Oh my god, what a great picture that just drove by us. Did you see that? Oh my god,” she says, motioning toward the passing subway car barreling across the bridge. “A little child in a blue dress glued up to the window with her dad behind her with a beard this big. Oh my god.”
She turns back to face into the car. “Yeah. I get very upset about the missed pictures.”
The 54-year-old Danish model has lived in New York, in the same West Village apartment for that matter, for more than 20 years, yet is as curious and excited about everyday sightings as an NYU freshman during orientation week. After decades as the subject of some of fashion’s most legendary photographers, she’s developed quite the knack for knowing something special when she sees it.
“I have 300,000 pictures in my phone. I don’t even know how that’s possible. The iCloud above my head is about to burst. But it’s the little things mostly that I find, I don’t know — it’s like my eyes are constantly focusing in on things. And I think it’s also a psychological way of extending time, perhaps, because the more I see, the more I feel,” she says.
“I take advantage of the life that we have in a strange way. I frame everything. Everything I look at everywhere now is almost turned into a little square in front of my face. Everything catches my eyes. And then I have to stop myself from not taking too many photos because people around me find me really annoying. I [take] so many s–tty pictures, but once in a while, there’s something that is special and it’s worth it.”
Christensen is as in demand as ever, but she also has the luxury of calling the shots. Instead of attending this month’s New York Fashion Week events and shows, Christensen instead headed to her place in upstate New York, “escaping to the mountains.”
“I did so many shows in the beginning; that was an incredible experience, but now it’s a whole different experience. Now I get to participate in a way where it feels more organic,” she explains. “It’s not like I don’t see it as work. I’ll go with friends or to celebrate friends, or to support and celebrate friends, but mostly I just escape to the mountains. I don’t really participate anymore.
“I went to the Cannes Film Festival and did the amfAR show, and that was really an amazing experience, to do something so different in the most beautiful place with people that I hadn’t seen for so long. But it really is different now. I used to do 24 shows a day in four different countries, and yeah. You know, there comes a point where you’ve walked the miles that you needed to walk — in high heels that are going to literally crush your feet.”
Now her days are often at home in New York, typically starting with a dog walk toward coffee, sitting in the sun for a bit before heading to work, which is followed by another long walk, tidying up at home, watching a movie or going to dinner. Christensen has been modeling since she was a child, yet when the subject of the changes in the fashion industry over her career rises, she brushes it off.
“You show up for a job, you put on the clothes, you pose, you create a story, there’s a team around you, and that’s it. I mean, really, you’re doing the same thing,” she says. “I’m doing the same thing, but with different people. Everything surrounding it is different, but it’s the same thing.”
The “Supers,” the original supermodels who were crowned as such for their dominance in fashion and culture beginning in the ’80s, are currently the most relevant that they’ve been since that heyday. As Insta models and nepo babies took over runways in the 2010s, the Supers came soaring back, in moments like the spring 2018 Versace finale, closed by Christensen, Naomi Campbell, Carla Bruni, Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer; Christy Turlington, Amber Valletta, Kate Moss and Shalom Harlow’s appearance at last fall’s Fendi x Marc Jacobs show becoming the talk of NYFW, and now an upcoming documentary from Apple+ featuring Campbell, Crawford, Turlington and Linda Evangelista reflecting on their careers and trajectory through the industry.
When asked about her closest friends in fashion, Christensen quickly says it remains “the girls.”
“We all kept a really, really tight connection because, I mean, we grew up together,” she says. “I have my three girlfriends from Denmark who I met on the first day of high school, and then I have the girls that I started working with in my early 20s in a different kind of environment. We all kind of had the same experience all the way through and no one else did. And that really bonded us in such a unique way, and we still feel that way about each other.”
The continued interest in their collective rise in fashion feels “surreal” to Christensen, but she says she also understands it.
“It’s sweet. It’s very touching. And actually the whole love and respect and excitement and tenderness that I have felt coming toward our group of women — it really sort of touches you. It’s been very special.”
She speaks like a proud sister of her peers, cheering them on in their own pursuits while she chooses her own life — one mostly kept to herself, at her apartment or upstate.
“I think it’s amazing to see your friends do something together that is so vibrant, and [you’re] so happy for your friends,” she says of the documentary. “Having been alongside them, knowing how it was, making it and creating it, makes me feel excited on their behalf that it’s now coming out. I would’ve run away screaming had I had to partake in that. So I really respect them so much for doing this. There is nothing I would’ve wanted to do less. I’m way too mellow for that. I really don’t need to make a whole thing.
“I think it’s so great that they did it, because then I can be excited about watching it through their eyes, but I’d just rather go upstate and swim in a river.”
When asked what lies ahead for her, Christensen admits to having to text her agent almost daily for instructions.
“I’m sort of a little fairy floating in, a little mermaid swimming in on set. Being in my little creative space. And all the technicalities kind of just go right over my head,” she says. “Honestly, I never made plans before either. And I’m very grateful for that because it really allows me to stay and live in the moment. Living in the moment keeps you in a present time bubble, and I’m doing all of this because I really wish that we didn’t die. I love life, and if a vampire ever passed me, I would be like, ‘Get to it. Drink up, my friend.’”
Hair by Orlando Pita at Home Agency
Makeup by Soo Park at The Wall Group
Model: Helena Christensen for EWG Management
Senior market editor, Accessories: Thomas Waller
Styling: Emily Mercer
Fashion assistant: Ari Stark