In the early 90’s, Carré Otis’s exotic beauty had already graced the covers of international magazine such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and Marie Claire. By the time she was twenty she had appeared in the controversial film Wild Orchid alongside her soon to be husband Mickey Rourke. In a world where beauty, wealth and fame are parameters for judging success, Supermodel Carré Otis appeared to have it all. No wonder the media feasted on the troubled marriage to Rourke that followed soon thereafter, reporting on Carré’s struggles with drugs and a brutal eating disorder.
After a decade-long deeply reflective and spiritual journey to discover for herself who she is, Carré found the balance and serenity she sought. In her very candid memoir Beauty Disrupted, Carré shares her story along with her unique insight into the business of beauty and the high price it demands by giving an honest account of her struggle with love, identity and spirituality. Now a wife and busy mother of two she’s found a new voice as a passionate advocate for young women in and out of the modelling industry.
In an interview with Carré, I asked her the following questions:-
Tell us about your struggles with low self esteem and how this led to anorexia and addiction?
Many young women suffer from low self esteem and mine was exacerbated by working in the very competitive world of high fashion. When your life runs out of control it’s a normal human reaction to seek to ‘control’ whatever you can along with attempting to medicate the pain of suffering.
In my case, as a model under pressure to be ultra slim, it was quite a text book reaction to try to control my weight with an eating disorder. The drugs were readily available and initially seemed to act as a false crutch.
The idea of operating within healthy limits and setting personal boundaries was something I had no understanding of until I entered therapy and began to work through my issues. It was only then that I started to understand the importance of boundaries in self care and living a healthy life.
Why is body image such a big issue for women today?
The media perpetuates a great myth about women. In fact it’s a lie. The images that supposedly represent women in fact do not represent us. Not accurately. We are so much more than 17 years old, a size double zero, and ‘sexy’. This false representation has encouraged many women, both young and old, to try to live up to an impossible standard. An understandable dissatisfaction occurs when women try to achieve this ideal as every single woman will fall short at some stage in their lives even the handful who once met the mark. And sadly this concept is also perpetuated by us as women and us as mothers. The very way we speak of one another and about one another and then speak or feel about ourselves carries that energy.
I understand exactly what you mean. We very quickly think we need to diet if we wake up one day and no longer fit into our favourite pair of jeans. And the beauty industry makes a lot of money from our insecurities.
How do you feel about the ageing process?
Ha! I love it and I am of course affected by it. I love where my mind is at this age; my wisdom, my intentions, my view on life. And most of all that I have begun to relax and be at ease with who I am. But certainly I have had to adjust my expectations. What I see in the mirror today is not the same image I saw looking back at me twenty or even ten years ago. But what is important to me now is not what was so monumental a decade ago.
I would rather have my sanity than a flat belly. I would rather be strong and confident than wrinkle free! And I would rather be joyful and agile than have a head of hair with no grays!
You are very wise. What advice would you give to mothers with daughters, regarding positive body image.
This is a big and great question. The direct influence we as mothers have on our daughters is profound. The role we play in their lives has enormous consequences for how they view themselves.
Our daughters look to us as mothers and receive cues and prompts that let them know what and how they should be thinking about their bodies. A mother who does not love her body or is uncomfortable with her femininity and sexuality has a very negative impact on her daughter’s self image. I am grateful that I fully recovered from my eating disorders before I had my daughters. And I work daily at my commitment to empower them and send them positive enforcements about their body, individuality and femininity. We are careful and conscious in our household about how we speak about bodies and nutrition and health…
Your role as mother to 2 daughters is very important to you. Tell us about ‘Conscious Parenting’. On mother’s day you very wisely tweeted “my daughters know my happiness is not dependent on them.”
Yes! And this should be the case. I have done so much work on myself and I am the parent now. I really keep my role in perspective. I was in co-dependant relationships earlier in my life, feeling I was responsible for someone else’s happiness and vice versa.
Now in contrast I really feel empowered and aware of what my role is. Even in my marriage, I am responsible for me and my wellness, my husband for his. And from that place as individuals we can come together as partners and parents and do so from a place of love and responsibility as opposed to a place of neediness.
As a woman with an endless choice of eligible men, how did you end up in an abusive relationship… one that you seemed increasingly drawn back to?
I suppose the choices we make in life, including partnerships, is a reflection of where we are at and how we feel about ourselves. On a deep level I was wounded and attempting in my own way to resolve that woundedness though relationship. I’ve since learned that we work things out in relationships… often times the internal and unresolved stuff our lives.
Clearly I was not well… or I would have seen that what I was involved in was not healthy. And as I recovered, that too became clear… that my marriage was a sick one. Ultimately the only thing I could fix or was responsible for fixing was myself.
How did Yoga, meditation and therapy help you overcome addiction?
Equally they all helped me to break habits, train my mind and become conscious of my behaviour.
As with 12 step programmes, do you believe a spiritual aspect is helpful in aiding recovery?
Different things work for different people. For me, 12 Steps was never one of them.
In my case, it was all about therapy and my spiritual practices. Today I am recovered from disordered eating and I no longer abuse myself in any way. I drink wine, I eat food and I enjoy life without any need to harm myself in any way.
Most women feel they need to be validated by a man in order to feel loved yet you chose celibacy and avoided relationships for 3 years. How did that work for you?
It was the only way for me to gain perspective and it was an incredibly rewarding time for me. I had gone down the road you mentioned… needing to be validated by another. It was clear to me that wasn’t working for me. Celibacy gave me the opportunity to change my habitual beliefs and behaviourisms in favour of more conscious choices.
By taking your relationship with Matthew slowly, you learnt to surrender to the freedom and love that can be discovered, received and expressed in sexuality. I know you like talking about this. Would you mind telling us briefly your views on the big ‘O’… Orgasm.
This is what my next book is about. Wait for it!
Can’t wait Carré!
What do you think of the current trend for BDSM as espoused in ‘Fifty shades of Grey.’
I no longer require fantasy in my life. I am much more into reality, which means being present and authentic to myself and my partner. I have not read nor feel any urge to read that book.
What is your present involvement with the fashion industry?
Still modeling when it involves the right mix and working with Model Alliance to make some much needed changes within the industry.
You returned to the catwalk recently in Milan. How was that experience for you?
It was great. It was a perfect fit and good to be back with some great friends I have known for years!
Your book is a compelling read, from cautionary tale of life in the fast lane through to the final chapters where your energy and integrity shine forth. I know you are passionate about raising awareness of the issues you have survived. Can you tell us a little about how you would like to see women unite to overthrow society’s worn out stereotypes of beauty and youth.
I think it begins with us connecting and working together… raising one another up instead of tearing each other down. We are powerful and can use this energy to nurture, support, create and educate or we can use it with ill intent. I chose to come from the heart and support women.
I have daughters to teach this to and am determined the world can be a better place than it is now… especially for women.
Lastly, I know you love animals and they continue to play a big role in your family. Tell us a little bit about life at your house.
We have 4 dogs, 4 chickens, 2 daughters, 550 olive trees, 7 acres and I know we are very fortunate. Animals have always been a big part of our lives!
Thank you so much Carré Otis, for your wisdom and candour. Having enjoyed your memoir Beauty Interrupted, I look forward to your new book with eager anticipation.
You can find out more about Carré Otis at http://beautydisrupted.com/info/
What a gorgeous, inspiring interview. As a former model and recovered anorexic, I relate to Carre’s story. She is a prime example of the empowerment that can follow such struggles.
Every time I hear a woman express glee over aging, I want to jump up and down! Living lives we’re passionate about makes everything better, not less. Poor body image is not about vanity, but the desire to be and feel we’re worthy. Age should enhance that.
Thanks both of you for bringing a voice to notions every woman — and man — should hear. Amen!
Thanks for your wise comments August. You have shared so much of your own story in your very popular blogs. It’s wonderful to hear you and Carré speak out about embracing the joys of growing older. Great that you have learnt so much from your battles with eating disorders and are now in a position to advise other young women.
Yungian scholar Clarissa Pinkola Estes encourages women to gain freedom, laughter and wisdom with age. I love her famous quote; – “If you have yet to be called a defiant incorrigible woman, do not worry, there is still time.”
To read August McLaughlin’s blogs, you’ll find the link on her photo or try: – http://augusclaughlin.wordpress.com
I really enjoyed this interview. Mary writes extremely well. Carre’s answers were refreshing and wise. She obviously has grown a lot in wisdom over the years, or perhaps the life events uncovered a wisdom that was already there. Carre is a wonderful teacher for young females (and older ones too) today, and I benefited from her remarks myself. Many of us, female and male, have work to do in learning to love and accept ourselves. Thanks. – Harry
So glad you enjoyed the interview Harry. Thanks for your compliment and observations.
Great interview. Wonderful for Carre to share her story to help other women out there that need encouragement. Just read this! Machel
Thanks for stopping by Machel. Yes Carre’s story is inspiring and reminds us to connect to our through selves. We feel free to express our femininity when we are less hung up on conforming to societal expectations. It’s great that so many of us who have previously worked in the fashion industry now resonate with this. Looking forward to your book Machel:)