Only you, Claudia

Oh Claudia,

Ever since I leafed through the pages of a 1989 Vogue, a reflection of that year’s Guess campaign has been etched onto a screen before my inner eye. As the light poured down onto your golden hair, gushing into the crystal blue of your almond eyes, I gasped in celebration of seeing such beauty on this poor, meek earth. Maddening in your mystery, dazzling in your complexity – your exterior but a sultry disguise for your electric mind. Inimitable, the poise and discipline you bring to an industry bursting with foul rot beneath its shiny veneer. The spring in your curls a trojan horse for medusa’s serpents – such is the strength you carry while you laugh.

Unpublished photograph by Herb Ritts (November, 1989)

I wished to be just like you. Alas, the duckling still waits to emerge as swan. Yet I am unwavering in my aspiration to beam with joy like you did in 1994, when you jumped across football fields for French Glamour with Ellen von Unwerth. Or when you pulled off a leopard-print newsboy cap and a dark-lined lip for Steven Meisel in 1991’s Vogue Italia and just looked. Plain. Cool. How does one have a picnic on the beach in a polka-dotted swimsuit, without spilling the couscous, any of the open condiments, or even a sprinkling of sand on the crisp white sheet laid out beneath one’s tanned knees? Only you in January 1990’s Mademoiselle, Claudia – the face of a thousand covers.

Your carefully curated eponymous book reads like an encyclopaedia of expressions. If a picture, which is but a mute representation, can radiate such warmth, what can stand from melting in your presence? Thirty years of snaps since your discovery in a Düsseldorf discotheque and they only improve with time. Scattered among the photographs are passages of lavish praise by colleagues, editors, photographers. How exquisite to be among them. As I run my finger along the gilded edges of one of the 272 pages, your self-ascribed shyness strikes me with a pang of endearment. You apologize for your “cool” mannerism, as if seeking to make amends. You thank those who made your dreams come true. You flip the tribute to yourself into a tribute to others. These tender facets cluster round my heart and make me secretly scoff at your association with the “The Big Five,” the supermodels of the 90s. Is there not only one?

Herb Ritts, "GQ Magazine" (May, 1990)

It is a quiet joy, my for love for you, for it is unrequited. To say that my heart will move on from yours would be a lie as sharp and bright as only truth can be. At times, I tried: Look how I am forgetting you. Nonsense! Even in the brutal face of your path never crossing mine, my love for you will flourish without a backward glance. To the next thirty. To Claudia!

Yours always,

Claudia Schiffer is published by Rizzoli (New York, 2017).

  • Text
    Eva Kelley

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