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‘The 1980s was an innocent and simpler time:’ supermodel Kim Alexis

By Sigurd Neubauer

04/01/2024

Kim Alexis has been at the forefront of American life for over four decades. The former supermodel, who took America by storm during the early 1980s, is a devout Christian who promotes wellness and lifestyle advice on how to age gracefully.

Alexis started modeling in 1978. “In 1980, I was in full-swing working. At the time, the fashion centered around big hair, almost like a ‘a lion’s mane’ hair,” she recalls, with a laugh. For the supermodel, who was discovered at 17 in Buffalo, where she grew up, the fashion of the day required a lot of hair sprays for me.” Shoulder pads, beads and florescent colors were part of it as well. “We also had weird baggy athletic pants,” which quickly became a favorite for Alexis’ first son, Jamie, who was born in 1986. “He loved those pants with high-top athletic sneakers. Jamie was a real 1980s-kid.” Alexis has three boys: Jamie, Bobby, and Noah.

“At the time, people didn’t care about the personality of the model because they never opened their mouth. Our fans didn’t know what our personalities were like.” A model, Alexis explains, was “just a canvas.” 

Alexis takes pride and comfort in her Christian faith. She was raised Presbyterian, attending church every Sunday

We didn’t have press conferences at the time. One wouldn’t know whether the model was intelligent or not because she didn't speak. What has changed is that models can have a voice – before or after a shoot – on social media. Releasing a social media post similar to a press conference
 
Kim Alexis and husband Jeff Schwartz.

Modeling career 

“From the makeup artists to the fashion designer, the model was ‘their canvas’ to express themselves whether it was from doing our faces to dressing us up.” But in my subsequent career in broadcasting, I learned from other people, and I liked to speak.”

“The 1980s was open and expressive, especially if one looks at fashion.” The fashion industry as well models “weren’t afraid of mixing colors and patterns. Everything was big and bold. Everyone was making statements,” Alexis recalls but points to Madonna in particular as she took American life by storm. “The 1980s was not an angry and divisive period as it is now,” Alexis says, then quips: “At the time, it was ok to express opinions.”

The former supermodel believes that the fundamental change to the American discourse changed sometime during the 2000s, although she cannot pinpoint exactly when. “This trend is progressing as we move towards the future,” she says. The gregarious Alexis also points out facetiously that in present day America, “there is one opinion and if you have a different one, be quiet.”

Expanding on what modeling was like during the 1980s, Alexis explains that as a supermodel doors opened for her but she had to decide in which direction she wanted to go. “I was a super hard worker who liked trying new things. But if it came to having to choose between work and vacation, I would choose work. I kept my head down and I was busy.” She also opted out of many of the extracurricular activities, and “we didn’t have feedback from our fans during the 1980s and 1990s.” The social media age, she points out, is one of the significant changes between then and now. “Models can now make statements or release videos, and express various opinions, for which they will receive instant feedback. This is the main difference today compared to the 1980s and 1990s,” she says.

“In my business we were presented with so many opportunities but had to weigh what to say yes to or decline.” Alexis did not have a manager, but an agency – which represented many people – “so I had to make my own decisions, including when traveling the world.”

Responding to how she developed staying power as a supermodel within the grueling world of the fashion industry, she doesn’t mince words: “I tuned to my gut feeling and focused on the practical aspect of my personality that I have.” If an opportunity would present itself as sketchy, she would think to herself: “No, that’s not going to go anywhere. Or this is not going to lead to something great. That’s the way that I am wired. This saved me.”

At the same time, when witnessing some of her colleagues facing, at best, questionable opportunities presented to them, Alexis would think to herself: “Wait, why would you do something like that? And why would you put yourself into that situation.”

The former supermodel continues: “To be sure, I had my own problems: two failed marriages. I didn’t have the sniffer for everything, but for succeeding in the business while traveling the world, I had. I was able to deal with different personalities and different cultures. I am still here,” she says with a laugh. 

Following her modeling career, Alexis transitioned into broadcasting where she became the Fashion Correspondent for Good Morning America, a position she held from 1987-1990, commuting between New York City and Florida. “I never gave up and never rolled over and just transitioned into something else.”

For the next generation women aspiring to a career in modeling, Alexis advises that they must have something else to rely on and to have an inner strength. It is important to have an education and other skills to fall back on, she explains, then adds: “If you’re a young girl and you only have one thing that you’re good at, and that one thing is taken away from you, what will you do,” Alexis posits rhetorically. An aspiring model “must have hope and know how to valuate oneself.”

Alexis, for example, had initially thought that she would become a pharmacist. She studied pharmacology at the University of Rhode Island

Many of Alexis’ colleagues have charted out different courses after finishing up their modeling careers, she reveals. One became a real estate agent, and another an interior designer. Alexis pursued broadcasting and the speaking circuit; she also authored numerous books on a healthy lifestyle. 

“We all have different talents and found ways to use the confidence that we had gained from modeling to pursue different paths.” Alexis, for her part, is driven by curiosity to seek answers to topics that are important to her. Now, she is interested in pursuing what she describes as “clean living,” which helps to age gracefully. She is driven by her curiosity to explore new and better ways of being healthy.

Alexis is passionate about promoting a clean living and healthy lifestyle
The 1980s was not an angry and divisive period as it is now

Christian faith 

Alexis was raised Presbyterian, attending church every Sunday. At the age of 17, she even became an Elder at her local church. But when moving to New York City a year later, “all of that fell apart,” she recalls. But after a failed marriage, the supermodel wanted to return to church. She even had a nanny who inspired her to “turn back to Jesus and follow His way of doing.” For Alexis, Bible study is also important as “it changes your mindset; it changes how you view life and people. And self-development is an important aspect of it,” the former supermodel explains.

On whether she brings up her Christian faith in conversations, Alexis pauses, then quips: “I don’t tend to step on a soap box and start preaching as I am careful about reading the situation that I am in.” At the same time, she prefaces: “I am always trying to give God credit and to make awareness about His existence. We have lost that in today’s society. God is pushed aside, and He is not given any credit. Being aware of Him in everyday life is important to me,” she says.

I am always trying to give God credit and to provide awareness  about His existence

Women in America, aging gracefully 

Commenting on to what extent the role of women in America has changed over the course of four decades, “we have more opportunities today as it is more acceptable in society to be a top executive and women have gained strength. It is ok now more than in the 1980s what do to with the children, there are even stay home dads.”

Alexis also points out that there are two types of women: the strong, driven, family driven, warm, kind and supportive of other women. Then there is the woman who is petty, mean, heartless, and opinionated. For Alexis’ fanbase – who are mostly comprised of her contemporaries who have followed her over the past four decades – “95 percent of them fall in the gracious category.” 

On whether the less than graceful part of women – which Alexis occasionally encounters on social media – where she reads every comment – has always been there, she says: “Now, the opinionated and spiteful and mean people have a platform to express it. But they have almost become comedic in how they tear themselves apart. Women are harder on each other, and more generous with each other, but it all depends on the personality.”

“Clean living is the basis of everything,” Alexis explains while emphasizing that aging gracefully is connected to lifestyle. “It is a combination of what one eats, how one thinks, and what a person exposes him or herself to.” But it is about what one person chooses to dedicate time to, and of course, what one eats. “All of these factors, along with community, are essential for aging gracefully. 

“I come from marketing – which is what modeling is – but now my emphasis is on what the product does to a person. The more natural the better. Everything is cause and effect. We must decide what kind of products we want to get and where we want to be in our health. There is so much information available that one can learn on everything from whether the detergent that is used in the family home is toxic. What I am trying to do is to get this information out.”

All images of Kim Alexis are credited to Phyllis Lane. 

Aging gracefully is connected to lifestyle. It is a combination of what one eats, how one thinks, and what a person exposes him or herself to
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