American beauty: An interview with model Carolyn Murphy

American beauty: An interview with model Carolyn Murphy

Timeless treasure

Text: Stacey Chia

Image: Joe Schildhorn @ BFA

The iconic model celebrates her 15th year as the face of the American beauty brand. Buro sits down with her for an exclusive tête-à-tête in New York

Models score campaign contracts all the time, but few have gone on to last 15 years, as model Carolyn Murphy's partnership with Estée Lauder has. It's a relationship that has gone far beyond formalities. She takes frequent vacations with Aerin Lauder (Estée Lauder's granddaughter), style and image director of Estée Lauder and creative director of lifestyle brand Aerin; surfs with Lauder's son, and she certainly counts herself as part of the brand, using the pronoun "we", not "they" each time she refers to it.

Given her long-term partnership, we bet that Murphy has put numerous products from the brand to the test. During a rare visit to Estée Lauder's private office, we catch up with the model and find out which are her favourite products and her secret to flawless skin at 43.

As Estée Lauder's brand ambassador for the last 15 years, you've obviously gone through many different products from the brand, tell us about the ones you love. 
The 3-Step Skin Care System from Clinique is kinda a rite of passage. For me, being an American that was the first skincare regime, and then I graduated into Prescriptives. But by my late teens, all I wanted was Estée Lauder. Advance Night Repair has been a product that I've used religiously for years, and also the Re-Nutriv cream — I love this new one with the floral elixir in there; I feel the difference and I see the difference. I also love a great lip colour. Like today, I was struggling with my outfit, but once I put on a great lip colour (she had Pure Colour Envy in Red Ego on), it just changes everything. I love Aerin Lauder's perfume as well; I have Rose De Grasse on today.

What has been the most unforgettable experience in the last 15 years of working with the brand?
The first one would obviously be when they told me that I would be working with the brand. I was driving from my farm upstate and taking my daughter for one of her first paediatric appointments. Cell phones had really just kind of become popular. I just remember pulling over, pulling the antenna, listening in, and just screaming and crying out of happiness.

Flying to LA to do some of the first test shoots; working with one of the greatest photographers of all time, Herb Ritts; meeting Aerin and developing a friendship with her. What's really special is growing up with the brand and being part of the family.

Murphy at Carine Roitfeld's Icons event in New York
What are some of the beauty tips that you've shared with your daughter?
She gives me a lot of tips these days. She goes to the lab with Aerin — she's so into beauty and beauty products, and I think it's because she has grown up with it. I have funny pictures of her where she is about two-and-a-half or three years old in our home in California. Her face is covered in blue, red, and purple — she has makeup everywhere, and she's just in her diaper and socks.

She's always taking my products, but recently, I was getting ready and I noticed she had a powder from The Estée Edit with her, and I was like "wait, wasn't that sent to me, how did you get that?", and for the first time, she said "no, those products were sent to me." I was more of a tomboy at her age, but secretly loved beauty, and so I love watching her and listening to her talk about it.

Your skin is flawless. What has been key to achieving that?
It's really not flawless. I'm 43, things are changing. I try not to think about it too much. I just think that if I can use great skincare, it's really a way to help combat the signs of ageing. It's important to me that I spend extra time doing that. And why not? It's an investment. My mom has incredible skin, and she has always taught me the importance of eating well and drinking a lot of water. I try and make sure that I get eight hours of sleep, which is really hard in this day and age. I feel like I know what I need to do to take care of it, but over the years, I've had different challenges with it. 

What is your everyday beauty look?
I would say it's quite natural. I love great mascara. Sometimes, I'll use Bronze Goddess bronzer and sweep it on my eyelids and cheeks just to kind of make it look like I'm not tired even if I am, but even if I'm not tired, I'll get an extra pop from it. I use Clinique's Black Honey lip gloss, which I've used for I don't know how many years. It's a refresher on the lip and sometimes I'll put it on my cheeks. That's pretty much it for the day look.

For the night time, I just love to play with lip colour. I'm experimenting and having a lot of fun with the new lip pencils in shimmery greens and coppers from Estée Lauder. But then, I do have that classic red lip that I love for the night.