How Christie Brinkley's schooling a senator on nuclear weapons was a lesson for all

Christie Brinkley with Debbie White and Randi Zuckerberg at the Merz Aesthetics Women Empowerment Panel in NYC on Monday. (Photo: Myrna M. Suarez/Getty Images)

Christie Brinkley is beautiful, and she has brains, but sometimes the latter gets overshadowed by her looks.

Alongside cosmetic dermatologist Patricia Wexler and entertainment lawyer Debbie White, Brinkley participated in a panel moderated by businesswoman and entrepreneur Randi Zuckerberg in New York City on Monday. The presentation, hosted by Merz Aesthetics, a company the supermodel partnered with last year (she uses their Ultherapy and Xeomin), saw the women discussing beauty, sexist double standards, and how their ages and romantic partners often get more attention than their important projects or accomplishments.

After the panel, Yahoo Lifestyle had one-on-one time with Brinkley in which she discussed how she learned to use her looks to help her stance on issues. “I think I’ve been able to work with it and try to use it to my advantage for the most part, but I am aware that there is definitely a stereotype,” she admits. “As I said in my talk, you can use it to disarm people because they aren’t really expecting you to know what you’re talking about.”

And she’s very open about her ability to stand up for herself and what she believes in. In 2002, she raised concerns about the reauthorization of the Price-Anderson Act. A New Mexico senator mistook her level of intelligence and thought he was asking her a question she couldn’t answer. #Wrong. Instead, Brinkley pushed on.

“He’s a huge pro-nuke and pro-oil guy, and he really tried to ask me this question — he thought he was showboating — saying, ‘Oh, if there were to be an event that happened, we would take care of them,'” she recalled. “First, he stepped in because he was talking about subsidies, and I said, ‘You know, I’m sorry but there’s something called the Price-Anderson Act. The Price-Anderson Act says if a nuclear power plant were attacked in a war, and since Bush has declared a state of war on terrorism, if a terrorist were to attack a power plant, then technically the Price-Anderson Act would say that they’re not beholden to paying you back for any of your losses — whether it’s your health, your home, your business.’ Therefore, all these people living near a nuclear power plant need to know right now that despite getting this low-level radiation every day, they feel this false sense of security because America comes with these tags: Put your seatbelt on, wear your bike helmet, don’t remove this. … You feel like somebody’s really reaching out for [you], but if [you] were attacked by a terrorist, you’re on your own.”

Christie Brinkley at a dinner for Alessia Antinori in NYC on Feb. 21. (Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFA/Rex/Shutterstock

Brinkley isn’t just standing up for others, she’s taught her (now-grown) daughters, singer Alexa Ray Joel and model Sailor Brinkley Cook, how to do the same.

“One thing I always say to them is that a lot of things in life are about your intentions,” Brinkley says. “If you have good intentions, then you don’t ever have to be ashamed because whether it fails or succeeds, your intentions are in the right place. Always know what your intentions are. I always taught my daughters to treat everybody with respect and kindness. I think that intentions, respect, kindness will really take you pretty far.”

Brinkley and her family, also including son Jack Brinkley-Cook:

Personally, Brinkley finds her confidence though intentions as well. “To be confident to walk into a room and sit and talk, it goes to intentions,” she says. “My intentions are to hopefully impart some sort of useful information and hope that everybody isn’t bored out of their mind, and so, knowing that, I try to do my best.”

Brinkley also feels self-assured after listening to music. “I find that music really lifts [me] if I’m feeling down or whatever. Everything from Joni Mitchell to Beyoncé, music puts me back in touch with my true self and makes me know where I’ve come from, where I’ve gotten to. It grounds me, but it also propels me,” she says. (For the record, her favorite Beyoncé song is “Single Ladies.”)

Celebrating women and instilling confidence in others and is important to the entrepreneur. She’s going to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, but, more important, she supports other women on a daily basis — and reminds women to be kind to one another.

“I was just talking with Bellissima,” she says, referring to her prosecco and sparkling wines line, “about how we can celebrate women on our site there, and that I want to do something special — maybe with my girls. Last year, my daughters and I did posts on our Instagram. I think a great place to start would be a donation to the Malala Foundation. I think she’s so wonderful in what she’s doing.”

But Brinkley wants more.

“It’s still in many ways a man’s world. So I think that it really is a time for women to go out of their way to be supportive of other women. Men have just dominated and ruled this world. Like try to get a [fair] divorce in this man-dominated world? It’s just next to impossible,” says the mom of three, who went through a bitter divorce with her fourth husband, Peter Cook. “That’s my big wish — that the #MeToo movement right now can consolidate momentum with actual laws and legislation …  to turn all this goodwill and this passion into actual laws that will protect women and families. New laws need to be written [in family court and divorce court]. … But I feel that whatever we can do as women to support other women. On Instagram I’m always trying to remind women of that: ‘C’mon, let’s support one another. Let’s agree to disagree. But if you’re going to do it, let’s do it respectfully. Let’s hear each other’s opinions. Let’s not get into name calling and all that.’ It happens.”

Speaking of name-calling, it isn’t always easy to be a boss woman without coming off as “harsh,” but it is necessary to get your point across. “I think that you always have to speak up for what you believe in, and it goes back again to intentions. They really do flow through everything you do,” says Brinkley. “Your intentions of saying what you think will make things better in some way. You have to hold your ground, and speak up. Who cares what they think about you? If I cared about all the things that people say. … You have to know that you’re doing your best — and your intentions are to make things better and the people that you meet happier.”

Brinkley adds that her final decision to get involved with a cause or event always relates back to helping women. “[In] my business, I always ask: ‘Do I want to do this or not? Is this going to be helpful in some ways? Is this going to give another woman more confidence or make her life easier, or make her happy in some way?’ If I can answer yes to any of those questions, then I know that I’m onto something and I get into that business.”

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