Photographer - Peter Lindberg
Most people recall Helena Christensen as the sultry girl on the beach in Chris Isaak’s iconic “Wicked Game” video. She is also arguably one of the world’s most beautiful women. I met Helena while we were both modeling in the 90s and we have since remained close friends. What makes Helena stand apart from any other person is that she and her late boyfriend, INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence, first introduced me to my current husband of twenty years, Joe Coffey, who’s also CEO of our fashion brand Little Joe Woman. I will always be grateful for our friendship and largely credit Helena for helping me meet the love of my life!
Photographer - Phoebe de Croisset
Before I share some anecdotes about our twenty-five year friendship, I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on her impact on fashion. Helena entered the modeling world just at the apex of the supermodel phenomenon in the late 80s and early 90s. Along with Linda (Evangelista), Christy (Turlington), Naomi (Campbell), Cindy (Crawford), Yassy (Le Bon), and myself, Helena was among a group of twenty-five of us who modeled around the globe at that time. While Linda was the chameleon, Christy the classic beauty and Cindy the American bombshell, Helena’s multi-ethnic look made her an outlier in the industry and her unique beauty immediately set her apart. And the designers and photographers loved it!
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark to a Danish father and Peruvian mother, Helena’s exotic and ethereal beauty was prescient as the fashion industry was consolidating and becoming more inter-connected and global. And so her look was perfect for the times. She became a favorite of designers like, Karl Lagerfeld, Azzedine Alaia and Gianni Versace who described her as having "the most beautiful body in the world". Helena was super beautiful, had an amazing body (and still does), and photographers just died to photograph her! She shot with all the biggest photographers at the time: Sante D’Orazio, Richad Avedon, Helmut Newton, Peter Lindbergh, and Herb Ritts. Herb was also moving into directing music videos and suggested Helena for Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game’ video, which MTV subsequently appointed their Sexiest Video of All Time. That video cemented her supermodel status (and to this day, people still stop in their tracks when it plays).
Helena in the South Of France
In the 90s, many of the rock stars had become our peers (and a dating pool to many of my fellow models). Helena had started dating Michael Hutchence. I have such fond memories of spending time with them at their home in the South of France. Helena and I would drive daily to Ikea to buy bits and pieces to furnish it. We would have great meals together as both Michael and Helena were amazing cooks (she loves cheese by the way). They would have their friends over at the house and cook wonderful meals. Michael even taught me how to clean and cook mussels in a white wine sauce...
One of my most memorable (and best) times with them was when they invited me to Australia for the first time. We flew to Brisbane where we celebrated Christmas with Michael’s family. We then drove down to Sydney for New Year’s Eve in Michael’s vintage Jaguar via Byron Bay. And not to be outdone, we somehow got a flat tire along the way! Our destination was Kinsela’s, the hottest nightclubs in Sydney owned by Michael’s friend Joe Coffey. Of course, we turned up at the very fashionably late hour of four o’clock in the morning. I first met Joe that evening but it would be months later when we would connect again.
Sante D’Orazio, a photographer well known for his sensual and sexy photographs of supermodels and actresses was having a party in his downtown loft in Soho, New York. At this time, Helena and I were living in New York. As luck and a bit of fate would have it, Helena re-introduced Joe and I and fast forward to three years, we were married in the Hamptons, New York. Helena was a bridesmaid along with Cindy, Yassy, my sister & my best friend from school. It was a five-day wedding celebration and we all shared the most amazing time together.
Gail Elliott & Helena Christensen on the Oscar De La Renta runway in New York
After many years Joe and I eventually left New York and moved to Sydney….four years ago we moved to Bali but I’m so happy my friendship with Helena has endured both time and geography. I can’t say enough about her: she’s warm, gorgeous, wickedly smart and funny. If you follow her Instagram account, you will remark on her quick wit and self-deprecating sense of humour. She has the most amazing mind and a worldview unlike any other person whom I know. Nothing seems to get on her nerves; she flicks potential irritating situations off with a wave of her hand and an eye roll and it’s forgotten. That’s truly a gift.
Today, Helena is a woman who inspires me as a designer. A devoted mother, photographer, and model (she last walked the runway for Donatella Versace along with fellow supers Cindy, Naomi, Carla (Bruni) and Claudia (Schiffer), she’s effortlessly cool and has a personal style that’s all her own. She represents the best attributes in women. She is truly a Little Joe Woman.