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Women CAN be sexy (and seductive) in midlife

Almost a quarter of a century has passed since model Eva Herzigova stripped down to a pair of black lace panties and an exceptionally uplifting bra to share her fabulously fulsome cleavage with the world.

She was 19 and the star of the 1994 Wonderbra campaign, one of the most famous advertising campaigns ever. In one picture, blown up on motorway billboards and captioned ‘Hello Boys!’, she looked down at her bosoms and giggled. In another, she looks up and smirks: ‘Or are you just pleased to see me?’ She oozed sex, promise and fun.

Men drove off the road, into each other, into parked cars. Women rushed out and bought 30,000 bras a week. The campaign won endless international awards, turned its chief creative Trevor Beattie into a star and boosted Wonderbra sales by 41 per cent.

Eva, meanwhile (after embracing the first flush of fame — who wouldn’t?), vowed never to trade on her wondrous boobs again. ‘I tried to steer away from lingerie after having Wonderbra written on my forehead every time I walked out,’ she says in her sexy, soft Czech accent.

Eva Herzigova, 45, (pictured in Yamamay’s new advert) shot to fame at age 19 as the face of Wonderbra. She shared her transition from sex symbol to high-fashion supermodel 

Instead, she married a rock star, got divorced, lost weight, reinvented herself as a high-fashion supermodel, gracing countless Vogue covers and working for everyone from Chanel to Versace. (She is currently the face of Dior’s luxury beauty line). She also fell deeply in love again and became a mother.

So what a surprise it is to see her back in her undies again, aged 45. She’s in the same poses and, decades later, astonishingly unchanged — a glossy blonde vision of flat tummy, smooth skin and impossibly slinky thighs. But this time it’s for Italian brand Yamamay rather than Wonderbra and, to chime with the changing times, with a tagline not for all those slavering men of the Nineties, but a message of strength and togetherness for the sisterhood: ‘Hey Girls! #myconfidentbeauty.’ It’s a call from Eva, apparently, to modern, successful women at home and at work.

‘This is about confidence, the whole movement is that women should be comfortable with who they are,’ she says. ‘It should be inclusive. It’s about looking for one’s self. It’s for everyone — whatever your gender, body shape, size or colour.’

Which is a wonderful and very important message. Not, of course, that Eva’s body is quite like the rest of ours.

Yes, she’s a middle-aged mother wrestling with sleepless nights, hormones and three gorgeous bouncy boys.

But she’s also very tall, very slim, very beautiful and boasts a midriff of steel, despite, she claims, neither dieting nor doing a minute of formal exercise — no pilates, no yoga, no gym, not a single sit up.

She tells me she did the Yamamay campaign with less than 24 hours’ notice, for goodness’ sake!

Even Liz Hurley admits she’s had to semi-starve herself on not much more than raisins before modelling shoots. For years Kate Moss embraced detox cleanses.

‘Oh it’s just good lighting! A very good photographer!’ she says. ‘But thank God I was waxed!’

Eva (pictured age 19 in Wonderbra's 1994 advert) says when she began modelling careers usually ended by age 24

Eva (pictured age 19 in Wonderbra’s 1994 advert) says when she began modelling careers usually ended by age 24

Of course she was; she is an utter professional. When we meet, she’s shattered — floaty, almost, from lack of sleep — after being up since 1am with her five-year-old son. But instead of cancelling, she slaps on a bit more make-up and a see-through maroon floaty dress instead of her usual jeans.

‘I was like, oh my God, I can’t show up like that!’ she says.

She is also refreshingly chatty about everything — from bikini lines to unwelcome sexual advances, the huge changes in the modelling industry to the loves of her life. But given it is Eva and we’re here to talk lingerie campaigns, it seems appropriate to start with her world famous bosom which, she admits, was slow to blossom.

‘I was a late bloomer! And I was very skinny,’ she says. ‘When I arrived in Paris aged 16 I went through puberty and everything just exploded!’ she giggles.

Eva was never quite like the other supermodels. She hails from the former communist Czech Republic, speaks five languages fluently, prefers architectural magazines and cookbooks to fashion mags and, inspired by her strict father, has a strong work ethic.

On the catwalk, I’m 20 years older than most of the girls. I used to feel an old veteran. Now we’re just a reality — beautiful women who are older 

Not many models could make the transition from sexy pin-up. Or, for that matter, work solidly for three decades. ‘When I started, a modelling career would usually end at 24,’ she says. ‘Reach 28 and everyone would be going “wow”!’

She also dismisses out of hand any thought of cosmetic enhancement to smooth things over a bit.

‘Have you seen the models lately? Oh my gosh!’ she says. ‘I don’t like those frozen looks. It’s not my thing. I want to be inspirational that way to women. Age is inevitable. You change and it’s fine. I want to be an example that you don’t have to do it.’

She isn’t even very bothered about skincare and insists she doesn’t have a bathroom full of face creams.

‘I’m a very pragmatic person. For me it is a waste of time. I cannot lie down somewhere and pamper myself,’ she says. ‘Probably I should do more! But I wash my face, I hydrate. It’s important, but as I get older my skin is so reactive that the less I do the better.’

Eva is now engaged to Gregorio Marsiaj (pictured together at London's V&A museum), father of her three sons

Eva is now engaged to Gregorio Marsiaj (pictured together at London’s V&A museum), father of her three sons

As well as never dieting or going to the gym (‘I run around with my boys instead — they are like firecrackers!’) she never, ever, weighs herself.

‘It is such a silly thing for people to do. ‘Oh, I’m half a kilo more!’ What does it matter?’ she says. ‘Of course your weight fluctuates.’

Instead, she’s far too busy juggling work, kids (there’s no live-in nanny) and a home life which, from her Instagram feed, looks more like an eternal interiors shoot than the messy reality that the rest of us inhabit.

It must all feel light years from her own childhood in the town of Litvinov, where her fierce but much-loved father — a mining operative who swam for the country — ruled with an iron will.

‘We were like soldiers! At the table we had to be silent, sit straight, listen. We grew up a bit in fear! Sometimes I wish my kids behaved like that.’

Back then, it was her elder sister Lenka who was the real beauty everyone ‘was cracking for’.

I never chose my men on their physical appearance 

Eva was the tomboy, skinny, sporty (‘Swimming, basketball, gymnastic, athletics — I was good at everything’ she says), cheeky and obsessed with her gorgeous sister.

So when Lenka was asked to model in a local clothes show, Eva offered to iron the clothes just so she could be included.

But the moment she set foot on the runway, she was spotted and, after a six-month visa delay, made her way to Paris where she worked for Guess Jeans, was on the cover of British Vogue and then, in 1994, after her boobs had duly ‘exploded’, the Wonderbra campaign.

She still insists it was a lot more about female empowerment than male titillation, even with all those cars veering off the roads.

Eva (pictured at New York Fashion Week 2018) recalls having a really hard time for being thin after coming off the Pill

Eva (pictured at New York Fashion Week 2018) recalls having a really hard time for being thin after coming off the Pill

‘Usually the woman is objectified — just lying there,’ she says. ‘This was fun, about movement, about a woman pleasing herself. And with really clever slogans. The two campaigns are not so different, really.’

Overnight she became a global sex symbol, her photo Blu Tacked to bedroom walls around the world. And, sadly, a magnet for more than her fair share of creeps. In Paris, she was plagued by men old enough to be her father. ‘They were all so much older it was like a joke.’ she says. ‘But I never felt vulnerable, I never felt fear. It was so grotesque that I just laughed at it.’

Not all suitors, however, were unwelcome. When Eva was 22 she fell in love with Tico Torres, the, drummer for Bon Jovi whom she met at a celebrity dinner in New York while he was on a world tour.

She claimed to be an aspiring model. He pretended to be a plumber, was 5 ft 4 in wearing Cuban heels to her 5 ft 11 in, and 20 years older.

Yes, I feel sexy! Or maybe sexy is not the right word for a 45-year-old. I think more attractive, seductive, sensual

‘I never chose my men on their physical appearance,’ she says. ‘Always on my heart.’

Sadly, two years later, it was over; her heart broken. Suddenly, she looked thin and gaunt and even her famous bosom seemed rather deflated.

The gossip columnists had a field day, speculating about burnout, exhaustion and eating disorders. The mundane reality, she says today, was simply that she’d come off the Pill. ‘I got a really hard time for being skinny, but I didn’t want to say to newspapers, ‘Oh yes, I’m off the Pill . . .’

She met Gregorio Marsiaj, a handsome Italian businessman, the day after the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, when her plane to New York was grounded in Italy.

He is three years her junior — a friend later let slip that his bedroom walls were plastered in pictures of Eva — and when they met, he sensibly pretended he had no idea who she was.

Eva (pictured on Dolce & Gabbana¿s spring/summer 2019 catwalk) says being pregnant is like living your youth again as your skin is amazing 

Eva (pictured on Dolce & Gabbana’s spring/summer 2019 catwalk) says being pregnant is like living your youth again as your skin is amazing 

‘He is the one, the only one. There is no one like him. He makes me positive,’ she says, all pink and glowy. ‘He is an amazing dad and it just gets better and better.’

Together they have three sons, George, 11, Philipe, seven and Edward, five, but have not married.

‘After the first time, I was never into it,’ says Eva. ‘I felt it might change things for the worse. I don’t want to become part of the house, the furniture . . .’

Two years ago, though, on her 43rd birthday, they both spontaneously proposed at exactly the same time. ‘We were fighting over who would ask. He was saying, ‘I want to!’ and I was ‘No, I want to!’

Today they are engaged (though the only ring she wears is a pretty diamond Greg bought her after George was born — ‘I’m still waiting for the other two!’) but still not married, despite the boys’ enthusiasm.

‘They see all these royal weddings and they think ours will be the same!’ she says.

Eva insists there will be no more babies — ‘maybe a puppy . . .’ — but lights up when she talks about her family and about how being a mum changed everything. Made her nicer. Made her care more.

‘You become more aware of the world around them — about recycling, you know. Before I couldn’t care.’

They also make her worry, constantly. George broke five bones by the time he was five. ‘I don’t know why. He’s tall and slim like me,’ she says.

Eva (pictured with Gregorio Marsiaj) says aging hits overnight and she now has to put extra cream on her skin after years of not thinking about it 

Eva (pictured with Gregorio Marsiaj) says aging hits overnight and she now has to put extra cream on her skin after years of not thinking about it 

Then one day she came back from the school drop-off and found Edward, then two, in spasms.

He was taken to hospital where he was given an injection into his spine, CAT scans and an MRI. In the end he was diagnosed with a viral brain infection from a stomach bug and is fine now.

‘I’m a mess. I’m always worried — about things, uncontrollable things,’ says Eva. ‘Not being able to protect them.’

It doesn’t stop her looking amazing. Gazing at her face today, there’s just a spattering of wrinkles round the eyes and the faintest of lines on her forehead, even after virtually no sleep.

But she says parenthood has taken its toll.

‘When you’re pregnant, it’s like you’re living your youth again, everything is amazing. Your skin is amazing. Your boobs are super perfect. Your hair! When you stop breastfeeding, everything falls down.’

She was, she says, in the motherhood ‘tunnel’ for ten years and then felt spat out of the other end.

‘Suddenly, oh my God! All these age things hit you overnight. I have lots of changes!’ she says.

‘I feel like I’m going through puberty. I have breakouts. And my neck skin! I never noticed my neck skin before. I’ve never even thought about it. Now I’m having to put extra cream on it. And my eyesight is rubbish. It’s getting fuzzier and fuzzier!’

It is not menopause, she insists. ‘I’m not there yet, but I’d tell you if I were!’

I bet she would, too. She is surprisingly down to earth for a supermodel. And accomplished.

Eva (pictured on Versace's Paris Fashion Week runway 2015) revealed her only regret is not pursuing an acting career

Eva (pictured on Versace’s Paris Fashion Week runway 2015) revealed her only regret is not pursuing an acting career

Eva’s only regret seems to be her acting career, which never really took off.

‘I always had nice comments on my capabilities and everyone always tells me I act when I model, but I didn’t have the right representation to follow through.’

When she met potential agents in LA it was the same sordid story. ‘It was like, ‘Oh, honey! We have Sandra [Bullock], we have Nicole [Kidman], we have Julia [Roberts]. Let’s go for dinner and talk about this.’

‘I was like, “Really? I’m not naive enough to go through this”. I wanted it, but not enough to follow those rules. That’s why I’m not an actress.’

Not that she’s short of work as a model. During Milan Fashion week in September she stole the show at Dolce & Gabbana’s Spring/Summer 2019 show in a black fairytale ballgown.

‘When I do the shows, I’m 20 years older than most of the girls,’ she says.

‘But it’s different now. You used to feel the old veteran. Now we’re not looked at in a nostalgic way, just a reality — beautiful women who are older.

‘It’s the whole evolution of society. Finally we are using models with real faces. We feel comfortable in our skin.’

And sexy?

‘Yes, I feel sexy! Or maybe sexy is not the right word for a 45-year-old. I think more attractive, seductive, sensual.’

She should also be proud — of her life, her family, her astonishingly enduring career, her amazing cast-iron midriff and her still super bosoms.

‘It’s funny,’ she muses. ‘I have done so many different jobs, but for some reason people seem to remember the Wonderbra campaign more clearly than any of my other work.’


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