Life can be transformed, and there is no better example than the marvelous Carré Otis. From being a supermodel, former fixture of the gossip pages, former heroin addict, former abused girlfriend of Mickey Rourke, former anorexic…once accidentally shot with one of Mickey’s guns, once held as a virtual prisoner of his, all while being the face of brands such as Guess and Calvin, hers was a life of extraordinary extremes. Having read her book Beauty, Disrupted, one could only characterize those years as desperately tragic.
I was offered an introduction to Carré about a year ago and, truthfully, having been in that industry myself and having heard the stories around her, I was hesitant to reach out, and I told her so when we spoke. Her response was to laugh; she agreed that I had some reason to be cautious. But that person from 25 years ago is but a memory. No longer anyone’s victim, she has blossomed into a woman of humor and power, determined to help those around her and the young girls who continue to be taken advantage of in an industry not known for its moral compass.
That first conversation led to our podcast, where we discussed her decades-long meditation practice, and how it has transformed her. Because of the news around the multiple rape investigations into her former model booker, we are catching up with Carré, who has become a friend and an inspiration. Now living in Colorado happily married with two teenage daughters, hers is a life of radical stability in contrast to how she was living in the past.
“To have worked so hard to manifest this amazing life I have… it’s so so good”
How was the past Covid year for you? How did it affect your family?
Thank you for asking. We have actually been incredibly blessed. Its been quite a deep dive into my own work, my own practice (meditation), and a reflective time with friends and family. Despite the world coming to a stop, I have been able to harness the energy to accomplish many things. I also decided to go back to school and am engaged in an amazing 18-month academic curriculum through The Institute for Aliveness to become a certified holistic health coach. A side passion of mine is alternative approaches to wellness. So TIFA was and is a great fit!
You have a couple of nearly grown daughters now, teenagers. What is life like these days for you?
My daughters are amazing! We are navigating the profundity of the teen years. It’s humbling, enlightening, terrifying, and hilarious all at once. Life is precious. Busy. Sweet. They are just really good humans so I feel so fortunate. We love each other and genuinely like each other. That’s not always the case for families.
When you were in your 20s, if someone had told you about how you would be living as you do now, how would you have reacted?
In total disbelief! How I live was actually a sort of daydream for me way back when. To have worked so hard to manifest this amazing life I have… it’s so so good.
Would you be able to tell us about what happened to you in France with Gerard?
I was a minor when I was trafficked from San Francisco, CA to NYC and then on to Paris, France and into the arms (literally) of a well-known perpetrator. I was raped repeatedly and he held all the cards. I was estranged from family, had no friends, no money… looking back, I was the textbook target for human trafficking.
How are things going in the French courts?
There is now a criminal investigation against GM underway. 14 women have come forward. 12 others have notified the lawyers. And there will be many more. However, we need someone within the statute of limitations to move the investigation into a case against him.
Giving Models a Voice
You are now active in The Model Alliance, which was founded 2012 by model Sara Ziff along with support from others models, What does that organization do?
I have been working in some capacity with the Model Alliance for over a decade. Sara Ziff, the founder, reached out to me when my book Beauty Disrupted was published in 2011 by HarperCollins. It was an exposé on many things but there was a chapter detailing my experiences in Paris, France. In 2012, the Model Alliance was established to give models a voice in their work.
Since then, the Model Alliance restructured as a new entity with a broader mission, and I have been working with them in a variety of ways. Through strategic research, policy initiatives, and campaigns, we aim to promote fair treatment, equal opportunity, and more sustainable practices in the fashion industry, from the runway to the factory floor. I am but one voice in an organization of many models.
Our community occupies a powerful platform to campaign for transformative change. Models are some of the most visible workers in the world, and the multi-national companies we represent have a disproportional impact on public health, our environment, and working people’s lives. To effect change, we all need to have a voice in our work. That voice can take many forms, from industry surveys to committees and campaigns. (See this week’s 60minutes exposé here.)
You had a bout with heroin many years back. What are your thoughts on addiction?
I love Gabor Maté’s approach: Dr. Maté, the renowned addiction expert, calls for a compassionate approach toward addiction, whether in ourselves or in others. Dr. Maté believes that the source of addictions is not to be found in genes but in the early childhood environment. The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts, his most recent best-selling book, draws on cutting-edge science and real-life stories to show that all addictions originate in trauma and emotional loss. There are so many reasons for addiction. We are all trying to heal trauma.
You also had some issues with food, which I think has got be one of the hardest things to get right as it is so tied to body image. How do you think about food these days?
I love food. I am 100% recovered from decades of a series of eating disorders. Food is sacred. It fuels us. I am fortunate.
“There are so many reasons for addiction. We are all trying to heal trauma”
Some people’s drinking has accelerated during Covid. Could you tell us about The Bare Mama Project? How is it different from other organizations like AA?
The Bare Mama Project is an initiative aimed at helping people becoming conscious of how much they are drinking and its effect on their lives. It is not an abstinence program or a 12-step recovery program; it is more about helping people gain awareness around what may have become a bigger part of their lives than they realize. With the endless mom-needs-her-wine memes and the skyrocketing alcohol sales, we felt we needed to get in creation mode and help. So we took the initial “shelter in place”-time to create our 4-week online, self-paced course. And as busy mamas ourselves, we felt it most authentic to pre-record the workshop in a format that would be most helpful and accessible to other busy mamas.
You have a dedicated yoga and spiritual practice. When did that start and what are your daily rituals? What do you gain from them?
It began when I returned from Paris. I was introduced to Tibetan Buddhism. And it stuck. Life made sense through the lens of Dharma. My spiritual life is the most important piece that informs all of my life and today I maintain a daily meditation practice and engage in teachings and retreats.
“My spiritual life is the most important piece that informs all of my life”
There is a lot of interest these days in plant medicine, especially psilocybe. What are your thoughts on that? What role do you feel these plants have?
These plants were here before doctors and medicines. They are incredibly important and we have been working with them since the beginning of time. It is critical they are revered and that humans have access to them for their path of healing if they so choose. I have been working with sacred medicines and indigenous wisdom traditions for decades and they have been a profound gift to me on my own path. I have been initiated into the Bwiti lineage of Gabon West Africa and will continue my studies and work with my Bwiti teachers.,
You have mentioned an interest in Costa Rica. Could you see yourself moving there?
We just bought a home there! One day I believe we will be there full time but first — and as long as this country holds up — we will get our girls through school then take a look!
You mentioned to me once something along the lines of you were not born to do small things. What are the big things that you want to tackle in the future?
I am here to do big things for sure. I can’t not. I can’t play small. I hope that in my lifetime I will see change — in the fashion industry as well as the global view and treatment of women. Every being on this planet deserves safety and dignity. This is my wish.
5 Tips for Serenity
As someone who has had a radical change in mindset, what would be your 5 top tips for going from a very noisy mind to a quiet, more serene mind?
- Get your feet on the earth.
- Take your shoes off and walk.
- Sit with yourself.
- Breath more.
- Laugh more.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables and, for Goddess sake, UNPLUG! Oh, and lots of hugs!
Main photo of Carré by Victoria Larkins.
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