Model and actress Charlotte McKinney splashes down for real talk about the industry, Insta and how she maintains that insane figure.
She was of the first generation of models to reach stratospheric success by posting photos on social media. Now, Charlotte McKinney is shifting gears—and getting real.
This past December, @charlottemckinney hit the “share” button and took a deep breath. She put her phone away and waited a few hours before she opened Instagram again. It was a scary moment that signaled a turning point for the actress. For the first time in her life as a public figure, she had really and truly exposed herself.
Sit with that for a moment. Because we are, after all, talking about Charlotte McKinney: the 26-year-old model and actress who a mere five years ago starred in a Carl’s Jr. Super Bowl commercial that left very little to the imagination. Who wore skimpy swimsuits in the Baywatch reboot. And whose cleavage was the star of a Guess lingerie campaign. The girl has been exposed. This was different.
“I just said F it. It is what it is. Take it or leave it,” says McKinney about the decision to publish the post. The “it” she refers to was an honest portrayal of what the last 12 months had been like for McKinney, who suffers from a chronic pain condition. It signaled the beginning of McKinney’s new chapter, one that is raw, unfiltered and resonates now more than ever with the millions that follow her every “share.”
How are you doing since the pandemic began?
The pandemic has definitely changed a lot for me—from my day-to-day routine to looking at the bigger picture. It’s really made me understand less is more, and that you don’t need that much to be happy. I’ve simplified my life over the last few months, and I’ve taken this time to learn how grateful I am. As for my wellness routine, I’ve tried to mimic my prequarantine lifestyle. I transformed my guest room into a hot yoga studio; I purchased a mini trampoline for indoor cardio. I’ve spent more time on my daily meditation, breathwork and practicing gratitude. A positive of all of this is that it’s been a good time to reflect on what’s really important.
How do you like to unwind in the Hamptons? A weekend in the Hamptons is the perfect combination of relaxation and fun times. I love going for a girls’ weekend, and we always stay at the incredible Dune Deck property. It is a one-stop destination: the beach, pools, beach volleyball, cocktails, delicious food and a really awesome wellness program. I also love the local restaurants and am a big fan of an afternoon at the Wölffer winery.
How has your relationship with social media evolved? I grew up right when Instagram started, and I just used it to post modeling pictures. And now everyone wants to see everything. They don’t care just about pretty pictures—they want to see everything. What I’m eating, what I’m doing, me looking perfect and also me not looking perfect. I am trying to adjust because now it’s not just about a pretty Instagram picture. I’m trying to grow with how the internet is growing, which is kind of scary, and I definitely have trouble with it.
Bathing suit by Hunza G at intermixonline.com
Do you think about how these decisions you make—about what to share or not share—influence other women who are watching you on social media? I started noticing that whether it was a celebrity or an influencer, when people spoke about real things that were going on in their lives, I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I don’t feel as alone about this topic.’ And if I’m taking this in, I can’t imagine what other women have taken from me. So I’m trying to find more of a voice in that sense of everything is not perfect; this is how it is. And building more of a female audience. It’s about letting go, putting away the Photoshop and the filter, and being more raw and honest.
Is that difficult for you? To be totally honest, it’s really hard for me. I’m trying to find a way to do that, because I’m learning that I react more when people are honest and real and open. It’s fun to figure out how to do it in the right way.
Sweater by Ronny Kobo at intermixonline.com
Let’s talk about women in the entertainment industry. This goes all the way back to being a model when I started out. Castings, everything—you went into anything with this sickening feeling. You just never really knew what to expect, if the casting was with a male photographer or this and that. In that day and age, there weren’t any borders. There wasn’t anyone telling you to call your agent if this happens. There wasn’t any of that. And now I feel like that would never happen. Seeing younger girls, it makes me feel better. If they are in a bad situation, it’s something they can feel more open to talking about. I remember being so young and just wanting to work and meet people. And it was a really dangerous and scary business. I always said that if I had a daughter, I would never want her to be a model. But it’s changing for all the best reasons.
We don’t see much of your personal life on social media. I’ve always kept everything pretty private because there are a lot of things in my life that aren’t private. But this past year I went through a lot with my health. And I realized that opening up helped get me through these dark times. In the past I would never talk about my health or anything like that. But I realized I have this platform, I have this condition, and I felt so much better after I shared my own struggles. Everyone is in a battle. But I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I can talk about this and not feel ashamed.’
Sicilian Sky suede cropped utility jacket, $3,500, and Sicilian Sky suede elasticated-waist shorts, $1,990, both at Salvatore Ferragamo, Americana Manhasset
Are you comfortable now talking about the condition you have? I’ve always had a kidney condition, and as I got older things just took a turn for the worse. Like I said, it wasn’t only physical. Not being able to do a job or not being able to go to an event, always being home by myself—it turned into a bit of depression. It’s something I still don’t feel totally comfortable talking about, but it’s something that happened.
What advice would you give your younger self? Live every moment because you never know when that opportunity is going to happen again.
Photography by: Photos by Mark Squires | Styling by Ashley Pruitt at @theonly.agency | Makeup by Carly Fisher | Hair by Dallin James