American Supermodel Christy Turlington Burns was born to live an extraordinary life. One of the original supermodels of the 1990s, sharing the spotlight with Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford, Turlington Burns still oozes the same aura, at age 52. She starred in important advertising campaigns for Chanel, Valentino, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent and Maybelline among others, and was the original face of Calvin Klein’s Eternity fragrance.
However, at 26 she left the modeling ramp to pursue an education. Later, a life-threatening incident changed the course of her life forever. Today, she is known better as a philanthropist, dedicating her life to a special cause. Let’s read her story.
Turlington Burns delivered her first child, a daughter named Grace in October 2003. She and her husband Edward took every possible precaution during the nine months of her pregnancy in terms of her diet, exercise and follow-up prenatal care appointments. Her trusted midwife was present at the hospital when Grace entered the world. But soon after, she experienced complications when a retained placenta caused hemorrhaging in her body. Though timely medical care saved her life, she became concerned for mothers who did not have such care.
Turlington Burns pursued a Masters in Public Health from Columbia University and began participating actively in organizations working in the field of child and mother care. She was an advocate of CARE for maternal health.
When the world noticed women’s ordeal
In an attempt to work more actively, she directed a powerful documentary called No Woman, No Cry where she told stories of expectant mothers in four countries: Bangladesh, Guatemala, Tanzania and the United States. The documentary was released in 2010.
Showcased in several film festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival, the documentary got noticed due to the heart wrenching stories of women. The film revealed that for more than half a million women around the world, pregnancy was a death sentence. Turlington Burns succeeded in exposing how even in the United States – a country that spends more per capita on health care than any other nation, had a higher maternal mortality ratio than all of Western Europe, Bosnia, Kuwait, Slovenia and Hungary.
Founding Every Mother Counts
In 2010, Turlington Burns founded a non-profit organization called Every Mother Counts, committing to help pregnant women in making childbirth safe. She personally visits the places and areas where volunteers survey and provide healthcare facilities to pregnant women. She has, over the years, focussed on women in Bangladesh, Haiti, India, Guatemala, Tanzania and parts of the United States.
Every Mother Counts has so far impacted 700,000 women and babies in these countries. Her organization has raised and spent $16.2 million in education, community engagement and grants. Burns in her next documentary Every Mile, Every Mother highlighted distance from healthcare providers as a major hurdle to women receiving quality natal care. For instance, women in far-off villages of Haiti have to travel 5 miles to get any kind of medical care.
Turlington Burns’ efforts have made the world notice the dangers every expectant mother faces during and after childbirth. She organizes events such as marathons, awareness drives to inspire people to take action in this area.
Back in the United States, she constantly advocated for policy changes amid the Covid-19 threats to expectant mothers during 2020. She was eventually asked to join a new Covid-19 maternity task force headed by Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the Governor of New York and chair of the New York State Council on Women and Girls.
She was named one of the 100 Most Influential People by The Time magazine in 2014. But for Turlington Burns personally, being able to channelize her energy towards helping mothers is a gift.
If you wish to know more about Every Mother Counts, do visit this site and donate.