NEW YORK – Tracing her working life from picking cherries as a preteen to the cover of Vogue, supermodel Linda Evangelista told a court Friday she can still command about $100,000 to walk a runway, though her career has slowed since its 1980s and '90s heyday.
In an unusual peek into high fashion in Manhattan Family Court, Evangelista took the witness stand to begin telling her side of her child-support standoff with French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault.
But their 5-year-old boy didn't come up in Evangelista's brief testimony Friday; she's expected to continue testifying Monday.
Rather, answering questions from her lawyer, the high-flying model who once famously said she and her peers "don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day" sketched a portrait of herself as a woman whose first job — harvesting cherries on a farm in her Canadian hometown — paid $10 a day. She did that work at 12 to earn money for a bicycle, she said.
She worked at a convenience store and several other jobs during high school, pounded the pavement in two continents to get her start in modeling and felt pressured into getting her now-signature haircut, she said.
When she first got her famous cut in the late 1980s on advice from some fashion heavy-hitters, "I cried," and organizers canceled 16 out of some 20 fashion shows she was about to do, she recalled. But soon "I had every Vogue cover around the world ... and then people came around and decided they like the short hair."
Asked about her career now, the 46-year-old model paused. "I'm active," she said in a calm, careful voice. "I would like to work."
Indeed she does: She is on the current cover of Italian Vogue, recently did a roughly $90,000 advertising shoot, and still gets some runway requests, including a 2010 Paris show she had to turn down for a court date — ultimately canceled — in the custody battle, said Evangelista, dressed for court in a tailored white skirt, stylishly boxy gray linen jacket with tan collar and cuffs, and tan spike-heeled pumps.
But her lawyer, William Beslow, has said Evangelista's roughly $1.8 million-a-year income took a dive last year after a major contract with L'Oreal ended, and that's why she's asking a court to order Pinault to chip in for son Augustin's expenses. She says she spends $46,000 a month on armed bodyguards, 24-hour-a-day nannies and other care for the boy, known as Augie.
Pinault, who is CEO of luxury-brands powerhouse PPR and now the husband of actress Salma Hayek, says he has offered for years to pay Evangelista child support, but she responded with the lawsuit. His lawyer, David Aronson, has termed the possibility of a $46,000-a-month child-support bill "just ridiculous."
Pinault was grilled earlier Friday about his own spending, including the roughly $62,000 in clothes, $100,000 watch and half-share in a $250,000 sportscar he bought himself in 2010. Vacations ran him $200,000 that year; upkeep on the garden at his Paris apartment, about $45,000, he said.
His testimony pulled back a curtain on personal difficulties, as well as financial details. He said he had postponed formally recognizing Augie as his son for some months in 2007 because he and Hayek were caught up in concern about her own pregnancy with their daughter, Valentina. For a time, they were told the baby would have Down syndrome, he said.
"The situation was very, very complicated. We almost lost the baby," he testified.
Pinault, now 49, and Evangelista had dated over about four months in 2005 and 2006. He said they spent only about seven days together in all. Augie was born in October 2006.
Pinault also has two children by a previous marriage.
PPR owns Gucci, Yves St. Laurent and other high-style brands. Forbes recently estimated his family's net worth at $13 billion.
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