15 Years with Estée Lauder: Carolyn Murphy

7 years ago by


Garance Doré

In Partnership with Estée Lauder

It’s pretty fun to be a photographer, because you get to show things the way you see them. Other times even, you transform them so they correspond to your vision. And sometimes, things are even brighter that what you imagined them to be. They have a light, a soul, and they’re in this with you. It can be catching the perfect moment, the perfect place. It can also be photographing a truly inspiring person.

That’s exactly what happened with Carolyn. Of course there is her beauty, which we are celebrating today with Estée Lauder – she’s been their ambassador for fifteen years, which is wonderful just to say. I love a long term love story!!!

But there’s also that elegance, that youthfulness, that simplicity, that frankness about her that really touched me – and inspired me deeply. I just love how she lives her life. She seems free. I feel like she’s found what I’m searching for right now.

Which is why I’m so happy to show you these photos and the interview that goes with them. If you don’t already, you’ll love her as much as I do.


How’s your summer and where are you right now?
My summer has been great, filled with time spent with family and friends in the Hamptons. It’s a really nice place for my daughter and dogs because we have such a community that spills over from the city.

Has the fashion industry influenced your personal lifestyle and choices in any way?
I’m sure the industry has affected my lifestyle and choices without really being conscious of it. Although I do follow the beat of my own drum and have lived and traveled to places that are not so “fashion”, I always seem to end up back home in NY. It’s so easy to work from the city, get to Europe, and strike a balance in being able to do it all.

How do you handle the stress and competitive nature of modeling?
Stress and competition comes with any job, but more so in my industry. I guess the best way I’ve been able to handle it is to prioritize my needs and not let the industry dictate my choices entirely. I’ve taken reprieves over the years, lived in Costa Rica, a farm upstate, and California. I really need nature and to disconnect from the hustle and bustle. At the end of the day, I enjoy the creative process of my job but I don’t eat, sleep, and breathe fashion. I like to keep things simple.

I heard that at some point in your career, you took a break to go surfing in Costa Rica. Where did that come from, and what did it bring you?
I ended up in Costa Rica on a surf trip with other girlfriends in the industry in 1997. It changed my life because I was longing for nature, longing to feel like I was apart of something other than work. It brought me a strong sense of my roots, the need to be outdoors and near the water.

Did it change your point of view on beauty?
My point of view on beauty has always been natural and relaxed. I feel less is more and there is a consistency to the fact that if you are happy with your life and doing what you love, it shows. Surfing, eating well and being free suits me. But I can also play the city part, put on a red lip and heels, and have fun with it.

carolyn murphy the estee edit garance dore photo

carolyn murphy the estee edit garance dore photo

Do you recall being influenced (whether positively or negatively) in regards to lifestyle, diet, and body image when you first started modeling?
When I first started modeling it was a very healthy gateway to self-care. I learned so much from various people in our industry and came in contact with all of the beauty insiders. It has propelled me to seek out gurus of skincare, fitness and well being.

You lived in LA and NYC… Do you have a city of choice?
It’s apples to oranges the NY versus LA lifestyle. I do like both but for different reasons and one is not “better” than the other. I do feel in NY I can feed more parts of myself, get the side of culture and intellect I need, while having access to traveling abroad and to Central South America for adventure. In LA it’s very much what you see is what you get. That predictability is comforting but tends to get boring for me.

Modeling has changed so much over the last years, do you feel pressure to embrace it?
I have no choice but to embrace it! Where I get stumped is the flogging of social media, it doesn’t suit my desire to be more private and mysterious. I think I’ve struck a happy medium but also I’m just thankful that I’m 43 and not a young one trying to make it in this day and age. The 90s were more about the connection to the artistry and passion. I feel like it’s more corporately driven now which isn’t horrible but does seem more disposable.

What advice would you give a young model who wants to have a career like yours?
My advice is to follow your passions outside of the industry and use modeling as a vehicle to travel, work with great artists and make good money. It really is a wonderful industry that allows one to have the freedom to explore their options. Luckily the industry standards have expanded with regards to beauty and what sells, so many shapes and sizes, ways to brand, and all of it is accepted. Find your niche, work closely with an agent to brand yourself.

What’s your definition of success?
Success is true happiness, on the inside. Nobody can dictate success by the dollar or fame. It’s such a personal thing and everyone’s barometer is different.

carolyn murphy the estee edit garance dore photo

What do you try to teach to your daughter?
To be herself, to discover and uncover her passions. When she seeks those out, she will always feel fulfilled. There are no two people alike and celebrating and honoring her differences is what will carry her through life, that innate confidence can not be taken away. Self-love, self-care, and awareness is key.

What does she teach you?
Dylan has taught me all of the above! It wasn’t until I had a daughter that I learned the value of self-love, self-care, and awareness. I strive to set a good example and be a hero for her, despite my own mother’s shortcomings. We all have the choice to be who we are and can not rest our laurels on our past. Dylan is way more fun and social than I ever was at her age, her confidence makes me proud because she really has a strong sense of self.

Tell us about one of your favorite Estée Lauder shoots. What is your favorite product to work with?
I have too many favorites to choose just one! It’s been an honor to have 15 years with one of the most iconic brands in the world. I love when I get to play with new cosmetics, especially the color ranges we have in ours. I still get excited when I see a new palette. My favorite product to talk about is the skincare, in particular the Advanced Night Repair. I just swear by it and now that I’ve added the Micro Essence Water along with the Ampoules my skin has never been better!

What has the Estée Lauder family taught you about beauty and maintenance?
I’ve learned everything about skincare from Estée Lauder because I grew up with the brand and a family of women who use nothing else but Estée Lauder. I started with Clinique and Prescriptives, moved on to Estée Lauder in my 20’s. It is so important to invest in quality skincare and to maintain a routine.

What is your usual routine before/during a shoot?
I usually drink a lot of water, eat a clean, plant-based diet, go to the infrared sauna and get massages to prep for a shoot. I want to be relaxed and show up glowing! My job is to embody wellness so I don’t ever want to rely on lighting or retouching for a shoot.

15 Years with Estée Lauder: Carolyn Murphy

What is your go-to beauty look?
My go-to look is clean skin, concealer in problem areas, minimal powder, mascara and a great berry lip color. Sometimes I’ll add a brush of taupe on my eyes and hint of blush, other times I’ll leave that bare and just do a red lip.

How has your beauty routine evolved?
My beauty routine has evolved by the fact that I diligently apply sunscreen several times a day. I unfortunately have hyper pigmentation from hormone changes so I don’t have much of a choice but also my outdoor lifestyles requires it. I do wish I had been more proactive about it when I was younger. My daughter is religious about it!

What makes Estée Lauder different from other cosmetic brands?
What makes Estée Lauder different is that the products are quality, we only use the best doctors and team to formulate. This was Estée’s mandatory rule. Having that consistency and also the timelessness is why it’s become such a heritage brand. I’m always amazed at how we stay on the cutting edge of the industry while remaining true to those core values.

Secret to staying and looking young?
Secret is to be happy! Do what you love! Have adventure, try new things. Dance. Sing. Meet new people. Sleep 8 hours a night. Eat well. Learn new things.

How do you live a balanced life?
I stay in check- I make sure I follow the rules above and surround myself with family and friends.

Thank you to our beautiful friend Carolyn!


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