Paulina Porizkova saw a penis for the first time when a photographer “pranked” her during a photo shoot. She was 15.
The Czech-born stunner was posing for a photographer when he sidled up behind her “and placed something warm and yielding on my shoulder,” she writes in her upcoming book of essays, “No Filter: The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful,” out Tuesday.
“I kept staring at myself and this odd thing in the mirror,” she writes. “Finally, I turned my head to look at it directly and realize it was attached to his body … It rested there, casually, nestled between my collarbone and the side of my neck.”
The teenager was unsure what to do but the laughter of the female makeup artist made her believe the moment was lighthearted and fun, so she kept smiling.
Porizkova also writes of another photoshoot from her teenage years, where a photographer — in an effort to coax sexual tension — shouted at her, “Look at me like you want me to c-m!”
“Come where?” the girl naively replied.
Porizkova was born in 1965, in then-communist Czechoslovakia, to anti-Soviet dissident parents. They soon fled to Sweden to escape the Warsaw Pact invasion, leaving the young girl in the care of her maternal grandmother.
When Porizkova was 7, her mother snuck back behind the Iron Curtain in a failed attempt to rescue her. It wasn’t until 1973, due to international press attention and pressure, that they were allowed to leave.
After Porizkova’s parents divorced, finances were tight and she moved to Paris as a young teen to model and earn money.
Porizkova would go on to become one of the most famous supermodels of the 1980s — making the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 1984, when she was just 18, and again a year later. She’s posed for Chanel, Versace, Christian Dior, and Oscar de la Renta ad campaigns, and for countless covers of Vogue. In 1988, she landed what was, at the time, the biggest-ever modeling contract: $8 million to be the face of Estée Lauder.
But her most life-changing job happened in 1984 when she was hired to appear in the music video for the Cars song “Drive.” The teen already had a crush on singer Ric Ocasek from seeing him on TV. “Watching him walk across the room toward me, I knew this was the man I was going to marry,” she writes.
She was 19 and he was 40 — twice married and the father of four sons — when they embarked on a passionate affair. The two wed in 1989 after his divorce was finalized.
But it was hardly a fairy tale. Ocasek, Porizkova writes, was possessive and controlling — even jealous of the model’s gay friends, telling her, “They would turn straight for you.” Porizkova admits she found this “weirdly” flattering.
“Eventually I gave up all my friends, straight or gay,” she writes. “Nothing was as important as our love.”
The rocker also nixed many of Porizkova’s modeling jobs, especially ones with that required her to work with men.
“He flew into jealous rages often enough to make me understand how much I mattered to him,” she writes. “I stopped doing bookings where I had male counterparts. I stopped working weekends that were not convenient with [Ocasek’s] schedule.
“He became my whole world, my entire universe. This is what I always wanted, to be this important. To be adored.”
The couple had two sons: Jonathan, now 29, and Oliver, 24. As the boys got older, though, the love affair cooled off.
“My adoration for him was subsiding, being replaced by a more clear-eyed love,” Porizkova writes. “I began to understand his limitations. But what he needed from me was the adoration. The blind infatuation. That was his comprehension of love. Any dissent caused him to pull away.”
And while Ocasek adored Porizkova, there were limits.
In 2010, their business manager advised the couple to cut down on expenses, as they were living beyond their means. So she and their children began flying economy with Ocasek continuing to fly in first class. She bought no new clothes and started cooking every night, even if she had been working and he had been home all day playing video games.
The couple’s primary means of communication, she writes, had always been physical. When Ocasek stopped wanting to touch Porizkova, she knew the relationship was doomed.
The Estée Lauder model even went to visit a psychic when her marriage had broken down and had a specific question.
“I was fifty-two, had not been touched by my husband for years, and felt invisible,” she writes. “All I wanted to know was if I was ever going to have sex again.”
In 2019, the two announced they were separating. Ocasek hired a lawyer renowned for being ruthless, she writes, but the family of four all continued living together in their $14 million Gramercy Park townhouse.
“Still eating meals together, still going out with our friends, still watching television in the kitchen before bed when the kids were home for breaks. We were still a family, even if we weren’t living as husband and wife,” she writes. “I had a boyfriend, and he was meeting available women. But we were, I thought, friends.”
They decided to put the house on the market but remain in it together while looking for separate places nearby each other.
Then, while Porizkova was on a vacation, Ocasek, who had been diagnosed with cancer, let her know he would have heart surgery. She flew back home to be with him.
She was bringing Ocasek, recovering at home, coffee when she found him dead at age 75.
“His eyes didn’t look like his eyes anymore, I knew what those eyes should look like…I touched his face. It was cold. My legs went numb and collapsed under me. I sat on the floor, gasping for breath,” Porikova writes. “Ric had just gotten back from major surgery, but it had gone well. He was recovering. He was on his way back to health. This just couldn’t be.”
Unable to physically stand up, “I crawled down three flights of stairs on my belly and elbows. There were sounds issuing from me that I was only dimly aware of. All I knew was I had to get to my sons.”
The Chief Medical Examiner’s office reported that Ocasek, who suffered from both hypertensive heart and coronary artery disease, died from natural causes.
An even bigger shock came a few days later when Porizkova found out that her ex had changed his will weeks before the surgery. Ocasek had disinherited his two oldest sons, Chris and Adam, from his first marriage. And he had cut Porizkova out of the will as well.
“I have made no provision for my wife Paulina Porizkova (“Paulina”) as we are in the process of divorcing,” Ocasek wrote in the will. “Even if I should die before our divorce is final … Paulina is not entitled to any elective share … because she has abandoned me.”
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Porizkova was shocked by the accusation — and felt abandoned herself.
“Grief and betrayal are separate emotions, but they are on the same side of the seesaw. The terrible side. There is no balance. Experiencing both at the same time is like experiencing a really bad case of food poisoning,” she writes. “The poison inside you has to come out, and just as soon as you’ve emptied one side, the other one calls your attention … I was suffering an intense bout of grief and betrayal poisoning.”
At 54, after a wildly successful career as a model, Porizkova found herself with no job or job prospects, huge tax bills looming, and cash poor. She moved to a house upstate.
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“For the next years, I had to sue my own business manager, who was now the trustee of Ric’s estate — and, by extension, my own children and stepchildren, who were the beneficiaries of the estate,” she writes.
A year after Ocasek’s death, her boyfriend — although Porizkova doesn’t name him in the book, she was dating “Men in Black” screenwriter Ed Solomon at the time — told her he didn’t possess the “fortitude” to stay with her.
“He wanted a healthy relationship, and as I watched the movers dismantle my home of thirty years,” the model writes, “he walked away without looking back.”
She reveals that the time following her split and sale of the family homes “was the darkest and most painful of my life. The world was sunk in a worldwide pandemic. On paper, I was grappling with grief, betrayal, trauma, and heartbreak… I was hurting so badly I wanted to stop being me. I continued to have Zoom sessions with my long-time therapist. But all I did was weep and spin in circles.”
She also began posting raw, weeping videos and photos on social media. One was captioned: “One tries so hard to be grateful and positive and look ahead and all- but sometimes you just have a day like this. I know I’m still shedding my old skin and it still hurts.”
The images began garnering attention, some of it negative, with Porizkova accused of narcissism
“I will tell you why I posted those crying selfies,” Porizkova writes in the book. “I did want empathy. I did want compassion. I was desperate to connect with someone. Anyone. I was crushed by loneliness and isolation … My tearful selfies were the messages in the bottle I tossed in the water in an attempt to be heard.”
It took two years for Ocasek’s estate to propose a settlement; during that time, the only money she had access to was from a cash-out mortgage on the house that she was trying to sell. Eventually, Porizkova did settle and, as she told a podcast last year, received what she was owed according to New York state law.”
After a relationship with playwright and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, the model is now single and on dating sites. She writes about being encouraged to date “real” people — but how the results were always the same: “They were so consumed with staring at themselves in the reflection of my bubble, it was impossible to connect.”
Porizkova battling against the seeming invisibility of over 50 women as they age without the use of botox or fillers.
“In the war for self-acceptance,” she writes. “I have to battle myself, not to erase but to acquire: confidence, self-assurance, and acceptance. I want to be seen for all that I am: the good, the bad, the beautiful.”
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