"When I started in the business, I was told I had three good years in me," she says in her soft Canadian lilt. "Every year, I heard that clock ticking and was conscious that it could be my last. I'm not dumb," she says with a glance that hints that this has been suggested once or twice, "it's going to happen one day. But it hasn't yet and I am not going to surrender. I am not immortal, for God's sake," she says with an exasperated grimace.
"Recently, I didn't make the cover of two British magazines. At first it was like, 'Excuse me?' But I know that sometimes the chemistry just isn't there between the model, photographer, hair and make-up. It's nobody's fault and you just have to do better next time. As long as designers want to dress me, photographers want to take my picture and companies think my face will help their products, then I won't go anywhere until they're done with me."
Having seen her paraded before tables of beauty editors like plum pudding the day before, it is clear that Evangelista's beauty is more than pan- stick deep. There are those who have suggested that, at 32, she is making hay while the sun sets. She has appeared in less than flattering advertisements for Pizza Hut, and Yardley does have a rather old-ladyish profile in Britain.
"Oh please!" she says. "I went with my heart and my gut instinct on Yardley, as I have with every decision in my career. I have turned down so many major advertising bids because I think either the time isn't right or I'm not. I could have been a lot richer for those offers and don't know whether some of those decisions have been smart. But they may have contributed to my, um, longevity."
Her 13 years in modelling began when she lost Miss Teen Niagara at the age of 17, but caught the eye of an Elite New York talent scout. Born in St Catharines, Ontario, Evangelista says, "I had no illusions that my career would be any longer than three years tops." She has been with the same agency ever since. When hairdresser Julien D'Ys cut her signature long chestnut hair into a bob in 1987 at the behest of her favourite photographer, Peter Lindberg, the supermodel was born.
"I don't like using that word, unless it is in an ironic context," she says. "And let me tell you something. I thought I was finished when they cut my hair. Eighteen out of 20 clients dropped my bookings. I rang (photographer) Steven Meisel in tears. Within two months I made the grand slam: covers of American Vogue, Italian Vogue, British Vogue and French Vogue."
From that moment, modelling was deemed the new rock 'n' roll, and Linda its brightest star. John Galliano instantly replies to my question about who is the top: "Linda. Without a doubt. She is a true pro and that's what I call maximum modelling."
"I am and will remain a perfectionist," she says "Show me a cover and I will criticise it. I only have four photographs of myself at home and they are by Lindberg, Meisel and Patrick Demarchelier. I'd collapse under the weight of my own ego if there were any more.
"When people ask how have I kept on top, I have to say with the help of every photographer, make-up artist and hairdresser I've ever worked with. And Kyle." Kyle is boyfriend Kyle MacLachlan. Divorced from the president of Elite Paris, Gerald Marie, Evangelista now works as well as lives in New York with MacLaghlan. They have recently completed the autumn/winter Donna Karan Collection advertising campaign. But speculations about marriage remain unconfirmed.
"After my modelling career, having children is my biggest other goal in life. I haven't done it yet because I know I will never work again once I do. I still want to work, I love to work, and I will not schlep my kids around on planes or hire nannies. When it happens, and it will, I want to be a hands-on mother. I can't commit to that right now."
Evangelista has never attempted the crossover from modelling to acting or singing. "I have started a book, but I don't have time to finish it. How do the other girls do it? None of us has any spare time. I haven't released an album because I can't sing." When it is suggested that this didn't stop certain of her colleagues, Evangelista is quick to defend. "Naomi can sing. I've seen her play live and they don't dub her or anything. I'm so proud of her. And of Christy and Amber, who have both gone back to school."
Apart from the relentless MTV footage, Evangelista has appeared on screen in fashion documentary Unzipped. Backstage at Isaac Mizrahi's show, she is seen screaming, "Get that camera out of my fucking face, sweetie". Blink and you would miss the glint in her eye as she turns to the camera. "I'm used to cameras every day of my working life. But sometimes you need to let off steam and ham it up for the cameras. You're called a bitch so often in this business anyway."
Evangelista does not like to feel she is living on borrowed time or blinding herself to the passage of time. "I don't think beauty is just youth," she says. Then she goes one further, saying, "Beauty has nothing to do with youth. The ageing process is a beautiful thing and I don't think magazines agree with that. Some people are born naturally thin. I don't happen to think magazines should be full of thin people. What I do say," she says, never taking her eyes from mine, "is that we can all work a little harder with what we have. It is possible to achieve a better body shape and heart rate with nutrition and exercise."
When a journalist at the Yardley launch asked Evangelista what her favourite book is, she hesitated and then replied, "the Bible". Doubtless if you asked Jonathan Miller which was his favourite frock in the July couture collections, you would get the same kind of hesitation. "I am a practising Catholic," Evangelista says defensively. "Yes, I do read the Bible. What I don't appreciate is people asking me questions beyond my field of work and then laughing at an honest answer."
So, as the clock ticks on, is there a gameplan for the future? She will only say, "My secret passion is for cooking. I would love to learn to be a professional chef." And modelling? "I will never surrender."
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