Natural beauty … Australian model Kristy Hinze. Photo: Nick Leary
To-die-for looks, fabulous lifestyle, billionaire husband and a beautiful little daughter ... it's fair to say Kristy Hinze is in a good place right now. Completely open to hating her, Christine Jackman meets the Gold-Coast-raised model in Sydney.
You want to loathe her, don't you? Look at her, gilt-edged as she poses in the phosphorescent glow of a skylight, cool as Grace Kelly despite a steaming fug of a day that slowly wilts the rest of us. It's 30-plus degrees outside, but here, in an open restaurant on Sydney Harbour, Hinze is playing with the sunlight, turning this way and that to catch those rays on the spectacular angles of her face.
She's intellectually blessed, too, having aced her first online courses in environmental biology at the State University of New York. Blessed to be married to a billionaire serial start-up merchant, and blessed to be in the joyous throes of early motherhood with 13-month-old daughter Dylan.
Hinze society … with father Rod, mother Vivienne and brother Russell. Photo: Scope Features
"When she attends an event, she can connect with anyone from the CEO of a brand to the average customer who has just wandered in," enthuses Catherine McGill, general manager of Vivien's Model Management. It was McGill's mother - the real Vivien - who convinced Hinze's cautious parents to allow their 14-year-old daughter to join the profession; within months, the Gold Coast teen made modelling history as the youngest-ever cover girl for Vogue Australia.
Yes, there's plenty to loathe about Kristy Hinze.
Can anyone be so beautiful, gifted, generous and natural? In the United States, Hinze's adopted home, all of it would be lapped up without question. But in Australia, our history of hard luck and true grit and the psychic landscape of droughts and flooding rains has grafted a suspicion of easy abundance onto our DNA.
"Commonly depicted as a corpulent bulldog" … Kristy's grandfather, Queensland government minister Russ Hinze.
Either way, it is almost impossible to accept Kristy Hinze is quite as lovely as she seems - and not just because attending her photo shoot tends to make you feel like an extra in that scene in The Wizard of Oz where Glinda the Good Witch floats down in a glowing bubble to land among the Munchkins.
There are straws I clutch onto. She is, I am sure, the sort of model who insists she can eat anything, before ordering grilled fish and a green salad, which she will unenthusiastically push around her plate while picking at the dill garnish.
Then there is the fact her PR reps have sternly and repeatedly warned Good Weekend that this interview must not include any questions about her marriage, because Kristy will absolutely not be discussing Jim Clark, who became a billionaire founding enterprises like Netscape and Silicon Graphics, and who just happens to be almost 36 years older than his fourth wife.
Front and centre … on the cover of Australian "Vogue" in 1995.
And did I mention she is wearing a daffodil-yellow silk blouse? Just the sort of tricky shade that swamps those with less-radiant complexions, leaving them looking like patients in chemotherapy.
But then the woman herself finally extricates herself from the enthusiastic air kisses of some ladies-who-lunch, and folds gratefully into the chair opposite me. And the first thing she confides is that she has been up since 1am, not partying like supermodels are allegedly wont to do, but dashing to the toilet after eating a dodgy Thai takeaway. "You just can't get Thai in New York, so I'd been craving it," she confides, "but ... wow. I might not ever eat it again."
The second is that she is now, not surprisingly, ravenously hungry. Green salad is not going to cut it; she orders duck parpadelle, which she polishes off later with relish, before sampling a few of the complimentary petit fours presented by a clearly besotted maître d'.
In a strut … Kristy Hinze on the catwalk for fashion designer Jenny Bannister in 1998.
And the third irritatingly likeable thing Hinze does is reveal that today is her birthday (her 33rd) - and while, yes, she'd probably prefer to be spending it with her daughter, she is professional enough to insist it's great that Dylan is having fun instead with her grandmother, who has flown down from Queensland to grab some precious time with the jet-setting youngster.
"Dylan's just started walking and it's so cute," Hinze enthuses. For a moment, as she scrabbles in her handbag for her iPhone to share a clip of the toddler playing on unsteady feet, she could be any other proud mum at a suburban mothers' group. "I reckon she looks just like E.T.!"
And then she does it. "Jim has just been fantastic, very hands-on," she says, invoking the Billionaire Who Must Not Be Discussed. "We were up in Queensland and, with all the crows around, he was carrying on cawing, and so now Dylan does it, too, every time she sees a bird ... And her first word, apart from 'Mummy' and 'Daddy', she's just learnt from him. He said, 'That's a button.' And she looked right back at him and said 'button' with this funny little American accent. Sooo cute!" Hinze breaks into a smile as glowingly real as a summer sunrise. I take a deep breath. Looks like this whole loathing thing is going to be a lot tougher than I thought.
"It took someone like Jim, who wasn't intimidated by me at all, for it to work" … with husband Jim Clark. Photo: Snapper Media
There is, of course, the infamous Hawaiian minibar incident, if you really want evidence that Kristy Hinze is less than perfect.
"She had stayed in her hotel room and eaten all the chips in the minibar," recalls her friend Nicole Bonython-Hines, then a stylist and now senior fashion editor at Madison. "So when she turned up for the shoot, the photographer yelled at her [for having a bloated belly]. She turned into a sulky teenager for the rest of the shoot."
But even this incident was an exception.
Maternal flame … Hinze with her baby daughter, Dylan, in January. Photo: Scope Features
"She has always been pretty much the same person, pretty matter-of-fact, down-to-earth with no bullshit," says Bonython-Hines, adding that these qualities are rare commodities in the fashion business. "Back then, particularly, they were tempestuous times. Models crying, photographers abusing them and walking off shoots ... Most kids at that age are pretty unsure about who they are and it's a dangerous world if you are easily led. But Kristy has always been quite self-confident, and had no qualms sticking up for herself."
Maybe it's in the bloodline - Hinze is the granddaughter of Russ Hinze, the former dairy farmer who became known as the "Minister for Everything" in Queensland's notoriously corrupt Bjelke-Petersen government of the 1970s and '80s. It's tough to pick a physical resemblance, though - Hinze senior was commonly depicted as a corpulent bulldog.
But the Hinze family tree is clearly rooted in a no-nonsense attitude. Indeed, this typically Queensland suspicion of southerners and pretension almost killed Hinze's modelling career before it began, her mother Vivienne being less than impressed with the talent spotters who began calling their dairy farm in the Gold Coast hinterland after spotting Kristy at a local finishing school.
"They rang us for months and months and we just kept saying 'not interested', " she says. "Kristy had never intended to be a model ... and I'd met with one [local] agency previously and just didn't trust their attitude."
But then Vivienne met Vivien Smith, when the founder of the eponymous agency flew to Brisbane to meet the family, and the pair hit it off. When the agency, perhaps cannily, arranged for her to attend her daughter's first big catwalk show, Vivienne finally saw what all the fuss was about.
"When I saw Kristy come down the catwalk, I just burst into tears," she recalls. "To be honest, I was surprised she was as good at it as she was ... I still said no to more jobs than I said yes to, while Kristy was still at school. Vivien used to laugh at me and say, 'Most people just hand their daughters over and say, "Make her a star!" ' But she's your daughter and you worry."
The worst of those days was undoubtedly the one when she got the call from London, telling her Kristy, in her early 20s and working the catwalks in Paris, had collapsed and needed emergency bowel surgery: "She was sick and she was so far away, and it took a few days before I could be with her."
Kristy Hinze had dieted herself down to 48 kilograms, which looked especially bare on her 178-centimetre frame. And while doctors later assured her the medical problems had not been caused by her eating habits, it was a wake-up call. "Extreme dieting is bad for you," Hinze says now. "I also think cutting something completely out of your diet, while it might work, I don't know how healthy it is. These days I'm more about exercising to lose weight."
Then came the day when Hinze brought home a boyfriend old enough to be her father, who already had two children older than she was, three billion-dollar start-ups to his name - and a pending divorce settlement that reportedly would cost him $160 million.
"Oh, we were shocked," Vivienne Hinze says when I broach the Undiscussable Subject with her. "I definitely had reservations. And I know it was hard for her to tell us.
"But the second time we met, we actually sat down and really talked about [the age difference], and Jim had just the same reservations I had.
He was concerned, too. But we moved past that." She laughs the same throaty, irreverent guffaw as her daughter. "And he knows he's got to put up with me because I'm the mother - and that's not negotiable."
Still, the prospect of a 20-something swimsuit model dating an ageing billionaire was always going to provoke barbed speculation. Was the golden girl really just a gold digger?
"I was very sceptical at first," Bonython-Hines confesses. "Of course, people were going to say it must be about the money. But I've caught up with her since and she is so smitten."
Hinze herself has admitted elsewhere that she struggled, after meeting Clark through friends in New York, to get past the generation gap and accept his invitation to join him on one of his super-yachts (until recently, he had two, including the fourth largest in the world) in the Caribbean.
In the end, she went with her instincts - and the realisation that she was actually having a good time. Believe it or not, that wasn't something that Hinze was accustomed to; a lot of men are scared witless of high-achieving women.
"Oh, they're totally freaked out by it!" Hinze exclaims. "It's hard [to date] because they're definitely a little intimidated. I think that's why it took someone like Jim, who wasn't intimidated by me at all, for it to work."
The flip side of dating someone who wasn't overawed by the whole supermodel package was that Clark was equally unmoved by some of the feminine machinations Hinze had previously learnt could get her what she wanted when all else failed.
"Oh yeah, totally out the window!" she grins. "It was hard, actually, at first, to take the back seat, because I was so used to being in control, the bigger and more outspoken person. Sometimes I was like, 'Hang on, don't I have a say in this?' and he'd say, 'Well, no'. And then I'd be like" - and here she does an impersonation of the pouty princess who has just been told she won't be getting another pony - "well ... okay ... I guess."
In his rollicking account of Clark's career, The New New Thing, Michael Lewis observed that "you didn't interact with Jim Clark so much as hitch a ride on the back of his life ... Once you proved to him that you wouldn't complain, or weep, or vomit into the gearbox, he was not unwilling to pick you up."
Hinze read The New New Thing a few months into their relationship - and had a bit of a panic. Hardly surprising, given Clark is introduced thus: Often starting with the best intentions, or no intentions at all, he turned people's lives upside down and subjected them to the most vicious force a human being can be subjected to: change. Oddly enough, he was forever claiming that what he really wanted to do was put up his feet and relax. He could not do this for more than one minute. Once he'd put up his feet, his mind would spin and his face would redden and he'd be disturbed all over again. He'd thought of something or someone in the world that needed to be changed.
Could it have been that Hinze was just the latest "new new thing" in Clark's life?
Six years on, with an opulent Caribbean wedding behind her, Hinze laughs heartily. She is living the answer. If anything, Clark's obsession with the new - new knowledge, new experiences, new frontiers - has infected her as well.
"Jim probably had a lot to do with me going back to school," she says. "I always loved learning - I was one of those kids who never bludged a day off school - so I probably would have done it anyway, as I slowed down with modelling. But having him definitely made me more thirsty for that.
"The thing I found the hardest was really learning to learn again. Teaching your brain to really hold onto things. So far, I'm an A-grade student in all my subjects... but now, going back [after taking a break after having Dylan], I'll probably have to teach myself all over again!"
Clark faced more of a battle convincing the Queensland beach girl to try scuba diving. "I was actually always kind of scared of it," Hinze confesses. "I kept saying, 'You know, I grew up in Queensland, big sharks ... don't know if I'm that curious about the ocean.' But when we first dived, I couldn't believe what I'd been missing."
Protecting and maintaining the viability of the world's oceans has since become a passion that binds the pair, and Hinze is now an ambassador for the Protect Our Coral Sea campaign. "We come together on philanthropy, absolutely, and science," says Hinze. "But really, we talk about everything. He's very broad in his knowledge about subjects ... although I don't know how far his attention span goes on fashion."
Well, far enough to encourage her to launch her own brand of doggie daywear, the wittily named Legitimutt, which she sells online - the website went live in October. "I was pregnant and I needed something to do [after suspending her studies] and ... you know, in New York in winter you have to dress your dogs to go out but it's hard to find chic clothes that are locally made.
"I had introduced Jim to mini schnauzers when we met and we just love the breed; our three are very fashionable, on-trend little pups. So Jim was telling me, 'You should do this, you've come up with this great name, you have all the contacts and access to the industry.' "
Clearly, she has learnt not to be intimidated by the big brain featured in Michael Lewis's best-seller - if, indeed, she ever really was. One suspects Clark may have been smitten right from the start by that irrepressible Australian ability to take the piss, as well as the killer curves.
"We went away on vacation once and a bit of light reading for him was a textbook on molecular biology," Hinze says. "And I'd brought The Vampire Diaries! So, I thought, 'I might just put that away and get out the iPad, pretend I'm reading something that means something.' " Instead, she quips, she found Fifty Shades of Grey "or some trash" and read that furtively. "We were on vacation, so I didn't feel that bad!"
Lunch is over and Hinze snaffles another fudge from the petit fours plate, wondering aloud how she will pace herself until this evening's birthday dinner, after a sleepless, stomach-churning night. She is also keen to get home to Dylan who, she confides, is still breastfeeding twice a day. "She's 13 months and I can't stop! I love it, I love it too much! Jim is like, 'It's no big deal but ... she is 13 months now'. But you know what, she's never been sick."
She also wants to spend more precious time with her own mother, before jetting back to New York in a few days' time. So closely bonded is the pair that Kristy had always planned to have Vivienne present in the delivery suite when Dylan was born. Two weeks before she was due, the younger woman called her mother to urge her to come early - and soon. "We were in synch on that," says Vivienne. "I'd been panicking and telling [husband] Rod that I didn't think we'd make it in time."
A few hours after they arrived in New York, Clark and Hinze took her parents out to dinner at Amaranth, a favourite local restaurant near their apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side. "And halfway through my steak, I thought, 'Right, I think this is going to happen tonight', " says Hinze. "Jim was fabulous, don't get me wrong ... but I just wanted my mum there to hold my hand."
Maybe it's the idea of the swimsuit model chowing down on a steak between contractions. Or the wizard of the worldwide web being consigned to the reserves bench, despite his genius. Or simply the thought of an Aussie girl needing her mum, no matter how well-travelled and well-heeled she is. But right there and then, I forget how to loathe this beautiful creature called Kristy Hinze - or why I even wanted to in the first place.
The following week, I even go out and buy a yellow silk blouse. And my son tells me I look happy, just like a daffodil.
Lead-in photograph (yellow dress) by Nick Leary. Hair and make-up by Jody Oliver for La Mer and Moroccanoil at DLM. Styling by Maia Liakos. Kristy wears Megan Park kaftan and Tiffany bracelet.
Above (white top and hat): Photograph by Nick Leary. Hair and make-up by Jody Oliver for La Mer and Moroccanoil at DLM. Styling by Maia Liakos. Kristy wears Sportscraft hat and top.
This article originally appeared in Good Weekend . Like Good Weekend on Facebook to get regular updates on upcoming stories and events – www.facebook.com/GoodWeekendMagazine