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Hamptons Girl Christie Brinkley: A Model Activist

Originally Posted: June 14, 2012

Nicole B. Brewer

More than just a pretty face, model turned activist Christie Brinkley. (Photo: Rob Rich/SocietyAllure.com)

World famous supermodel, and now Broadway star, Christie Brinkley proves that you can't judge a book by its cover as she's taken her career that began as a model in California to the next level as an activist in the Hamptons.

Jet setting from the West Coast for her Broadway Beacon Award winning role as Roxie Hart in "Chicago", Brinkley is back on the East Coast in time for summer and the South Fork Natural History Museum's SOFO Meets SOHO Gala where she'll be honored in grand fashion for her many years of work to raise awareness about nuclear radiation and the safety of the oceans. "It's kind of a blanket honor from them because we have similar missions," she humbly explained during an exclusive interview with Hamptons.com. "The museum is doing such an amazing job of letting people fall in love with Mother Nature over and over again."

"Chicago" starring Christie Brinkley. (Courtesy Photo)

Sag Harbor resident Brinkley has over 4,700 friends on Facebook and uses the social network to post daily about her life, her work, and causes close to her heart. "Through my humble little Facebook page I try to nudge people and remind them just how beautiful nature is and how much it gives to our soul. It inspires us and has inspired artists and writers and poets. It's such a necessary part of our lives. We need to stay in touch and not only appreciate and be inspired by but protect what we have left and to be involved and be an activist." She's an avid organic gardener and encourages her fans to follow in her footsteps showing dozens of photos from her blooming rose garden.

With posts that read, "Holy Macarel!!! Hot Tuna!!! Soon we could all be in hot water if we don't clean up our nukes before it's too late!" in reference to a Huffington Post piece on the Fukushima disaster she makes it a point to stir the conversation about hot button topics that effect our shared ecosystem.

When did a pretty girl from Malibu become a voice against nuclear waste? It all began back in California when Brinkley was quite young. "When I was just a kid they were going to build a nuclear power plant right on a fault line. I went out and marched against it. I didn't want our oceans to be destroyed by that power plant. We had signs and marched to no avail. You've got to stand up for the place that you love and you've got to fight to protect it." Shortly thereafter her career began. She took the world by storm appearing on three covers of Sports Illustrated as well as numerous others and signed an unprecedented contract with Cover Girl. Then in the mid-1980's she met and married Long Island native Billy Joel and was headed to the Hamptons.

Avid gardner Christie Brinkley loves to show off her blooms on her Facebook page. (Photo: www.Facebook.com/Christie.Brinkley.Timeline)

"I attended a dinner with Alec Baldwin and Dr. Helen Caldicott," she began. Caldicott is an Australian native and global anti-nuclear advocate. "So I went to this dinner and I was horrified. I had moved to the Hamptons when I learned that I was going to become a mother [to daughter Alexa Ray with Billy Joel] and I wanted to raise my children in a safe, clean, healthy place," she explained. "I go to this dinner and I find out that the Hamptons is set in an area in the crosshairs of many nuclear reactors. We have the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in New London, CT. This is only 11-miles from the shores if Orient Point [on the North Fork of Long Island, NY] and only about 20-miles to the shores of East Hampton. It's closer to East Hampton than Montauk." Continuing, "Because it's over the water we think of it being father away. Because Long Island is 11-miles away we're not included in an evacuation plan." With half a laugh she said, "We know how it is on any given day trying to get back to [New York City] on a Sunday. Forget it. There's no evacuation plan for us." This dinner changed her world and she began to educate herself about other nuclear power plants in the area.

Beyond Millstone she discovered that, "There' air blowing up from the Oyster Creek Reactor in Toms River, New Jersey. I went there with Alec Baldwin and the group Radiation And Public Health Project to meet with mothers." The area of Tom's River has a highly concentrated cancer pocket and Brinkley, who sits on the Board of the Radiation And Public Health Project, was determined to raise awareness through the Tooth Fairy initiative, a project started by President Kennedy in the 1960's during open-air nuclear testing during the Cold War. When nuclear isotopes are present, the study found, they bond with humans and deposits are found teeth and bones. "We have been gathering children's baby teeth and testing them for specific radioactive isotopes that are man-made. They only come from nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants. When you find it in children's baby teeth it's alarming and it means that man-made elements are putting it in there." The modern-day Tooth Fairy project, explained Brinkley, connects people who have these isotopes in their teeth with cancer, "it's a very alarming study."

Christie Brinkley out and about in the Hamptons. (Photo: Rob Rich/SocietyAllure.com)

"Depending on which way the wind blows we've got problems here," says Brinkley. "I believe that's why here on Long Island we have the highest breast cancer rates because of the cocktail from the stuff thrown on it during the potato farms and in our air and our water from the nuclear power plants and their unplanned releases." Long Island itself is now a nuclear-free zone but that wasn't always the case. "We have the Brookhaven High Flux Beam Reactor." The former Board Member of the STAR Foundation headquartered in East Hampton used her star power to, "raise millions to get our message out about the spent fuel pools and we were very involved with closing down the reactors at Brookhaven. [The mission was] making Long Island nuclear-free except that we're in the crosshairs of the other reactors. We were also involved with clearing up Brookhaven which was leaking tritium into the Peconic River for years."

Along with nuclear concerns Brinkley is deeply connected to cleaning up the oceans and waterways where she and her family enjoy special moments together between work and school. "We're all avid sailors. We love stand up paddling and kayaking and going around and exploring places on our zodiac. We spend lots of time out on the water exploring little inlets. The Long Island coast is really extraordinary for that. I've lived out here so long and I'm still finding new places." However pollution is knocking on her door. "One of the things that my kids and I liked to do was get our bucket and our rake and dig up steamers and take them straight to The Dockside in Sag Harbor. They took our steamers into the kitchen and we bought a few of theirs and sat down and ate them fresh right there watching the boats. I learned that Sag Harbor would be close due to pollution and that now you can't do that and it was just heartbreaking."

An advocate for the Peconic Baykeeper, Brinkley notes that, "I'm always concerned about our oceans and I think that our oceans have taken an incredibly huge hit between BP and Fukishima. I'm sincerely concerned about the safety of our seafood." Through her Facebook page she is, "constantly trying to get people to pay attention. You know we've got to eat and we've got to keep our oceans clean, it produces the very air we breathe. At this point I'm back to being pretty much a vegan because I'm concerned about our food sources."

With a return to her role in "Chicago" in Durham, NC coming in late July, Brinkley plans to spend as much time enjoying the Long Island coastlines as is possible while continuing in her passionate efforts to protect the world. No doubt she will also be making the social rounds in the Hamptons lending her celebrity to support causes near and dear to her because as she says, "There's a lot of work still to be done here."

Nicole, an award-winning journalist, is Executive Editor & Publisher of Hamptons.com where she focuses on celebrity interviews, fine living and design, social events, fashion and beauty. She lives on the North Fork with her husband, their two daughters, and Bernese Mountain dog, Cooper. www.hamptons.com HamptonsOnline NicoleBBrewer NicoleBBrewer NicoleBBrewer

Updated: June 14, 2012, 3:42 pm
Appeared In: lifestyle >> icons & trendsetters