Top international model, TV host and entrepreneur, Caroline Ribeiro is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. In her time, she was one of the best-paid models in the whole world and experienced a slower era of fashion where the immediacy of digital platforms didn’t yet exist. She is 41 years old and the caring mother of a teenage boy called João. She commits to every challenge she takes on, always finds happiness embracing “the new” and never stops questioning her assumptions, because she believes that’s the best way to evolve.
By Bárbara Perino and Lara Franco Gomes
Photography rights reserved
LEMON Magazine [Lemon] – You said you heard a lot of noes before you started hearing yeses in your career. What was the moment when you felt that your work was finally recognised?
Caroline Ribeiro [C.R.] – When I met fashion show producer Kevin Krier, who did the fashion shows in New York and Gucci in Milan. The changes started with the Gucci fashion show with Tom Ford.
LEMON – You were one of the highest-paid models in the world. What are the positives and negatives of being among the world’s top models?
C.R. – I don’t think there’s a downside. I have always liked my job a lot and although we are always travelling, often away from the family, it is a unique opportunity to get to know places and people, to grow. We make choices in life, so I look on the bright side and think about how blessed I was / am to be able to produce and be recognised for my work.
LEMON – The least that a model like you was paid to be in a fashion show when you were young is nowadays the most that a young model can earn. What do you feel has happened to the fashion world?
C.R. – The market has completely changed because of digital platforms. The immediacy, the “wanting to have it now”, the form of consumption. All this had a very big impact on the fashion market as a whole.
LEMON – Did you feel it was time to stop being just a model and become a TV host and entrepreneur, or was it something that came about by chance?
C.R. – It came about by chance when I was invited to an MTV audition. I presented “Arquivo Lula” during the summer, then “Fila Anda”, a dating programme, and then three years of
“ItMTV”, one in New York and two in São Paolo, talking about fashion. It was an opportunity that came at the right time and I decided to embrace it. A year after I finished at MTV, I received an invitation from TNT to present the “Red Carpets” and once again I began learning about a new subject, cinema. All of these opportunities showed me how motivated I am by challenges.
LEMON – Did your work as a businesswoman in a modelling agency give you a new perspective on the fashion world?
C.R. – I’m still learning about everything that goes on in the agency and the market. Today I can see things from the client’s perspective and combine that with the vision of the model. Achieving the best for both sides is the ideal and the goal.
LEMON – What was the most remarkable moment in your career?
C.R. – Several! The contest in ’95, starting to work with Tom Ford and Steven Meisel (my first campaign with Gucci and first cover of Vogue Italia), the Revlon campaign, the opportunities on TV, the red carpets, the parades for Balmain and Versace after having spent many years away from international catwalks. Each of these moments and achievements were hugely important for the progression of my career.
LEMON – You became a mother at 25, right? How did it feel to be a young mother?
C.R. – I became a mother at 24 and I think it was a good age. I really wanted it! João was my third pregnancy. I had had two miscarriages before then. I spent over a year pregnant, between the 1st and the 3rd, one after the other.
LEMON – How was it for you as a top model to have a child and continue your modelling career?
C.R. – I was very focused on making the pregnancy work and on João’s health. Gradually, I understood that I needed and wanted to go back to work. I think you need to do things step-by-
-step and take everything as it comes; it is pointless to try to rush it. It is different for every mother. Then comes the moment of doubt: will it be like it was before? The answer is no, not everything goes back to how it was, but we create a new moment, a new way of growing professionally, reinventing ourselves.
LEMON – How did your agency react to the pregnancy?
C.R. – The first time I got pregnant, I was on vacation in Brazil and I had to go to New York for three very important jobs. I started to feel really bad right after the first day, so I told the agency that I wouldn’t be able to work the rest of the days. The response was not very friendly. There and then, I realised that it was my choice and decided to return to Brazil and take care of my health. One thing we always talk about and are careful of at Prime is to remember that we are dealing with people. This became a constant after what I went through during pregnancy.
LEMON – Was it difficult to get back into shape?
C.R. – I gained 32 kg, due to the hormones I took, and to get back to a healthy weight, I had to rethink the way I ate and exercised. It was the first time I went to a real gym, with a personal trainer, nutritionist, etc. I went back to work when João was 7 months old.
LEMON – They say that when we become mothers, something dies (the woman alone) and a mother is born. Did your mentality change after having a child?
C.R. – I both agree and disagree with that sentence. I think that yes, we are no longer “the protagonists”, we become less selfish, and at the same time stronger, because someone depends on us to survive. And even though our children are our priority, I think that we (women) need to constantly remind ourselves that we exist, that we have desires and things we want to achieve, and that we need to be well in order for our children to be well too (it took me a while to understand this). We cannot, under any circumstances, forget who we are. Children are healthy when they are surrounded by people who are healthy too.
LEMON – Have you thought or do you think about having more children?
C.R. – I tried and got pregnant two times after João was born, but unfortunately I miscarried as I had done the previous two times. I understood that I had already received my gift, my João.
LEMON – What is the secret to a long-lasting marriage like yours?
C.R. – I think sharing, respect, love, admiration and a strong desire to be together. The secret is to really want it, and it has to be lighthearted (remembering that this won’t always be the case, which is where you have to be able to find some balance).
LEMON – What part of your son’s development have you liked the most so far?
C.R. – João is one of the most peaceful people I know. I believe that when we build relationships with truth, love and presence, the “difficult” phases become “easier”. My challenge is understanding the limit between Carol and João, mother and son, letting him learn for himself, make mistakes and succeed and simply be there to guide and not carry him (we always want to protect, right?). Trust creation.
LEMON – How does your child feel about having such a beautiful mother?
C.R. – *laughs* You know, I don’t know how João sees me in that sense, in terms of beauty. I really don’t know!
LEMON – 3 words that define you as a mother?
C.R. – I am very present, caring and loving, but I get mad a lot too (I’m working on this).
LEMON – What was it like spending months indoors at home because of COVID-19? Was it just the three of you at home?
C.R. – Yes, my father-in-law stayed with us for three months and then it was just the three of us. I confess that at the beginning it was a wreck, because I am one of those people who plan for the whole year, you know? So I had to breathe and rethink things. João, on the other hand, was the one who coped very well with quarantine, to our surprise. He is super disciplined because of sports (he plays basketball), so he continued to exercise, following his “diet” and maintaining the positive outlook that he inherited from his father (lol!). Often, almost always, they calmed me down and helped me keep it together during my “mini tantrums”.
LEMON – During that time, what did you experience internally?
C.R. – There were times when I felt very nervous because of the uncertainty of it all. I went through periods of wanting to predict the future, realising that it was out of my control, freaking out and finally understanding that I need to be emotionally well, doing what is good for me internally. Self-analysis for personal improvement.
LEMON – You created #MUDE, a section on IGTV where you have conversations with people who bring about change in the world. Which of those conversations have you learned the most from and which has changed you the most?
C.R. – #MUDE came about from a desire to learn and understand how necessary it is that we question our assumptions. Each person provided me with a different learning experience and made me rethink pre-established concepts; they made me want to research and educate myself about different subjects, and to be more generous with the way I see my surroundings. With each conversation I realised that information and knowledge make you evolve and that we cannot allow ourselves to get too comfortable in our own bubbles.
LEMON – How are you dealing with the pandemic now?
C.R. – I’m still learning to deal with this whole situation, seeking to be more at peace internally and understanding that we are living through a moment of uncertainty.
LEMON – Can you list all the countries where you have lived and tell us which one you prefer?
C.R. – Wow, there are many countries, mainly due to TNT’s “pop map” programme on film locations, for which I travelled halfway round the world. But the United States was where I felt most at home, specifically in New York City. I made great friends there, lived there for a long time and always liked the energy. That feeling that everything happens first in New York, you know? I love nature, water, bush. But I also love the “madness” and possibilities that you get in a city that doesn’t stop.
LEMON – You confessed that you researched your origins because you felt that it could be relevant to your career. Do you feel that the clearer picture you got of your ancestors was an asset at work? Is it necessary to justify your exoticness and beauty in the minds of certain people?
C.R. – Yes. Unfortunately, we still need to justify the “exotic” for people. But I feel a change, an acceptance, that yes, we are diverse, beautiful and interesting because of our diverse traits, cultures and beliefs.
LEMON – You say that your interest in politics has been growing more and more each day. Is it an interest that you have always had or one that developed over time? Do you feel that age and motherhood have also had an impact?
C.R. – It has always been there, since I was little girl. At school I went up on “platforms” to defend my point of view. I always read a lot about it and at home it was always very present. But in the last few years, I started to worry about my “conformism” and this interest has grown even more. I think that maturity makes you reconsider the way you approach issues, how to deal more “intelligently” with certain situations, not wasting time on actions that won’t achieve anything, especially with regard to more delicate issues.
LEMON – What is your biggest life lesson?
C.R. – My biggest lesson in life today (it can change) is to be open to new things.
LEMON – You are from Belém do Pará. Do you know how to dance the carimbó?
C.R. – Yes!! I can dance stamp, lundú, brega techno and brega chamegado. I love it! (ps: I personally think that I dance very well, but my family (aunts and cousins) don’t seem to agree! Haha!
LEMON – Can I bring Lemon’s team on holiday to your home in Pará?
C.R. – Let’s go! Seu Júlio (my grandfather) and Dinda will welcome you with open arms, I’m sure! Ahhh and with a good maniçoba and duck in tucupi waiting for you.