Caroline Vreeland steps through the front door of the tiny, dimly lit bar area of Café Stella in Los Feliz where she’s arranged to meet me, and all heads turn. Perhaps not because of her lovely face, bright blonde hair, or fabulous Christian Louboutin strappy sandals—though, those could certainly be the reason—but more likely because of her noticeably ample bustline which is busting out of her tight, red dress. The precise measurement is a 32F—yes, F, as in Frank.
Caroline adjusts the top of her dress, declaring, “Sometimes they just don’t cooperate.” Since we’re going there, dare we ask? “Yes, they’re mine. I was flat my whole life,” she replies, “When I started taking the pill at 18 I suddenly grew. I would never want boobs this big. Anyone who knows me, they know I’ve always tried to hide them. I’ve thought about a reduction, but I would never go under the knife.” She pauses, adding, “We’ll talk after I have kids and they’re down to my knees.”
If Caroline’s last name seems familiar, yes, she’s related to that Vreeland. Diana Vreeland, the bellwether force of fashion who helmed both Harper’s Bazaar (1936 to 1962), and Vogue magazine (1963 to 1971). She was Caroline’s mother’s father’s mother, or great grandmother. Their kinship is evident. Both are remarkably smart, outspoken and gregarious, charismatic, witty, and charming, sometimes crass, definitely passionate about life and especially so about fashion. “I love my connection to Diana. She gave me the courage and bravery to take risks.”
Surprisingly, it wasn’t her love of fashion that thrust Caroline into modeling; it was a budding singing career in need of a big PR boost. The handle ‘Vreeland’ served as the rocket fuel. Lucky for her, the fashion community, with their awe of Diana ever waxing, was eager to climb on board. She signed with Next Models who promptly shot Caroline straight for the moon.
“The very first editorial they sent me on was for Vogue Italia with Michel Comte,” says Caroline. “It was a swimwear story with another model. I’m in hair and makeup for two hours, but when I try on the suits, no matter how much they squished my boobs, none would fit. So Michel comes over and whispers, ‘I’m sorry honey, but it’s not going to work out this time.’ So with all of the people around, I had to shuffle down the long driveway with my robe on, just mortified.” Humiliated, but not knocked off course—another style icon would step up and come to her rescue.
Carine Roitfeld, the former editor of French Vogue, was helming a new magazine that bore her initials, CR. “She saw me as me,” Caroline says. “Instead of trying to fit me into an editorial, she created an editorial to fit me. Before the shoot, Carine wrote me a note, ‘I know about the boobs, darling, it’s ALL about the boobs!’ She brought me to Paris for the shoot and even had this custom bra made by Alexandre Vauthier. Now, in any editorial I’m doing, everyone is aware of the situation and embracing it. And so am I.”
Caroline, who is recently off not one but two relationships over the past year—one male and one female—sips her white wine, takes a deep breath and shares her story. “My legal name is Caroline Olivia Zickerick. I was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Belvedere up in the Bay area. I have a sister, Alexandra, who’s 28. We have both German and American citizenship because my dad’s German. He moved our family to Jamaica for four months, where he served as the country’s German ambassador. My parents were together for only a few years when one day my mom got a call from a woman saying she was having my father’s child. So my mom moved us to live on an Ashram under Gurumayi where my aunt was living in upstate New York. I remember knowing from an early age that if my parents didn’t love each other, they shouldn’t be together.”
Last month, on a trip to Milan, after years of not seeing each other, Caroline reconnected with her father. “I’ve tried over the years to make things work with him. He just retired and lives outside of Munich. So he drove to meet me, and we had a nice dinner. Growing up, he wasn’t a part of my life or trying to be part of my life. My dad has a dark side, and so do I. To my mother’s credit, she never spoke a bad word about him to us.”
Our conversation turns to president-elect Donald Trump, and Caroline’s demeanor goes south. “I was so shaken and so numb and hopeless,” she says somberly. “In light of everything, we’re going to have to stand up and protect our Muslim and LGBT friends. I’m focusing my charity efforts on those communities. We need to initiate the #I’llridewithyou campaign like they did in Australia last year. When someone isn’t feeling safe, either because of who they are, or what religious clothing they wear, we can help them by riding along with them.”
We jump on the subject of books and Caroline rattles off her favorite authors. “When I want to take myself outside of the world, I’ll crack open anything Russian. I like to wallow in that mind-fuck darkness of Dostoyevsky, Chekhov or Nabokov (one of Caroline’s ten tattoos quotes from Nabokov’s Lolita: ‘light of my life, fire of my loins’). Right now I’m reading Vladimir Sorokin’s The Queue. Or, if I really want to lose myself and relax, there’s Haruki Murakami—he takes basic everyday life in Tokyo-slash-cats can speak, and fish can fly.”
“I think I can announce...” Caroline starts off, before suddenly letting out three mouse-size sneezes, “…that I’m on FOX’s new show, Star, directed by Lee Daniels (Monster’s Ball, Precious, Empire). I play Mary Davis, a heroin-addicted mother, who appears in flashbacks. And the best news is I sing on the first two episodes. Lee’s friend found me on Instagram and through my music, it led me to this role.”
In parting, I ask Caroline for a Diana Vreeland quote to conclude our interview. She looks up for a second or two, and says, “Never fear being vulgar, just boring.”
Art Direction: Stephen Kamifuji
Photographer: DIANA GOMEZ / dianagomez.com
Stylist: ALEXA R. GREEN / alexagreen.com
Set Design: ISABEL ARANGUREN
Makeup: LILLY KEYS using MAC Pro / JK Artists / lyndsaylillykeys.com
Hair: ROBERT STEINKEN using Enjoy Professional Haircare / ClouterRemix.com
Hair Assistant: JENNIFER BAKER
Photo Assistant: LEVI-JANE THORNTON
Nail Tech: TRACEY SUTTER using LONDONTOWN USA / CloutierRemix.com