CINDY-RELLA How a girl from the Midwest grew up to be a supermodel and other good stuff like that


CLARIFICATION An article in yesterday's Today section inadvertently omitted the name of the department store that sponsored an appearance by model Cindy Crawford. It was Woodward & Lothrop in Tysons Corner.

Tysons Corner -- Sporting baseball caps and that last sweet innocence of kids edging into adolescence, Brian Kaltenbaugh, 14, and Shawn Hanna, 15, discuss the merits of various players in the casual, knowing tones of true sports fans.

"She's the best, but there are others," Brian said. "There's Elle, Elle McPherson. And Kathy Ireland."

"And Rachel," Shawn interjected. "Rachel Hunter."

Models -- excuse me, supermodels -- rather than baseball players were the subject at hand and the reason that these two Fairfax, Va., boys were about, oh, Nos. 1,808 and 1,809 in a line that stretched from the parking garage through designer sportswear, past cosmetics and ultimately to Her. The Best. Everyone's Favorite. The One With The Mole.

AKA Cindy Crawford, the supermodel of the moment, succeeding supermodels of recent past moments, like Paulina Porizkova and Christie Brinkley.

The mini-skirted Ms. Crawford took a brief spin on a runway after a show of JH Collectibles, a clothing line that she has promoted for two years, then spent an hour graciously signing autographs, shaking hands, posing for pictures and bantering with some of the estimated 2,000 fans who gathered to pay homage.

Many came equipped with Cindy-covered magazines like Vogue and Cosmopolitan -- no Playboys featuring her, apparently, at least not in open display -- or with the wall calendar showing Cindy spilling out of a different outfit every month.

"Some stores, not this one, sometimes want me to sign 500 autographs in two hours," Ms. Crawford said in an interview before her appearance, scrunching down and pretending to scribble name after name without looking up. "But I like to say hi. I like to shake their hands. I want to make a connection. I'm just a Midwestern girl, I guess."

Midwestern to be sure -- the 25-year-old is from DeKalb, Ill., where she worked summers as a corn picker and detasseler before someone noticed how model-beautiful she was. But she's Midwestern as filtered through high fashion capitals like New York and Paris, Midwestern as filtered through the entertainment world, via her own fashion show on MTV and her real-life Pretty Woman role opposite Richard Gere.

"I was talking to Annette Bening last week," she said -- she's the sincere sort who makes you believe, or at least want to believe, that she's making a point rather than merely name-dropping. "And I said, 'Isn't it amazing that you had to make a press statement about being pregnant when most women just want to call their mother?' She said, 'Can you imagine what would have happened if [Warren Beatty and I] hadn't?' "

Musing on the price of celebrity, Ms. Crawford described how rumors swirled this spring that she was pregnant. "I had the flu, but because it was me, I couldn't just have the flu," she said.

She's quite frank, however, that she indeed plans to start a family in the next five years. In the meantime, she has more than enough to do as a full-time supermodel. Yet as perfectly supermodel-y as she is -- what with her golden-streaked chestnut hair, cocoa-warm eyes, fully ripened lips and facial structure that Nike should use to sell Air Cheekbones -- Ms. Crawford makes light of the whole phenomenon.

"When I hear 'supermodel,' I feel like I should rip open my blouse and there should be a little vest and cape underneath," she said with a laugh. "In Europe, they say 'star model.' But if supermodel means to be successful as a model, I think it's great. I guess it means the public knows your name. You become a celebrity. You become a personality."

You also get to be featured in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue; date movie or rock stars; and appear on "Late Night With David Letterman" and in George Michael's videos. Which makes you a pop icon whose name trips familiarly off the tongues of the most unlikely of fashion fans -- teen-age boys.

Holding what they said were their sisters' copies of Vogue and Cosmopolitan, a group of four 16-year-old boys from Laurel and Silver Spring made the Beltway pilgrimage to see the woman of perfume ad (nude and titled: Cindy in her Halston), Letterman show and MTV fame.

"I think it's the hormones," said Rishi Nangia of Laurel, speculating on what turns red-blooded American boys into fashion aficionados.

Among the last of the crowd to make it to the altar-like platform where Ms. Crawford sat at a desk, Rishi and his friends, Ian Sikora, Luke Hughes and Munir Faridi, took turns getting autographs and taking each other's pictures. And, since Rishi works at a photo finishing store in Laurel, you can imagine the blow-up possibilities.

Though many in line didn't get up close and personal with Ms. Crawford, they did chat as intimately as you can across department store aisles, surrounded by security guards and a thousand or two strangers. They told her how much they loved her and/or her calendar, begged her to stand up for a full-figure photo (obliging them started a near-riot of flashing cameras) and asked about her next MTV show.

The only nasty moment in this love-fest came near the end. Someone threw a baseball at Ms. Crawford, who reflexively tried catch it, then understandably was shocked at the hard thud it made hitting the wall behind her.

That ended the day, with security guards surrounding her and hustling her off the stage. (The person who most needed security, however, was the ball thrower: Angry fans seemed ready to avenge the act, although the incident passed without arrest or mayhem.)

But mostly, Ms. Crawford didn't seem to have disappointed anyone already in love with her print or video image.

"We drove up here. It took two hours," said Lori Wells, 16, accompanied by her friend Jennifer Camp, 17. "I thought she'd be like, 'I'm a model and you're not,' but she was really great."

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