Check our interview with former FORD supermodel, Camerone Parker, who has emerged as the leading powerful celebrity voice in patient advocacy for MS and treatment. Today, she delights audiences nationwide as a highly in-demand speaker, sharing her unbelievable story of being diagnosed with MS and hiding the disease in a highly competitive world of international fashion so that she could earn money to pay for treatment.
Having been featured throughout her storied modeling career in over 350 magazines, the former face of Olay has walked the runways for designers like Vera Wang, Giorgio Armani, and Bagley Mischka, to name a few. She’s been seen on billboards around the country for brands like Ralph Lauren POLO and has made appearances on “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show,” “The View” and more. But while she’s lived a very public life, she’s guarded quite the secret.
Of course, fashion is still very much a part of her life and one of the things she’s quite passionate about. She was recently featured in the New York Times for her jaw-dropping appearance at NY Fashion Week, and has returned to the runway, calling it one of the proudest moments of her career. She also has quite the collection of couture and vintage finds in her closet.
Hi Camerone, please tell us a little about you?
Model, Film Personality and Philanthropist. I have appeared in over 350 magazines worldwide, former face of Olay, and walked the runways for top designers as Vera Wang, Badgley Mischka and Giorgio Armani. I am most passionate about making a difference, thus philanthropy and advancing the mission of charities close to my heart is the best medicine around! Doing for others is what drives me. I’ve been told my enthusiasm is contagious, I do love to make people laugh! Celebrating life with my husband, Robert McCulloch and our two precious rescue mini doxies, LuLu and Squirty make life extraordinary!
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Avantgarde, Funny; Altruistic
Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
Robert my husband and my parents, Elise and Bill Chambers. Robert sees all of my flaws and still thinks I’m flawless. My parents have always been my #1 Cheerleaders. At a very early age, they embraced my strengths and encouraged me to be the very best by relying on my own, unique talents. I may not have been the model Chemistry student ::laughing:: but my Lab experiments were truly epic: Hairspray + Flame = Bad Hair Day
Best advice ever given?
OWN your look. Beautiful (by definition) people are EVERYWHERE. In this industry, you’ve got to be DIFFERENT, and different in a hundred ways. It does an agent no good if they have 10 girls on their roster that are identical. Be that girl who is one-of-a-kind….Be MEMORABLE!
How and when did you start into modeling? By accident, I was discovered at the ripe old age of 23. Working in the fashion world, let alone working as a “model” was not even on the radar. I grew 4 1/2 inches in college and in my opinion….the “beauty fairy” had seriously passed me by. Also not quite exactly what my parents had envisioned school tuition had prepped me for! I decided to go for it, surrounded myself with a strong agent and a trustworthy team and never looked back. I am very proud to say that I’ve never done anything questionable, of ill-repute nor sent my parents and friends running from embarrassment!
What is the biggest highlight of your career so far?
Without a doubt – the highlight is still being able to tear up a runway or billboard in this industry today!
What is fun and rewarding about modeling?And what is not?
For me, modeling has been a lifetime of art and learning its process. Why designers cut fabric in a special way, draping versus patterning, seeing a design on a dress form translate to a body, these are things I find fascinating every day. The reward? Oh my goodness, there’s nothing better than becoming a designer’s “muse”. I am profoundly blessed and grateful in being a muse for three designers in my lifetime: John Johnson for JohnSun Silks; Bert Keeter and Peach Carr. Things that aren’t fun: being away from family for months at a time; missing special events because of an assignment; lost luggage and delayed/cancelled flights; steam/iron burns; painful shoes that are too small or too big; having a nasty designer throw a temper tantrum and scream at everyone backstage…ugh!
What’s your advice for the newer models?
Develop a thick skin; Stay in school, study fashion history, have a good working knowledge of current designers AND how to pronounce their name. Arrive early to everything (on time is late). Don’t fib on sizes! Kindness to EVERYONE on set/back of the house is a must. Say Thank You to your dressers. Don’t beg the designers to “just give you” an outfit. Never go behind your agent/managers back. Leave your boyfriend, girlfriend and life drama at home!
Who is your biggest beauty inspiration?
My dear and cherished friend, Neelam Sethi. Her effervescence is nothing short of powerful! Extraordinary beauty from the inside out combined with endless strength. To hear Neelam speak is melodic! I love her true sense of being a woman, dressing up every day is joyful!
Now tell us about MS and how that changed your life?
I still get emotional thinking about that day back in January 1998. Hearing my Doctor say, “You have Multiple Sclerosis. There is no cure…You’ll have this for the rest of your life” was DEVASTATING. How could this happen? How DID this happen? He went on talking about the “disease-modifying drug” I was being prescribed…blah, blah blah….I was slumped over and finally raised my head with monster-size tears in my eyes and said…”You’ve just signed my death warrant! NO ONE will hire me knowing I have this.” Even more upsetting? As a model – I didn’t have medical insurance. Being diagnosed with MS would be considered a Preexisting condition so private insurance wasn’t an option. I now needed every assignment possible to pay for my continued care. My prescribed drug-therapy alone was $65,000 a year….every year….for the rest of my life. The decision to keep my MS diagnosis a secret was absolutely necessary. Fast-forward to 2009, with the support of my family and trusted posse of friends – I went public with my very private battle. The worldwide support I received was mind-Blowing!
And to be a leading powerful celebrity voice in patient advocacy for MS?
2019 marked my 21st year living with this disease. Today – I am deeply committed to changing the face of what MS “looks” like. Although I’m not in a wheelchair nor use a walker or that I simply don’t “look” sick enough is CRAZY! The invisible impact of having MS is staggering. I’ve undergone two eye surgeries to save my vision (MS-related Cataracts with Intraocular Lens exchange) The toll of 20+ years on a steady MS drug-therapy has now left me internal organ damage. For me, the “look” of MS is this: a CURE.
What’s next for Camerone Parker in 2019?
Several amazing projects including: a big return to the runway. I am thrilled to be the Closing Model for the first-ever All Stars of Project Runway Show in Chicago. You’ll also see me at New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week in September. The biggest news? My very first book! A hilarious collection of short stories, “The Model Dater” will leave you laughing out-loud. OMG first-date moments experienced as I entered the online dating world at 48.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Eight-time Academy Award winner Edith Head. Miss Head was the famed costume designer, 35 nominations in total and to this day holds the record for most Oscar wins by anyone. Her infamous “Accentuate the positive and….CAMOUFLAGE the negative!” rings true to this day. Back in May – I was a guest at Paramount Studios for an exclusive Edith Head Special Event. Miss Head spent 43 years designing for Paramount …this event featured 25 iconic Edith Head pieces from the archive vault. Although she passed away in 1981 – her image and life is carried on masterfully by the one and only Susan Claassen. “A Conversation With Edith Head” is a stage production I can see over and over again!
What is your favorite healthy food?
It’s a tie between Hummus and Spinach
And your favorite cheat food?
My Mom’s peanut butter fudge
Who are some of your favorite models and designers, and why?
Models: Wilhelmina Cooper, Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy, Pat Cleveland, Norma Jean Darden, Linda Evangelista, Isabel Rossellini and Carmen Dell’Orefice
Designers: Valentino, Libertine, Mikael Derderian, Gucci, Junya Watanabe; Commes des Garçons, Emil Gampe, Anthony Luciano, Chanel, J. Mendel, Bert Keeter and Peach Carr
What are your makeup bag staples when traveling?
I am definitely a creature who thrives on her own comforts! Having travel sized products/bottles means I don’t have to worry about hotel soap, shampoo & lotion torching my skin/hair! Must Haves: facial cleanser, toothbrush & paste, hydrating shampoo & conditioner, SPF day moisturizer, hydrating night moisturizer, Lip moisturizer, eye drops & eyelash brush. In my carryon you’ll find MAC Prep + Prime Fix (Finishing Spray) or Evian Facial Spray. Airplanes are a flying Desert, keeping my skin well-hydrated (with or without makeup) definitely helps with jet lag.
What kind of music do you like?
Great R&B – Anything by Earth Wind & Fire …”September” is my all time fave, I consider it my theme song!!
Do you support any charity?
National MS Society, Race to Erase MS; American Heart Association, The Gentle Barn, Frosted Faces Foundation and several other animal welfare/rescue charities
A perfect Sunday is…?
Relaxing Creekside with my husband Robert at our Sedona home. A glass of Champagne always starts the week off right!
3 things you can’t leave home without?
A perfect pair of Sunnies, cell phone and a wintergreen mint
What do you think of Social Media?
Social Media has changed every day life. It’s use is truly different by everyone including me. Several assignments this year have been campaigns solely based for Internet/Social Media platforms. Along with all the positives ….there are some disturbing negatives. Apparently everyone now has become a model with filtered selfies and their agent is either IG, FaceTune or Snapchat!
Where we can follow you?
Quote: A closed mind is the most expensive thing one could own.
Book: Grace Mirabella’s In and Out of Vogue
Movie: Tie between The Devil Wears Prada and The September Issue…..That’s All
Sports Team: My Beloved Alabama Crimson Tide!
Tv Show: RuPaul’s Drag Race