Rachel with French model Isabelle Appay. Picture / Supplied.

Rachel Hunter's Voyage of Self-Discovery

Rachel Hunter on her upcoming television series and what she has learned along the way

A beautiful person is a happy person, says Rachel Hunter.

New Zealand’s most well-known beauty export explains that she means that happiness is beauty, rather than vice versa. As to whether she feels like a beautiful person, she says: “Oh my god, that’s a hard question. I don’t know, I couldn’t answer that.”

It’s a typical guarded deflection from someone who is used to being interviewed, but at the same time it displays Hunter’s appealing lack of self-absorption. For someone who has been in the public eye for nearly 30 years, there’s a realness to Rachel.

That has always shone through, from her teenage days as a Tip-Top Trumpet beach babe to the supermodel years on the covers of Sports Illustrated and Vogue and on the arm of rock star husband Rod Stewart. In transitioning from her celebrity marriage to independent womanhood, Hunter shrugged off a big divorce settlement.

She focused on bringing up her two children, extended her career to film and television and retained the admiration of her ex. Although she has long lived in appearance-obsessed Los Angeles, her regular trips home, no-airs-and-graces accent, and down-to-earth style make her a New Zealand favourite. She’s even done a clothes range for The Warehouse.

Soon she will back in hometown Auckland to promote her new television show, Rachel Hunter’s Tour of Beauty. The New Zealand-made series being sold internationally looks at different approaches to beauty around the globe. Hunter has been filming it in bursts since last August. Viva spoke to her last weekend, after she returned from filming in Mexico, before starting the American take.

“It’s all about going into different cultures and looking at beauty, not just what it is in the Western world, but going to different countries and seeing what beauty is to them, from superfoods to products to how people live.

“It’s really about painting beauty with not just one brush but many. Looking at more than beauty is beautiful.”

Hunter says the experience has underlined what she has come to understand over the years. “Emotionally feeling good is really important.” Yoga and meditation, managing stress, walking her dogs and a healthy diet are all part of her personal approach.

“I’ve come home and gone, oh no, what’s in my fridge. What we eat — again these age-old sayings — is how we are.”

How you feel influences how you look, she says, both to yourself and to others. And that’s not always easy on the days when the paparazzi catch you looking a bit chubby.

So how does she feel right now? “I feel good — feel good internally, and that would be the most important thing to me.”

At 45, her self-acceptance has been reinforced by being on the road, including filming in the Middle East, Europe, across Asia, in South America and Australasia.

“I thought I’d travelled quite a bit throughout my life, but until I got into this kind of underbelly of meeting these amazing people and experiencing some of these really ancient ways, it opened my eyes and really broadened my outlook.”

Concepts of wellbeing are explored alongside wacky, trendy, traditional and costly products. She tries a $25,000 treatment. In the economic disaster zone that is Greece, Hunter found high happiness factors and longevity among people who took pleasure from simple celebrations with friends and family.

“When you see people eating and laughing, who embrace the moment, it just kind of overwhelms you.”

Behind the burqa she found her own assumptions challenged. The colours of Morocco and India struck a chord as did seeing beyond the superficial across many cultures to “inside people’s eyes and at their wealth of knowledge”.

“I think everyone loves to look great and the best that they can be, but then there’s the people who really live and laugh and enjoy their life. It’s the inner side [of a person] that you can’t take your eyes off. Experience, hardships are all part of it, you see it in people’s eyes and I think that’s kind of the beauty of people. They may not resemble what we see in society as beautiful, but at the same time there’s so much more beauty there.

“More than ‘I’m going to get my hair done and coloured and I’m going to look beautiful blah, blah, blah...’”

Rachel Hunter’s Tour of Beauty premieres Wednesday August 26, TV One.

Rachel and Grigoris, a Greek centenarian from Ikaria. Picture / Supplied.


When did you feel your most beautiful? 
Oh my god. It’s funny I saw video on TV1 from when I was 16 being interviewed about going over to the States and being given a [modelling] contract and that innocent, kind of carefree age where things are kind of fresh in your eyes.

How do you want to convey yourself now?
It’s keeping that, but into being graceful and elegant as much as possible and not trying to be young and obsessed, but embracing where I am in my life. Doing what I can to make that better, taking better care. Wellbeing, longevity, we’re hearing those words all the time now.

What’s your stance on appearance medicine?
To me it’s all really individual. Instead of looking at the pressures of what I’ve felt, it’s “what is it do you want?” I would much rather embrace more natural, but at the same time I would never say no to anything.

Do you use Botox?
I have done Botox once.

Would you do it again?
I’d be open to it, in a really minimal way.

What would you like to have been able to tell your 20-year-old self?
Stop worrying.

How do you feel about turning 50 in five years’ time?
It doesn’t worry me. Ageing is all part of life. There’s no fear there, I’ve come to the fact that I’m getting older and I’ve just got to do what I’ve got to do.

Where do you get your sense of peace from?
My kids. They’re actually home [in LA] right now. Renee [22] is dancing in London and Liam [20] is playing ice hockey, he just got signed with Missouri.

How do you relax and unwind?
Being with my kids and my family and enjoying cooking and just that sense of friendship.

What is your relationship with food?
My only ugly affair would be with cheese. There’s chocolate, that one time of the month when you need chocolate as a woman, but I’m more of a cheese girl. I love food and it’s there to be enjoyed, though with my portions I’m pretty moderate. I’m eating more vegetables — they’re a lot more important in my diet as I get older.

How do you stay healthy on the road?
You can eat well anywhere, it’s just what you choose. A lot of water, I eat a lot of salads and fish, the same sort of things I’d eat at home.

Do you have a set weight?
If you feel good about yourself, then you feel good. I don’t go around weighing myself.

If you’re not feeling beautiful, how do you get back from that to feeling your best?
There’s periods in your life that you have to get through. After my back surgery — and then I had inflammation in my heart — I put on weight. You have to move through those humps. The best thing you can do is not be hard on yourself. 

What’s the reality of how you look with the hyper reality of how you’re portrayed?
What you see is what you get. If I have to go to a function or on the red carpet I get dressed up, but I would say I’ve always been pretty natural.

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