The 34-year-old has a full plate running two companies: Cravings by Chrissy Teigen — her lifestyle brand with a cookware and tabletop line, a blog with videos and recipes, and two best-selling cookbooks — and Suit & Thai Productions, her production company, which has a first-look deal with streaming service Hulu (including an upcoming show with the working title Family Style, co-hosted with restaurateur David Chang) and the second season of Quibi series Chrissy’s Court with her mum, Pepper. After helping her mum with her Thai cookbook all quarantine, Teigen will tackle Cravings 3, which she describes as “how I eat now: brighter and healthier”. But most importantly, it’s the cookbook she’s having the most fun working on. “I fully embrace carbs now — like, putting sweet-potato spread on a baguette. A year ago, I would have said you can’t put a starch on bread; now I’m like, who cares? There are no rules.”
As she looks ahead to moving into her recently purchased first office and starting up production again on Family Style, the idea of juggling everything makes her dizzy with excitement and anxiety. “I’m having a hard time being any kind of mogul and running companies because it’s hard for me to work on, or even talk about, two things at once,” she says. “With my anxiety, the worst thing is not giving enough to enough people. It’s like going grocery shopping when you’re full; if I feel like I have too many good things going on, I can’t say yes to another good thing.” Setting limits and boundaries has been one of the most important lessons for Teigen in COVID quarantine, but remembering how to say no remains one of her biggest struggles.
One place she has set boundaries is on social media, albeit in her typically relaxed fashion. “I’m barely online anymore, and that was at the request of my therapist,” says Teigen, who has more than 43 million collective followers across Twitter and Instagram. “I didn’t start therapy until quarantine. I used to avoid it and make fun of the idea of it, and then I found the right person and it changed my world. People think I’m tough, but I’m such an empath, and I take on other people’s pain and sadness as my own. And when I let people down, I’m hyperaware of it. Sometimes I feel like people aren’t going to be as hard on me as I am on myself. So it’s good for me to take a break.”
On the flip side, Teigen says after a pause, “Part of me right now knows this is not the right time to go silent. It does feel very selfish and weird to say that my mental health is important when there are people being murdered by police and murdered in their own homes. Who gives a fuck about someone making fun of me when people’s livelihoods are being threatened just for telling their stories? I have Black children, so is it really the right time to not want to step on anyone’s toes?”
Her children are clearly the centre of her world – including a third baby, which Teigen revealed in husband John Legend’s video for song “Wild”, and then confirmed in an Instagram story in August, joking, “Look at this thirdbaby shit,” showing off her growing belly. At one point during our conversation, Teigen’s two-year-old son, Miles, wanders into her bedroom, proudly showing off “button” (his belly button) to the camera before cuddling in his mum’s lap, babbling and waving as we chat – before accidentally knocking over a vase, spilling water on the floor. It doesn’t faze her a bit. Her concern, she explains after laughing off the mess, is with figuring out how to talk about the state of the world to Miles and Luna, four, when they’re so young. “There are books that I read when I became a mom that would explain to them hard and traumatic situations. But it’s really hard to teach them about their privilege; there are no books for that. But regardless of money or status, they’re always going to have their skin colour,” she says, adjusting “Mr Bear”, as Teigen calls him, in her lap. “When it comes to them being treated differently because of the colour of their skin, I’m going to look to John for a lot of help with that because while they are Asian and white too, their skin colour is Black. We just try to talk to them like little adults, saying it in words they’ll understand, making it known that it’s very serious, and letting them ask as many questions as they need.”
She knows firsthand that privilege doesn’t offer immunity from racism. She recalls a story from a decade ago when she and Legend were followed and harassed by two “Neighbourhood- Watch-type” white men in Fredericksburg, Virginia. “We were in a nicer neighbourhood at night, driving slowly, looking for John’s godmother’s home. These two guys were in a pickup truck slowly tailing us, flashing their lights and trying to speak to us. When we pulled over, they were like, ‘What are you guys looking for?’ and we gave them the address. They literally said, ‘Get your asses out of here!’ and proceeded to follow us all the way into her driveway. They got out of the car and stared at us as we knocked on the door and went inside. It was a terrible, scary experience. “That was my first taste of seeing what happens to Black men every day,” Teigen continues, through tears. “It was horrifying and could have gone wrong so quickly. I was sobbing afterwards for hours, and I noticed John wasn’t emotional. Seeing that he wasn’t very thrown by it was really upsetting because he obviously had experienced it before.”
Even though that incident was in 2010, Teigen understands that it could have just as easily happened to them today. And she puts part of the blame on the man running the country, Donald Trump. “People are very confident in their ways of being open about their racism because they have the backing views of the president,” she says. “It’s become such a hurtful, weird presidency, and I’m going to fight to get this person out of office because I can’t live another four years with this kind of hatred boiling through America.”
The upcoming US election is particularly significant for Teigen – not just because of what’s at stake but also because this year, her mum will cast a ballot for the first time. “I am so excited to vote!” Pepper tells me after sliding into the seat her daughter briefly vacated during a bathroom break. “And it’s all thanks to Chrissy and John helping tutor and train me to become a citizen. I always thought I would go back to Thailand when I retired, so I’d have no need, but they pushed me so I could work here and I can vote.” It has been two years since Pepper became a US citizen – something their family celebrated with the entire cast and crew of Lip Sync Battle, where Teigen was co-host, in 2018. When Teigen shared a video of her mum dancing with a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty on set, she got a barrage of angry replies on Twitter. “People were like, ‘You fucking hate America! Why would you even want her to be a citizen?’ ” Teigen recalls. “With how outspoken we are and how critical we are of America, a lot of people think that that means we hate the country, when it is really just the opposite. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be doing all of this. I could easily not say something and, mentally, life would be so much easier.”
But Teigen isn’t so easy on herself. For one, she regrets not speaking up at the right time last year for the candidates she believed in. “There were multiple people that I liked, and I knew speaking out would be an endorsement of them. Then they started dropping out one by one,” she says with a sigh. But now she is able to fiercely support one of her favourite candidates, Kamala Harris, in her new role as Joe Biden’s vice-presidential running mate. Over email after Biden’s announcement, she shared: “I could not be more thrilled about Biden’s VP pick! Women all over the world are seeing a piece of them in a woman of power, and that kind of influence is paramount in what we need to continue this future of badass women in politics. Between people like Kamala and AOC [New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez], I have more hope than ever.”
Teigen wants to be clear about her political intentions, and that starts with her family casting votes in November. “We are proud to stand behind Biden. We’re not only voting for Biden because it’s not Trump. We’re voting for him because we think he’s going to do an incredible job of bringing a bit of healing to the country. We are a divided, hurt nation that needs to be brought back together. [Biden is] someone who looks into issues with clear eyes, empathy and understanding from being involved in politics. I also look at a presidential candidate as someone I want my kids to be able to look up to. I don’t see that in Donald Trump or any of his family.”
Imagining a world 14 years in the future when her daughter can vote, Teigen is hopeful that Luna will “be afforded all the opportunities that men are afforded and look around at a meeting and see people who look like her”, she says in a softer tone than before. “I hope that she’s never afraid to speak up and knows that other women will have her back. And I really hope she knows there are good men out there like her daddy who will support her and not talk down to her and demean her.”
Those changes for Luna’s future are starting with steps Teigen is taking in the present. “There have been so many times in my life when I was told doing this thing for free or getting asked to do this was just an honour. To speak up and say I deserve to get paid was unheard of. You should just feel lucky,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Men never have to just feel lucky! They get compensated. John and I were talking about how women were given the right to vote 100 years ago, and then I was like, ‘They weren’t given anything – they took it.’ There is no giving of anything anymore. There’s no luck. People have to work tremendously hard. Especially women.”
Now in the driver’s seat of her own company, she’s dedicated to supporting and raising the voices of women – 100 per cent women, actually, on both the Cravings and Suit & Thai teams. One way she’s guaranteeing to continue that is an inclusivity rider built into Suit & Thai’s partnership with Hulu that will “expand and diversify the hiring pool to include more women, people of colour, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ individuals so that the overall production team better reflects the broader community”. Teigen is proud that when she brought it to her Hulu deal, “they didn’t question it. Every show I work on will always look like this. I want to see women in power positions that men have held captive for so long.”
Online, people are used to Teigen using caps lock and exclamation marks when she’s excited or angry about something. On our Zoom video call, her voice rises an octave and her arms wave around animatedly to emphasise emotions. “It’s been fun to put a producer hat on and discover new talent in quarantine on YouTube,” she says, a glimmer of excitement in her eyes. “To be able to shine a light on those people and help make their dreams come true – whether they want to be on a show or write a cookbook or do both – is way more fun to me than doing my own thing. I get really hyped up for people. I’m the biggest cheerleader, and I’m excited for the future of helping find the next person I can cheer on.” It’s a future we can all look forward to.
This article originally appeared in the October issue of marie claire.