Vancouver Sun - Confessions of a Canadian Supermodel

Gail Hadani, Photographer

Gail Hadani, Photographer

When Cathy Fedoruk first set out to become a fashion model, she was in search of one thing: adventure. 

The Tsawwassen-raised beauty had long been told she “should be a model,” but she wasn’t interested — at least not purely from a posing-in-clothes perspective. 

“When I was 13, people said many times to me, ‘Oh, are you a model? You should try modelling’,” she says. “My mother discouraged it. She said, ‘no, get your education. Use your brains, not your body.’ That’s what she would say to me.” 

But the subtle (and not so subtle) prods by friends, and even strangers, about a prospective modelling career piqued her interest. 

“I was curious,” she admits of the career path. “And I wanted to travel.”

That curiosity and sense of adventure paid off in the end.

During her first year at Langara College in the late 1980s, Fedoruk was approached to model in a charity fashion show at Woodward’s.

Excited by the experience, Fedoruk decided to put her studies on hold and went to Toronto for six months before getting a job in the city that’s known for being a gateway for up-and-coming models: New York City. 

“A gentleman named Elmer Olsen helped me get a few jobs while I was there,” Fedoruk says of the Toronto-based Elmer Olsen Model Management that counts supermodel Daria Werbowy among its stars. “And, the next thing I knew, Click (Model Management) signed me and I moved to New York.” 

It didn’t take long for Fedoruk’s career to skyrocket.  

“That was June 2, 1987, I still remember the day precisely,” she says. “And June of 1988, I was on the cover of American Vogue.” 

Unlike most new models, who have to venture into the European or Asian markets in order to gain experience and exposure in the fashion world, Fedoruk skipped most of the uncomfortable go-sees and long days of hurry-up-and-wait appointments and began booking editorials. 

“It was a quick timeline, and at that time, I didn’t really understand how quick it actually was,” she says.

“The norm then was you’d have to make the rounds in Europe. You’d go to Milan and Paris. And I hadn’t done that yet.” 

Instead, Fedoruk found her forte in the pages of some of the top fashion magazines in the world. 

“I mostly did editorial work,” she says. “I did go to Paris and Milan to do a few seasons. But my forte was more editorial and print work.” 

Fedoruk enjoyed more than 15 years as a fashion model, with covers for international fashion magazines including Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Chatelaine and Flare, and found herself working in front of the lens with famous photographers such as Richard Avedon and Steven Meisel.

In addition to editorial shoots, Fedoruk netted the Holy Grail of modelling gigs: brand contracts. A few of the “big ones” according to Fedoruk were Covergirl, Revlon, Max Mara, Ralph Lauren and Escada. 

“Back in the ’80s or ’90s, models were models. And they had all the campaigns,” she says. “Now, it’s actresses. They have the beauty campaigns. 

“It’s Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts. It’s not about the supermodels. It has changed considerably.” 

But the campaigns weren’t the most exciting part of Fedoruk’s career. It was the adventure. 

“I think the most interesting part of my career for me was the travel,” she says. “I went to Egypt for a shoot … and it was a really awesome experience.

Fedoruk says she would always try to tack a day onto her work trips in order to explore the location.

“Travel I’ve always found very fascinating,” she says.

Fedoruk recalls the glory days of modelling where models jetted off to exotic locales for weeks on end rather than a few days like many models today.  

“I did a week in the Seychelles for Elle Magazine,” she explains. “I don’t think that kind of shoot is going on anymore.” 

But the modelling world changes at a notoriously fast pace. One month a model is at the top, and the next she’s fodder for a “what ever happened to” search on Google. Before that could happen, Fedoruk decided to step away from the business in order to start a family — she had her first son in 2003, returned to modelling for a brief time in 2004, and had her second son in 2005. 

At that point, rather than returning to her career, Fedoruk decided it was time to follow her mother’s advice and  headed back to school. 

“I went to NYU and received a bachelors in literature and creative writing,” she says.

Fedoruk has since written travel articles for print and online publications, and is working on her first book. 

With her husband, sons, and Dusty, a rescued beagle, Fedoruk divides her time between Whistler and Manhattan. Her parents are still in Tsawwassen.

About a year ago, Fedoruk’s life took another interesting twist.

“My last agent from Ford (Modelling Agency), Patty, she reached out about a year ago, and she said we’re opening an agency in New York for 40-plus models,” she says. “And I said, ‘OK, fine. I’m bored’.” Fedoruk turns 50 in the fall.

There has been a recent surge in the appearance and popularity of mature models in ad campaigns and runway shows, thanks in part to figures such as Carmen Dell’Orefice (who is aged 85), Jan de Villeneuve (72), and Iris Barrel Apfel (95). 

“The Baby Boomers have all the money,” Fedoruk laughs when asked about the impetus behind the shift. “And, hopefully, women are realizing that life isn’t over after 40. Beauty is of all ages. And I think women are embracing that, and I think that’s really important.” 

This time around, Fedoruk is cautiously following in the footsteps of the new generation of models such as Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, feeling out new avenues of exposure, including social media platform Instagram.

“It’s an … interesting experience to see what people are posting,” she says of the photo-sharing app where many young models seem to get their start these days. “There doesn’t seem to be any kinds of secrets or private life. And that’s what’s so fascinating to me. 

“I was having dinner at a restaurant in New York City not too long ago, and I’m sitting there having a meal with my friend, and I look across and there’s a young person taking a photo of themselves. They’re primping their hair and getting ready for the selfie. And, it just seemed so natural to this person. To me, that is not so natural … but, even my children are doing that now.”

So, can we expect an unfiltered stream of Fedoruk’s day-to-day life popping up on her feed @cathyfedoruk? Not quite.

“I’m more of a private person,” she says. But she wouldn’t be averse to getting in front of the camera again for a beauty or fashion campaign, of course. “I’m open to whatever.” 

Fedoruk is happy, if a tad bemused, her decades-long fashion career is still going strong. 

“It’s still unbelievable,” she says with a smile.