"I was named after Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world, a woman whose beauty started a war," says supermodel Helena Christensen. "That was something to live up to."
By all accounts, no one feels she has failed to do so. A Vogue cover girl and a Victoria's Secret "angel", Helena has also starred in MTV's Sexiest Video Of All-Time Chris Isaak's Wicked Game and adorned runways around the world.
In 1999, she took a break from the catwalk. Since then, in addition to appearing in the occasional print ad campaign, she has concentrated on her animal rights activities and is an acclaimed photographer.
Born on Christmas Day, 1968 to a Danish father and Peruvian mother, Helena began her modelling career at the age of nine. By the time she was 18, she had competed in the Miss Universe pageant and was signed to a major model agency in Paris. In 1989 a spread in French Elle led to a cover shoot for British Vogue with top photographer Peter Lindbergh, and suddenly Helena joined the ranks of the supermodels.
"It's actually very embarrassing being called a supermodel. You don't want to be considered superhuman for being a model," says the golden skinned Dane.
Soon a fixture on the society pages her high profile fuelled by a romance with the late INXS singer Michael Hutchence, and a rumoured tryst with Leonardo DiCaprio Helena was increasingly in demand. She appeared in campaigns for Armani, Versace and Karl Lagerfeld and signed lucrative contracts with Cover Girl cosmetics and Dorothy Perkins.
It was work which left her unfulfilled, however. "I just couldn't deal with it," she says. "It coincided with that glamour thing: push-up bras, fake eyelashes, tons of make-up and big hair. The press accused us of being like that. But we weren't. I was just done up to look like that. I enjoyed it precisely because it wasn't me. I was playing. At heart, I was always a hippie girl."
Being a hippie at heart didn't stop her having very clear ideas of her own, however. "I should have been easier to work with," she says of her many years on the scene. "I would create problems by giving my input. So I said no to a lot of jobs that I know would have annoyed me. They had to be cool or creative whereas I should have just said yes and laughed all the way to the bank."
Having left her post as creative director with Nylon magazine, photographer Helena has opened an antiques shop in New York and is enjoying her role as mother. Her son, Mingus Lucien Reedus, was born on October 13, 1999, in her native Copenhagen. The model split with Mingus' dad Norman Reedus, an indie actor and former Prada pin-up, in 2003. Reports of her retirement are, however, exaggerated. The catwalk darling shot a Dom Perignon campaign in early 2006 for Karl Lagerfeld and she is still very much in demand.