Linda Evangelista
Credit: David Schulze

When Linda Evangelista calls herself a beauty junkie, she's not exaggerating. She has a magnifying mirror for precise tweezing (yes, she tends to her famous arches herself) and has amassed so many products that her brother had to build custom shelves in her apartment to contain all the lotions and potions.

"I adore beauty," she explains. "I've used everything out there, from drugstore to high end." Friends, makeup artists, even strangers are always giving her items to try, so when her facialist's husband gave her a bottle of an anti-aging concentrate from an indie skin-care brand called Erasa, she gave it a go. "I really started to notice a difference," she says. "My pores got smaller, and my skin tone evened out." Before she knew it, she'd used every drop. She was so impressed, she asked to meet the man who created it.

She and Erasa founder Jules Zecchino, a chemist, clicked, and soon after, Evangelista joined the company not as a "face" or a spokesperson but as vice president and creative director. Erasa has only one product—Erasa XEP 30—but there are others in the pipeline, and Evangelista has thrown herself into the development process. She visits the lab in New Jersey, gets excited about third-party clinical trials, and can discuss the finer points of pigments and viscosity. "I really look forward to lab days," she says. "My adrenaline starts flowing when I'm there."

For Evangelista's fans, it seems like only yesterday when she and her posse ruled the supermodel scene. In the 1980s and '90s, she and pals Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington were the darlings of every designer, photographer, and editor. "When I think back to those days, I was so crazy and busy and had so many people doing things for me," she says. "When you're going, going, going, it's hard to stop and grasp what's happening."

If this sounds familiar, it's because 2017 has its own phenom trio: Kendall, Gigi, and Bella. Except for one big difference. "We didn't have social media," explains Evangelista. "No Facebook, no Snapchat, no texting, no nothing." Imagine, if you will, a world without likes. She marvels at how these next-gen superstars handle their careers in this digital era. "They're great models," she says. "They're talented and hardworking."

It's wonderful they have each other, she continues—for Evangelista, stratospheric success was isolating at times. "I was averaging 150 flights a year. When show season came around, it was great because I would see my friends. I didn't feel lonely."

Her perspective on navigating stardom? Unplug—at least once in a while. "You actually lose touch with reality. You go into this cocoon, this bubble," says Evangelista, now a single mom to Augustin, her 10-year-old son. "I don't know if it was motherhood or growing up or the wisdom that comes with time, but I prefer where I am now."