There is a certain energy you expect when meeting someone with multiple slashes in their occupation: busy, high-energy, perhaps even harried comes to mind. But Camerone Elise Parker McCulloch, the supermodel/philanthropist/radio host/motivational speaker, is none of these things. She exudes calm and grace. She is happy and at peace. There is no rush to her demeanor and it is evident that she is a down to earth and wise soul.
The former face of Olay has walked the runways for designers like Vera Wang, Giorgio Armani, and Bagley Mischka, to name a few. And she’s been seen on billboards around the country for brands like Ralph Lauren POLO.
When we meet, she’s dressed in head-to-toe black and a chunky sweater, despite the fact that it’s 90 degrees out. Parker McCulloch is every bit the elegant model as seen on the runways and in print. (More than 350 magazines around the world, to be exact.)
My eyes are immediately drawn to the 54-carat sapphire ring on her finger, a present she got from her new husband while they were traveling in Dubai. It matches her brilliant blue eyes, “which are real,” she offers. And yes, I wondered.
Parker McCulloch’s career has been a whirlwind. Like many models before her, it happened somewhat by accident. “I was actually discovered; it was not my life goal whatsoever,” she says. “That was really not a fun conversation to have with my parents.”
However, despite her original plans, her career took off. She’s made appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and more, and also hosted her own radio show out of Tucson, called “The Fashionista”.
“When I saw my first billboard, it was overwhelming,” she says. “I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of Camerone!’”
But while she’s lived a very public life, she’s guarded quite the secret. In January of 1998, Parker McCulloch was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Because of the costs of care—one of her medications was $65,000 a year—she chose to keep her illness a secret and continue working.
“There is no cure; no two MS patients are alike,” she tells me. “Doctors don’t understand why today I’m standing and can see you and tomorrow I might be in a wheelchair and blind.”
She has already had two surgeries to correct her vision and what she refers to as a “heart incident.” This past January marked 20 years of her living with the disease, and she is passionate about helping find a cure.
“I’m very passionate about changing the face of what MS looks like; I may not look sick, but don’t judge a book by its cover,” she says. “I know that sounds funny from someone that is a model, but it’s very important to me that I give back because I may not see a cure in my lifetime, but I want there to be a cure.”
In that arena, it is without a doubt that Parker McCulloch is making an impact. She has raised millions of dollars for various charities and never charges a speaker’s fee. For her wedding this past fall, the couple registered their three favorite charities in lieu of gifts. They raised more than six figures in donations.
“If I could have anything in the world, I would constantly be fundraising,” she says. “I love to pay it forward. I’m in a situation where it’s my medicine; there’s no better feeling than to give.”
Of course, fashion is still very much a part of her life and one of the things she’s quite passionate about. She recently returned to the runway and calls it one of the proudest moments of her career. She also has quite the collection of couture and vintage finds in her closet.
“Fashion is my art,” she says. “Every day I could go in my closet no matter what mood I’m in and be inspired."
And inspiring it is. She has several furs passed down from her family, which she says helps her feel connected to them. And she also enjoys buying collectibles from films, like the dress she acquired from The Devil Wears Prada.
Although she won’t play favorites, one of her greatest finds is a black lace Dior party dress she discovered serendipitously when her car broke down in New Mexico. While awaiting repairs, she popped into a nearby vintage boutique where she saw the dress, sans label, crumpled up in a corner. She immediately knew the treasure she had found. The grand total? $125.
“I had it authenticated by Dior; there were only two of them ever made. I call her ‘her’. They wanted to buy it back, but it was waiting to be rescued.”
These days there is no “typical” day for Parker McCulloch, except that she is living life to the fullest and enjoying life as a newlywed. Through her marriage, she inherited the family she always wanted and excitedly shares that she now has children and grandchildren. “Every morning I get up and make my husband a hot breakfast before he leaves. I’m proud of that,” she says.
And although she’s lived quite the jet-setting lifestyle, she is incredibly down to earth. “Life is about making moments. Kicking back at home with your loved ones is just as fulfilling as glamorous trips,” she says. When she isn’t traveling, she and her husband spend their time in Phoenix or their second home in Sedona. And, she says, they never run out of things to do. “You can’t shovel sunshine!”
In the end, it’s evident Parker McCulloch encompasses many of the same qualities sapphires are known for: integrity, strength, loyalty, and wisdom. “I never take any day for granted. I’m grateful to still be alive and able to celebrate just the beauty of life.”