Linda Evangelista Remembers George Michael

Linda Evangelista Remembers George Michael

Linda Evangelista recalls her first meeting with the iconic singer and their enduring friendship born from the “Freedom! ’90” video shoot—as told to Fred Howard.

Linda Evangelista recalls her first meeting with the iconic singer and their enduring friendship born from the “Freedom! ’90” video shoot—as told to Fred Howard.

Text: Linda Evangelista

Despite having known who George was from his Wham! days, I didn’t meet him until 1990, when he came to Paris for the collections and asked me to do the “Freedom! ‘90” video. All of the other girls had already agreed and I was the last one to sign up. When he told me, “It will make you famous,” I burst out laughing! At that moment in my career, all I wanted to do was make my “art”—whatever that was. I did not want to lip-synch in a music video or sell calendars or burgers—and I’m not saying that in a derogatory way. I truly only wanted to be a fashion model. I was also laughing because I had no idea how I would find the time. I was so busy! George, in all seriousness, then said, “It will put you on a different level.” How do you say no to that? We gave George the only day I had free.

The day before filming, I had a shoot with Steven Meisel where my hair was Andy Warhol-inspired (blond only on top, roots dark), but then after the shoot, we dyed my hair platinum because Steven decided “The Warhol” was too strange on me. So after shooting all day, we dyed my hair in my kitchen until 3:30 AM, and I went straight from my kitchen in Paris to film the video in London. The other girls had each received a Sony Discman with the song and a copy of the lyrics. I not only never got a Discman, but since my fax machine wasn’t working, my agents in New York City were unable to send me the lyrics, so I showed up the last day of filming not knowing the words and having never heard the song. George found out and came to the makeup trailer to help me learn it. He stayed with me until he was comfortable that I got it. To this day, I’m not sure if he was enthusiastic or worried…I like to think it was enthusiasm.

After my first take, George jumped in, stopped me and told me to stop singing the song and lip-synch instead. I had no idea what the difference was, but I worked very hard on my lip-synching skills. For most of the 16-plus hour day, Christy was with us (but better behaved than me and George). There was plenty of red wine, lots of laughter, and when the production locked up the wine, George and I managed to break into the locked production office and steal some back for the purpose of “finishing the shoot,” with George repeating, “I paid for this! I paid for this!” We became close friends from then on out and would see one another wherever we could.

By the time we shot the “Too Funky” video for the Red Hot + Dance album two years later, Georgie (which is what I was calling him by then) and many artists were working to bring awareness to HIV/AIDS. In fact, Georgie and the other artists on the record donated all of their proceeds to HIV/AIDS organizations. Making the video for “Too Funky” was a bit tougher than “Freedom! ‘90.” Georgie had hired Thierry Mugler to direct the video, but it was such a detailed project and they soon learned that they didn’t have the time needed for the version Thierry imagined. So Georgie took over, combined Thierry’s footage with new footage he directed, and made the version it’s best known for today. Genius at work!

Over the years, we stayed in touch and would send one another birthday wishes (mine in May, his in June). I can easily recall all of the craziness we enjoyed together. One of my favorite times with Georgie was seeing Prince in concert in London—from the sound booth—and dancing the entire time! Georgie was a dazzling and compassionate soul who I will always remember as he was on the day when we met: with a precocious smile and sense of adventure. Thank you for the love, Georgie.

George Michael, March 1988, Faith World Tour, Michael Putland/Getty Images

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