The daughter of a pilot and a flight attendant, Turlington was discovered at age 13 by a photographer while riding her horse near her family's home in Miami. She signed up with Ford Models at age 16 and had the good fortune to land on the fashion scene just as the 1980s supermodel phenomenon was peaking. Turlington was in the top tier of star models in the early '90s, scoring coveted contracts with Maybelline and Calvin Klein appearing on hundreds of magazine covers, and making appearances in movies and music videos. In 1994, she abandoned the fashion world to earn a bachelor's degree at NYU, where she majored in comparative religion and philosophy and graduated cum laude. By 2000 Turlington had more or less retired from modeling in order to focus on new endeavors (she dipped back into modeling in 2006 for Maybelline), but has spent most of her time these days as an anti-smoking activist for the American Cancer Society or in charitable ads like for Project (RED).