Born in Prostějov, Czechoslovakia, Paulina Porizkova was still a toddler when her parents left Czechoslovakia, fleeing the Warsaw Pact invasion in 1968, and moved to Lund, Sweden, leaving young Paulina in the care of her grandmother in Czechoslovakia, believing that their daughter could be brought out later.
However, the Czechoslovakian authorities would not allow this, and the ensuing battle for Porizkova was widely publicized in the Swedish press, making her a cause célèbre.After a failed rescue attempt, in which her mother was detained by the national police, international political pressure led by Olof Palme caused the communist government to allow the Pořízek family to be reunited after seven years. Porizkova acquired Swedish citizenship. The reunion was soon ended when Porizkova's father left the family, and her parents filed for divorce. Porizkova and her father have been estranged since.
This left Porizkova's mother to fund her own medical issues, and Porizkova and her brother Jáchym Pořízek (who was born in Czechoslovakia during her mother's house arrest) to look after themselves, including having to steal bread to have something to eat.
An aspiring photographer friend took pictures of Porizkova and sent them to the Elite modeling agency in 1980, hoping they would notice her own photography skills. However, instead of taking the photographer on board, Elite head John Casablancas noticed Porizkova's physical beauty and potential, and offered her a ticket to Paris.
She quickly rose to become a top model in Paris during the early 1980s, and her fame spread to the United States when she posed in swimwear for Sports Illustrated. She appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 1984 and again in 1985 (her first appearance as a model in the magazine was in 1983). She appeared on the cover of Playboy magazine in August 1987 to preview her new (non-nude) swimsuit calendar. Both of her calendars in 1988 and 1989 by photographer Marco Glaviano sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
Porizkova was chosen twice by People as one of the Fifty Most Beautiful People in the world, in 1990 and 1992. Harper's Bazaar named her one of its ten most beautiful women in 1992. American Photo in its first issue declared her to be the model of the 1980s. She appeared on the covers of numerous magazines around the world during the 1980s and 1990s, including Vogue, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, Self, Cosmopolitan and Glamour. She was also featured in advertising for Diet Sprite. Porizkova was the cover model for the 20th Anniversary issue of Cosmopolitan magazine in November 1985.
In 1988, Porizkova won what was then the highest-paying modeling contract: a six million dollar contract with Estée Lauder cosmetics, replacing the model Willow Bay. The black-and-white television and print advertising campaign won praise from critics. The Estée Lauder makeover transformed Porizkova's public image from a swimsuit model to that of European sophisticate and she remained the company's face until 1995. She was presented on the November 1999 Millennium cover of American Vogue as one of the "Modern Muses".
Porizkova's photos appeared in the books Models and Sirens, by Marco Glaviano, and in Fashion Photography by Patrick Demarchelier. The latter includes some of the noted LIFE magazine swimsuit pictures from several years ago. She was in Women by Herb Ritts.
After having her first baby in 1993, Porizkova devoted less time to modeling, and she moved into acting in independent films. She soon got a new contract as the lead model for Escada. In early 2001, she was the hostess for a television show on the E! network's Style Channel.
Porizkova's film debut was in the 1983 modeling mockumentary, Portfolio. Only 17 years old, she managed to look more mature and intelligent than the other more-established models, and became "covergirl" for the film. She appeared in the 1987 film Anna, receiving good reviews from her patrons at Vogue magazine. It was in 1989 that she had her largest, and best-known role to date, co-starring with Tom Selleck (who was rumored to not get along with her at all) in the film Her Alibi. However, she was nominated for a Golden Raspberry for worst actress for her appearance in the film.
Porizkova appeared in Emir Kusturica's 1993 film Arizona Dream, with Johnny Depp and Jerry Lewis, in a minor role as Lewis's young Polish fiancee. She turned down an opportunity to be a Bond Girl in the 1995 film GoldenEye because of better earnings available to her in modeling at the time, as well as not wishing to take time away from her family. In 1998 she featured in the film Thursday.
She also appeared in a 6th season episode of Desperate Housewives, Chromolume No. 7 alongside model Heidi Klum.
Porizkova wrote and directed the 2001 film, Roommates. In 2004, she starred in the romantic comedy Knots. Her recent television work includes an 18 April 2007 appearance on The Colbert Report after remarks that she found Colbert "extremely attractive." She most recently appeared on the Starz comedy series Head Case which aired on 24 April 2009.
- Portfolio (1983)
- Anna (1987)
- Her Alibi (1989)
- Arizona Dream (1993)
- Thursday (1998)
- Roommates (2001)
- Knots (2004)
- The Colbert Report (2007)
- Head Case (2009)
- Desperate Housewives (2010)