Cocooned in a white blanket on her deck in Los Angeles, Chrissy Teigen still looks like Chrissy Teigen. But everything else about her is different. The mom of two is reflective, patient, almost at ease, which seems hard to be after the year she’s had. In September 2020, at 20 weeks gestation, she and her husband, musician John Legend, lost their third baby, whom they had already named Jack. Then came a public lashing for resurfaced messages Teigen sent on social media. She turned inward to figure herself out. “I feel very good,” she says now. “I feel like I’ve had a lot of closure.”
Make no mistake: Whatever tranquillity she’s found has been hard-won. Teigen, 35, quit drinking and goes to therapy multiple times a week, burrowing through messy layers of insecurity, of rejection, of anger and disappointment and jealousy to figure out how to be her best self. She’s not there yet. But slowly, slowly, she’s getting there. “I think that’s where the real growth happens, when your world is turned upside down,” she says.
One way she coped was by working on her third cookbook, Cravings: All Together: Recipes to Love, out on Oct. 26. The recipes aren’t haute cuisine, and they don’t require artisanal ingredients only found at distant farm stands. This is stuff your kids — or at least her kids, Miles, 3, and Luna, 5 — will supposedly eat: crispy yams with lime-infused yogurt, a sweet-smoky eggplant dip, and the airy focaccia made by family friend Mike Rosenthal, who’s married to hairstylist Jen Atkin.
“For me, it’s very personal,” Teigen says of the book. “I was deeply involved, but it’s also things that I really, really needed to eat and things that I wanted to make.”
Here, Teigen talks to Scary Mommy about hard lessons, new beginnings, and the food that feeds her soul.
What was it like to create this cookbook amid so much turmoil in your life?
When everything happened, all I wanted myself was comfort recipes, so I decided I wanted to be fully immersed in this cookbook process. It’s funny because the [process of writing] Hungry for More was kind of — there were bouts of incredible depression postpartum. I was physically there for it, but I wasn’t necessarily mentally there. This one, I needed it to survive.
The kids were super involved. Adeena [Sussman, Teigen’s co-author] moves in every time and lives in the guest room; Adeena was kind of there for everything…and her advice and her wisdom extends far beyond the cookbook world. And we were in a little rental house. It felt a little unfamiliar in the kitchen sometimes, but it was really also very cool because we got to see what we could do with just the bare minimum. So then I knew for sure, “Oh my gosh, anyone can make any recipe in this cookbook.” And that was awesome in itself.
After I was done with the book, I realized, “Oh, it’s time to address a lot of things. It’s definitely time for therapy, and time for some healing.”
What would Chrissy from today tell early 2020 Chrissy about this year that you’ve been through?
There’s so much room to completely think you knew everything and think you had everything and for that all to change.
I needed to be shaken up, and I needed to be humbled. Before I had gotten pregnant with Jack, I wasn’t living a healthy life. The way I was treating my body was not great, with the alcohol. I was the kind of person that made fun of working out and made fun of my friends that were obsessed with their CrossFit. I just wasn’t reading my body well. So I feel like if I [had] got[ten] the chance to have him, I wouldn’t have learned how precious life is and how precious my body is. Now I look at my body as something that I can’t yell at and I can’t be upset with. It’s gotten through so much, and so much more than people even know. What it has persevered through has been incredible.
You seem remarkably… calm?
I am. It took a lot to get there. I don’t hold any anger, and I attribute that to so much therapy. I was kind of an angry brat before. I would get riled up at the smallest things. […] Even at a restaurant or something, and I’d always have my guard up. I’d always be watching for people that were taking sneaky videos or taking pictures.
I was a jealous person. Whether it was other people’s successes — I was not bad to my friends, but I wasn’t good in the way of communication, and it was kind of a thing where my friends had to accept that I was going to be in and out. Something that always loomed over me was that I always wanted to be a better friend. My world tends to be very closed off. [After Jack died] I wasn’t getting out very much — depression can throw you, obviously. You’re hellbent on doing what you can to not be seen and not be a part of the world, and I was making myself so small by being sad and angry and bitter.
I just feel more like [a] complete, whole person. It’s silly, but it’s really the little things. I love listening to music, and I love driving my kids around and taking them for a little staycation, like I did this last weekend, and that wouldn’t have happened a year ago. I feel like I’m a better mom, I’m a better wife, and I’m a better friend. I love being a part of the world.
How did you explain to Miles and Luna what happened to Jack?
They saw the experience of the home ultrasounds and the nervousness of “This isn’t going well.” Or it was me going to the bathroom, and Luna would be at the door when I came out, and she would say, “Are you bleeding still?” She knew everything. So there was going to be no escaping it, even if I wanted to.
We told them that we lost him, but it wasn’t really until we got his ashes back, I think, that they started to be able to say, “OK, this happened. Here he is now. He didn’t make it.” It was something for them to be able to put a story to, where we could say, “OK, Jack is in here and he is going to stay with us. And maybe one day we might release him. And he loves that we still think about him, and he loves that we’re still emotional about him, but more than anything, he loves that we talk about him. That makes him really excited and really happy.” So they know that he’s still very much a part of our lives.
I don’t think they’ll ever quite understand why he didn’t make it, in the way that I don’t understand. I had a placental abruption, and I keep having to ask my doctor, “OK, but why? Why wasn’t it able to work? Why didn’t we just keep going?” And they were like, “We physically would’ve run out of blood in the hospital. Were we going to do that for 20 weeks in the hospital?” That’s still something that I’m coming to terms with, why we gave up.
Honestly, the [kids] still catch me in a funk some days. And the first thing they go to is, “Is it baby Jack?”
How are they doing now?
At school when they draw things, they draw him as an angel. We talk about it a lot. What felt comfortable for our family was him always being around. Whether we go on a vacation or something, they always say, “Don’t forget baby Jack.” And then I have to pack him up. And then we get to where we’re going, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, he must be thirsty.” This might sound crazy to people, but they’ll put a little glass of water next to his little box of ashes. And they really love being a part of it.
Thank you for sharing that. I’m guessing Miles and Luna also offer some welcome distraction on the harder days? Having kids doesn’t really let you fixate on yourself too much.
I know. My daughter, just this morning, she was like, “If you are going to be Morticia, you have to get skinny.” Because the Morticia in the cartoon Addams Family is literally a twig drawing of a person. And I’m like, “Well, I don’t know if I can ever get that small, Luna.”
My son told me a few years ago that I look like the Incredible Hulk, and trust me, it wasn’t because I was green.
I love kids so much.
I love that you cook with your kids — do they like it?
Miles will cook, but it has to involve something gross. And then he’s in — if he can get dirty doing it, he’s totally in. Luna’s very thoughtful with cooking. She can foresee how beautiful the end result’s going to be, and I love it.
Do they actually eat what you make? Is there some kind of secret to raising non-picky eaters?
I was the type of person that was adamant our kids are going to eat what we eat. Maybe not the spicy stuff. But if I’m having shrimp, they’re going to have shrimp. And if they don’t eat it, then they’re going to be hungry. And that didn’t happen with either of them. I actually just uttered the words — and I couldn’t believe I did this. I was like, Oh my God, I’m officially a mom — I caught myself yelling, “This isn’t a restaurant, you know?!” It just spewed out of me.
Miles, right now it’s chicken nuggets for him, chicken tenders. Oh! Here’s a cool secret, and this is fun: I kept the Happy Meal box. I realize[d] if things go in the Happy Meal box, they get more excited for it.
But yeah, I would be lying if I said my kids were any different than any of the other kids out there even though I cook.
They still want a Happy Meal.
They still want a Happy Meal. They still want pizza Fridays at school. They’re kids, and they want things that are familiar and yummy. You can’t really get from it, no matter who you are. That’s just that.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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