When Paulina was 14, a friend in Lund took some photos of her, sent them to modeling agencies, and John Casablancas of the New York-based Elite Model Management saw her promise. So Porizkova moved to Paris, where she modeled by day and ran wild by night, totally unsupervised. Her formal education had ended in the ninth grade. After two years, including her first SI appearance, she moved to New York and lit up that town. Now she lives in Greenwich Village with her boyfriend, whom she steadfastly refuses to name. She has brought her mother and a teenage brother to this country and supports them, along with four other relatives in Sweden. She hopes to open an artist's loft in New York for the use of photographers, sculptors and painters—at no cost. "That's what money is for," she says. "What the hell is the fun of just sitting on a pile of it?"
She dabbles at oil painting and devotes about the same amount of attention to playing her baby grand piano, but swears writing is her true love. She's currently writing a novel about—surprise—a model: "I don't know if anyone else will find what I am writing interesting, but I do." Her favorite pastime: drinking a cup of hot chocolate in front of a fire while reading Bukowski, "which I was doing before he was in PEOPLE." Of her other interests she says, "I am handy at a lot of things but not brilliant at any of them." She insists she moves around New York generally unnoticed, or at least her extreme near-sightedness leaves her with that impression.
She is, in so many ways, disgustingly accomplished (she speaks four languages) and disgustingly normal. For example, she doesn't exercise or diet: "I'm a trash can. I eat whatever makes me happy. I get enough exercise out of life, going to the A & P and carrying those plastic bags home. Besides, making love burns off calories."
She muses over photos of herself: "I don't see me. I see a touched-up version of me. It's the difference between a Christmas tree with the stuff on it and without the stuff on it. I guess pictures are a little bit of a lie."
Then she gathers herself and heads off through the crowds for the A & P. "There are eight million people in New York struggling to survive, to do something with their lives," she says. "I thrive on that energy." A truck driver honks and whistles as she passes.