The hottest couple on the planet right now, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen are as famous for their no-holds-barred social-media presence as for their stellar careers. From IVF and depression to mothers-in-law and President Trump, no subject is off limits…
She’s a former Sports Illustrated cover girl and successful model, writer and TV personality. He’s the musician who this year achieved the elusive EGOT – winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony (the first African-American man and one of only 15 people to do so). The joint wattage of Chrissy Teigen and John Legend is dazzling, and with a combined following on Instagram just shy of 30 million (on Twitter it is 23 million), their outspoken views on everything from breastfeeding and body-shaming to US politics have huge global reach.
Even President Trump has had to take notice, but it’s fair to say he is not their biggest fan. Chrissy began trolling Trump long before he became president, prompting him to block her on Twitter last year. (The final straw was her writing ‘Lol no one likes you’ on his page, which is innocuous compared to some of the other things she has said.)
Chrissy, 32, and John, 39, met in 2006 when she starred in the video for his single ‘Stereo’. This was also the year when John won his first three Grammys. Chrissy was already an in-demand model signed to IMG (she has appeared in campaigns for the likes of Nike, Olay and Ugg). ‘We were really attracted to each other,’ he admits. ‘We started seeing each other right away.’ (She has said, more bluntly, that they ‘did it’ on their first date, after eating burgers from cult US fast food chain In-N-Out.) In September 2013, they married at the Villa d’Este hotel overlooking Lake Como, and they now have two children: Luna, two, and Miles, six months.
Chrissy has just released her second cookbook, Cravings: Hungry For More, which like her first, Cravings, contains a mix of comfort food (there’s a section devoted to potatoes and multiple recipes for cheese toasties) and healthier offerings. And John has an album out, A Legendary Christmas, featuring soulful takes on old favourites.
The couple and their brood reside in Beverly Hills in a sleek modern home that formerly belonged to Rihanna. But both have grafted for their success, with neither coming from a privileged background. John is the son of a seamstress and a factory worker from Ohio. His talent was nurtured first in his church choir and then in an a cappella group at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied African-American literature. He began singing and songwriting professionally after graduating and made it big after meeting Kanye West [now one of his best friends – he sang at his wedding to Kim Kardashian]. As well as West, John has collaborated with Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill and will.i.am. His 2004 debut album Get Lifted won the Best R&B Grammy. John has also dabbled in acting, appearing in La La Land alongside Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone [he contributed to the film’s musical score as well]. He is perhaps best known for his 2014 single ‘All Of Me’ – fittingly, this was inspired by his relationship with Chrissy.
Chrissy was born to a Thai mother and a Norwegian-American father, whose work as an electrician meant that the family moved frequently while she was growing up. They settled in California, where she was discovered as a teen while working in a surf shop. She has been modelling ever since – appearing in the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in 2010 and gracing its cover in 2014. As well as writing she has appeared on countless US TV shows, from Lip Sync Battle to America’s Next Top Model.
I meet the couple first together and then separately. There is no doubting how in love they are – her nickname for him is Bear; they try to spend no more than ten days apart, no matter how hectic their schedules; they still do date nights and they always celebrate Valentine’s Day (‘It’s cheesy, but if you love someone, why wouldn’t you?’ asks John.) They are also very much a team – no trophy wife or husband here. ‘We balance each other,’ says John. Chrissy is the extrovert. ‘I’m very outspoken,’ she says with a laugh. ‘John is…’ ‘Boring,’ he pipes up. ‘Not boring, but more laidback, very relaxed,’ she smiles. ‘She’s a lot funnier than I am,’ John adds. ‘I’ve become funnier from spending 12 years with her. You know what you’re getting with Chrissy, because she is always herself.’ Chrissy says that the downside of her openness – ‘She’s the most emotionally honest person I know,’ says John adoringly – is that she is easily riled.
She has made a name for herself by putting the world to rights on everything from IVF – the couple have been open about the fact that, after they struggled with infertility, Luna and Miles were conceived in ‘the same petri dish’ – to choosing to select the gender of her baby and postnatal depression. Of the latter, she has spoken frankly about how she suffered so badly, particularly after the birth of Luna, that for a long time she couldn’t get off the sofa (John frequently slept there with her), completely lost her appetite and never left the house. ‘I couldn’t control it. I felt selfish and weird saying that I was struggling,’ she recalls. ‘I have a great life and all the help I could need, but [this illness] does not discriminate.’
Eventually, Chrissy was prescribed an antidepressant and her condition began to improve, but she tells me that the anxiety which so often accompanies depression is still with her. ‘When you suffer from anxiety, all you do is wonder if you’re being weird. I ask myself constantly, “Did I sound awkward just then?” I’m going to be freaking out about it after this interview. But the more I have to get out – for instance, taking Luna to her pre-school – and talking to the other parents, the easier it gets.’
Chrissy has busted the taboos of childbirth too, posting photos of her stretchmarks and referring to her ‘mom bod’ on social media. Her lacerating response [‘I just had a baby but thank you for being soooo respectful’] to a Twitter body-shamer who asked if she was still pregnant at the Emmys in September [Miles was born in May] went viral. ‘I’m very big on justice, on people knowing when they’re wrong.’ She admits to sometimes feeling ‘crazy’, but adds, ‘I’m also empathetic. If I go too far, I usually apologise fast.’
She has not, however, apologised to President Trump, and nor will she. ‘It is painful for
me to even try to say a good word about him,’ she says. ‘I think he’s a monster. I met him seven years ago, when he appeared on a US comedy show [she was in the audience]. He was famous as a businessman and for his role on The Apprentice, and I had an icky feeling about him then. I never saw him as someone with a good heart. I don’t blame him for blocking me on Twitter. I would have blocked me too! I was like, “What’s taken him so long?”’
Her friends now have to send her screen grabs of the president’s Twitter feed, ‘because I don’t know when he’s going to declare war on someone, but when he does, it will probably be on Twitter!’
Chrissy admits that her dislike of Trump has made her ‘envious’ of our royal family. ‘Your first family are the opposite of ours: we have reality TV stars and you have royals. I am especially a fan of Meghan. I was on Deal or No Deal with her [in 2006, before landing her breakout role on Suits, Meghan, along with Chrissy, was a ‘suitcase girl’, carrying bags of money on the US game show] and she was lovely. Now everyone asks me what she was like and I say, “Sorry, no dirt. She’s gorgeous.” I love the freshness she brings, and her cookbook Together [recipes from women affected by the Grenfell Tower fire] is my only pre-order of the year. It’s beautifully done and you can tell how important it is to her. You see how she interacts with people and gets down to eye level with kids.’ Chrissy’s love of the duchess has seen her take to Twitter to call on her father, Thomas Markle, to ‘let [her] be happy’, following his series of press interviews complaining about his lack of contact with his daughter. ‘This guy sucks,’ she tweeted. ‘What is wrong with him?’
Chrissy and John are both realistic about the downsides of social media but have focused on harnessing it as a force for good. ‘There’s always going to be negativity,’ says John. ‘But for us it has been a great way to get to know our fans, and it has enabled me to enjoy a broad dialogue.’ He admits that he gets less stick for sharing his views than Chrissy does. ‘Some people don’t want women to express their opinions, especially if they’re known for their looks. Because Chrissy became famous as a model, they don’t want her to have opinions as well,’ he says.
John often gets political on Twitter, staunchly opposing, for instance, the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice, because of what his appointment ‘might mean for women and society’. The pair share liberal views and agree that, while there is much that can be tolerated in a relationship, such as telling your partner how to dress (John likes Chrissy in backless dresses; she likes him in white button-down shirts) or fighting (‘our driver, who takes us to events, has heard a lot,’ winks Chrissy), differing political beliefs would be a deal-breaker.
The pair are no less open on personal matters. ‘I’ve always been an oversharer,’ Chrissy smiles, ‘it’s just the way I am. What I say on TV shows is no different to what I say to my friends. Things like IVF and postnatal depression have never felt like secrets to me, but on social media, to the followers who don’t know you, they become “revelations”. However, when people come up to me at book signings and say how my openness has helped them to get through depression or given them hope with fertility treatment, it feels incredible and reminds me of why I speak up.’
Parenthood, they say, provides real grist for the social-media mill. ‘I think those nine months of pregnancy are to prepare you for 18 years of scrutiny,’ jokes Chrissy. ‘I got a lot of crap when I was pregnant – for things like eating sugary cereal [she was trolled for posting a photo of herself eating a bowl of it with a caption about pregnancy cravings] – so I realised that everything I did as a mother would be scrutinised, too.’ A furore erupted when Chrissy posted a photo of herself breastfeeding baby Miles on Instagram in July. The pair took on the outraged trolls with humour and grace. ‘I believe in freedom for women,’ says John. ‘Breastfeeding is not offensive or rude, it’s a mother being a mother and no one should ever feel ashamed of that.’
Becoming parents has brought the pair closer. ‘You think you really know someone, then you see how they are as a parent and it brings a new perspective,’ says Chrissy. ‘I have a childlike sense of wonder and I love silliness, so I’ll make forts with Luna and have an imaginary friends’ tea party. John is the patient one. I would never be able to get the children to sleep on a plane because I am very anxious and they need someone calming. John is amazing at that.’
Also part of their domestic setup is Chrissy’s mum Vilailuck, who lives with them, helping with childcare and ‘cooking all day every day’. Her father Ron lives ten minutes away, despite remaining married to her mum, and visits daily. This unconventional setup ‘suits everyone’, says Chrissy, and John agrees. ‘She’s great – so sweet and loving, and she cooks the most delicious Thai food. When you have kids, you really appreciate your mother-in-law.’
Chrissy’s voice wobbles when we get on to the topic of John’s career, and his recent EGOT (which he clinched in September when Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert – a TV special – won the Emmy for Outstanding Variety Special). ‘I am so proud of him for putting his name on projects that he feels passionate about. And he’s done it all so young! I’m like, “What’s next? A double EGOT? The Nobel Peace prize?” John is home for dinner every night too.’
John’s commitment to family life even saw him take over the cooking from Chrissy when she was knocked sideways by postnatal depression after the births of both children. ‘I was really suffering and spent most of my time horizontal,’ she says, ‘but I would get up from time to time to show him a better way to chop an onion. Now he’s an incredible cook – he even goes off-recipe and adds his own touches.’
‘I’m happy to be Chrissy’s assistant,’ says John. ‘Chopping is my thing.’ Chrissy adds: ‘It’s important to us – when we’re racing around in different directions – to carve out time at the end of the day to bond over a meal.’
Cooking is Chrissy’s passion and, as she recovered from depression, it was ‘what helped me feel normal again. When I’m in my kitchen, chopping herbs, making a sauce, with Real Housewives playing in the background, that is my anxiety therapy. I got my love of food from my mum. Growing up, she would make amazing Thai dishes, like pad thai and papaya salad [one chapter in Chrissy’s new book is entitled ‘Thai Mom’]. My dad loved meat and potatoes; I would help to peel the potatoes, and I remember how it would calm me.’
The Cravings title of her cookbooks is Chrissy’s playful nod to her pregnancy cravings, with one released in the year of each child’s birth. With their embracing of all ingredients and emphasis on enjoyment, the books make a refreshing antidote to those ubiquitous clean-eating tomes. ‘I do buy those, too,’ says Chrissy, ‘but I wanted to share no-gimmick recipes that could become family staples – dishes to bring to something like a Thanksgiving potluck party.’
And what of Christmas in the Teigen-Legend household? Now that they have kids, it is usually spent at home, they tell me. ‘Last year, we ate beef wellington on Christmas Day, and it was so good that I think we’ll do it every year,’ says John.
‘Music is a big part of Christmas for us, too. My family often visit from Ohio and we’ll do a big singalong with all the kids, uncles and aunts gathered around the piano. Luna is old enough to really get into it this year.’ This Christmas will also be especially festive with the release of John’s album in time for the holidays. It features plenty of nostalgic classics, such as ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, as well as more modern numbers, such as Stevie Wonder’s ‘What Christmas Means To Me’.
And did Chrissy get a say in choosing the songs? ‘I always want to know what songs she likes,’ says John. ‘It would be hard to put something out there that she didn’t like.’ Chrissy adds: ‘And, of course, he can always count on me to be honest with him.’
Chrissy’s tweet spot
She’s renowned for her witty one-liners. Here are some of our favourites…
ON LOVE ‘Two Grammy nominations for @johnlegend. No one has congratulated me for being the inspiration behind “All Of Me” [his single]. Without me there is no all of me.’
ON MARRIAGE ‘I always have a note in my pocket that says “John did it” just in case I’m murdered because I don’t want him to remarry.’
ON KEEPING TABS ‘I woke up and thought John went the gym, but nope. China.’
ON BENDING THE RULES ‘Making mom talk like a baby in the background of my room service call because it’s illegal for adults to order off the kids’ menu.’
ON HER CAPACITY FOR SUBTERFUGE ‘I could go like… four hours before I would excitedly tell someone I was a spy.’
ON BEAUTY ‘I don’t even get what a bb cream is and now you’re telling me there is a cc.’
ON PARANOIA ‘Rental houses make me nervous because I’m scared the owners put in cameras because I know I would totally put in cameras.’
ON THE PITFALLS OF FRIENDSHIP ‘I’m in this weird endless pit with a certain group of friends where we keep sending each other flowers to thank each other for the flowers.’
John’s A Legendary Christmas and Chrissy’s Cravings: Hungry For More, published by Michael Joseph, price £16.99, are both available now.
Interview by Charlotte Pearson Methven. Styling: Natalie Hartley. Art Direction: Lisa Rahman. Make-up: Fiona Styles. Hair: Laura Polko. Groomer: Ron Stephens II. Manicure: Kimmie Keys.