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Christie Brinkley is back in the pages of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue this year at the age of 63, and this time, she has her two beautiful daughters by her side.
But when the trio visited TODAY Wednesday morning, the iconic supermodel thought back to earlier days — when her girls were much younger and were forced to share their famous mom's spotlight.
Alexa Ray Joel, 31, and Sailor Brinkley Cook, 18, both made headlines as children because of Brinkley's fame. And in Joel's case, her dad, singer Billy Joel, was a superstar too.
"I have to tell you it was excruciating," Brinkley explained of the often critical coverage. "As a mom, I could cry now."
In fact, she added — welling up as she went on — "there's nothing worse" than seeing one's own children weather such media scrutiny.
Joel recalled the kind of comments that were made about her in the press.
"Not to rehash too much — I don't want any pity, I have a great life and I'm very privileged to be where I am — but I certainly went through it," she said. "They did used to call me 'bow-wow face.' So I went through it. I grew into myself later in life."
Those kind of statements caused pain for the whole family, and that pain prompted Brinkley to make a plea.
"If I could urge one thing for the media: Lay off the kids," she insisted. "It's like, we're celebrities, we're fair game, say what you want. But lay off the kids. Let them have their moment to grow up and become who they're going to be."
And when those kids grow up and join mom for a major magazine shoot?
"When they decide to step out, then they're fair game," Brinkley said plainly.
Her daughters agreed.
See more from the family in the 2017 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue with Kate Upton on the cover, which is on newsstands now.