Paulina Porizkova’s life changed forever on September 15, 2019. She had said good night to late husband and singer-songwriter Ric Ocasek the night before, and started preparing him a coffee the next morning when he hadn’t yet come downstairs. The couple announced their separation in 2017 after nearly 30 years of marriage, but they were still living in the same Gramercy townhouse they’d shared for decades. When Porizkova went upstairs with his coffee, she found that Ocasek had died in the night — and new essay collection No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful details the intense collapse she experienced at the shock of this moment.
“I turned to touch his shoulder, and it was then that I saw his eyes,” Porizkova writes. “His eyes didn’t look like his eyes anymore. I knew what those eyes should look like. I knew those eyes so well…I touched his face. It was cold.”
“My legs went numb and collapsed under me. I sat on the floor, gasping for breath,” she continues. “Ric had just gotten back from major surgery, but it had gone well. He was recovering. he was on his way back to health. This just couldn’t be.”
Time moved strangely for Porizkova in those moments, as awareness dawned on her that their two sons, Jonathan and Oliver, were downstairs, and she would have to tell them what she’d found.
“I have to tell our children. I have to walk downstairs…I commanded myself to get up and walk,” she writes. “I held on to the side of the bed to pull myself up. But when I tried to put any weight on my legs, I couldn’t feel them. They were two limp noodles. I could not get on my feet…Unable to get up, I crawled down three flights of stairs on my belly and elbows. There were sounds issuing from me that I was only dimly aware of. All I knew was that I had to get to my sons.”
An autopsy later revealed that Ric Ocasek had died of cardiovascular disease, unrelated to the surgery from which he’d been recovering. And Porizkova suffered a further shock the following day when it was revealed to her that Ocasek had changed his will just weeks before to cut Porizkova out of it entirely, claiming she had “abandoned” him. Porizkova has since settled with Ocasek’s estate and began sharing pieces of her story on Instagram in the wake of Ocasek’s death, earning a reputation as someone willing to be vulnerable and honest about the darkest parts of the human experience.
“The world around me ceased to exist as I knew it,” Porizkova writes in No Filter about the weeks following this trauma. “This intense fog, this feeling of inhabiting a different reality, persisted for three months…I had to be strong for my boys, who had descended into the same hell. If it weren’t for my children, my only wish would have been to be left alone to rock and moo.”
“I realize now these were the same sorts of sounds I made in childbirth,” she adds. “The pain of childbirth and grief reduces you to being an animal…You exist suspended in time and agony. Nothing else matters. Only the pain is real.”
No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful by Paulina Porizkova
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