Should Linda Cooper’s camera-ready makeup, multi-colored faux fur handbag, and sequined straps peeking out of her off-the-shoulder sweater not be enough to turn heads at Neiman Marcus’ Mermaid Bar, the streams of laughter punctuating her every statement surely are. She becomes more serious when asked about the red string around her wrist.
“It’s Kabbalah,” she says. “This is an evil eye protection. Unfortunately, all through my life, and I hate to say this because it could be like”—she rolls her eyes—“but what I do has always created jealousy in other people.”
What Cooper does, currently, is write, produce, and host the TV show Travel Time With Linda, premiering this month on the Mark Cuban-owned AXS TV. She describes the show as “infotaining travel porn in lust-worthy destinations.” In the 13 half-hour episodes, viewers will see her mug for the camera as she surfs atop dolphins, performs traditional dances alongside islanders, speaks with a parliamentary secretary, shops in a strapless romper, snorkels, cliff jumps, and interviews reggae singer Bankie Banx, who languidly answers questions from a hammock. And that’s just in Anguilla.
“I love an audience,” says Cooper, who was born and raised in Southern California as an only child. “I grew up with all the love, all the affection, all the attention, which probably made me that person who is always on.” She was 15 years old when a Japanese photographer discovered her at an outdoor mall and put her in ads for Pentax cameras and on a sake label. She was able to parlay her “quintessential Valley Girl” persona into a career as a commercial and fitness model through high school and college. One of her specialties was performing a hybrid of jump-rope, aerobics, and dance that earned her spots in TV and fashion shows hosted by Richard Blane and Rick Dees, respectively. “I worked the whole runway,” she says.
She was at a gym in Studio City when she met Simmie Cooper, a South African real estate developer who whisked her away the day after their 1990 wedding to a recession-weary Dallas to buy up properties for his business. Cooper settled into the role of Plano housewife when their two children were young, but in 2000 she began selling “Shopping Is My Cardio” statement tees (a phrase lifted from either Sex and the City or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, she’s not sure which), eventually producing a blog and local TV segments by the same name. For several years, she was a co-host on a local lifestyle show, Live Love Laugh Today.
Walking through NorthPark Center, Cooper is outgoing and personable, speaking with salespeople as if they’ve known each other for years—and in one case they have. “What are you doing here?!” she says, squeezing the shoulder of a Nordstrom shoe salesman. He recently transferred from the Galleria Dallas location. Clearly, “shopping fanatic” is not just a part she plays on TV.
“I literally get a contact high when I walk into a mall,” Cooper says, “and I get excited about travel that same way. It’s intoxicating because you’re able to do these amazing things. Airboat bonefishing—I’ve never done that before.”