What was it like being one of Sports Illustrated's 25 "Legends of Swimsuit"?
"It was an incredible honor to be part of the legends. Getting all the cover models together in one room was quite a task — everyone is so, so busy. It was a secret photo shoot, so we couldn’t talk about it at all. There were no photos going out at all, no tweets, nothing. It was really exciting to see some of my friends, and some of the girls that I had never met. Like Babette, who was the first cover model 50 years ago — she was there. Sports Illustrated is like a big family, and we support each other. And, everybody was wearing clothes — no bathing suits!"
What's the secret to being a Sports Illustrated cover girl?
"People think Sports Illustrated girls must look good in a bathing suit, but actually, when the editor MJ meets the girls, she doesn’t ask the girl to go and put on a bathing suit. She meets with her like we are sitting, and she sees if she has a really nice personality and if she has something special about her. So, every girl from Sports Illustrated, especially the cover girls, has something really unique about them."
What are you doing with your charity Happy Hearts right now?
"In 2004, I was blessed to survive the tsunami, and we officially started the charity in 2006. So, since 2006, we have rebuilt 85 schools after natural disasters in seven countries, and by the end of this year, we have a goal to build 100 schools to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tsunami. And, we will add two more countries, including the Philippines. Even achieving 85 schools is really a collaboration of many beautiful people with beautiful hearts."
Why did you start your candle line, Be The Light New York?
"The reason I started it was out of a need. I love bringing treasures from travels to people's homes, and when I go to see friends, or supporters of my foundation, I always want to bring a thoughtful gift. With these candles, you can connect on different touch points. If you know someone with roots in Spain, you can give them the Spanish Saffron candle. If you want to say thank you to someone, you bring American Bluebells, because the meaning is gratitude. So, you have ways to show that you thought about the gift even if you don’t know the person that well."
What was your inspiration for the line?
"I’ve been traveling for the last 16 years, so travel is very much a part of who I am. I love discovering new countries, learning about their treasures, and connecting with the people. It has enriched me so much personally, and has opened my view of the world. So, everything with the brand relates to this travel element. And, it's also about beautiful messages, because every candle has a meaning. There is a map on a side of each candle, and when you put three candles next to each other, it connects the map. It shows how interconnected we are between countries and the world."
Do you enjoy being on the design side of the creative process as opposed to modeling?
"Well, I studied fashion design originally, so design is definitely close to me. When I was very little, I wanted to be a fashion designer, and I used to sew my own clothes. So, I studied fashion design, and then got on the other side with modeling, and now I’m back on this side. I love creating beauty and meaningful experiences for other people."
What's your favorite part of your home and why?
"The bedroom, where I get to sleep! We have a nice balcony that is overlooking the sea, so it is a very nice way to wake up. I especially love to wake up when the doors are open, when it’s super early, and the sun is not yet out. The ocean is so peaceful and zen. The room is all in shades of gray, white, and beige. It’s very calming. Also, sometimes I have the Spanish Saffron candle there, because saffron used to be used as an aphrodisiac, so I’m seeing if it’s working!"
What's the most recent thing you bought traveling?
"The last thing I bought was a beautiful wood plate from Haiti. In Haiti, there is a problem with deforestation, but this wood is from a sustainable forest. It’s very beautiful and uses organic dye from the bark, so it’s natural. It’s a beautiful plate for serving."
Is there anywhere you haven't been that you'd like to travel to?
"Always, always. I would love to travel to Mongolia — I’ve never been. Also, Fiji and Argentina. There are so many. One of the really special ones is Mongolia before it changes. I love to go to places that are still rural."