EXCLUSIVE: Third time's the charm for Camille Kostek.
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover girl for 2019 made her debut in the magazine back in 2018 as a part of the first-ever open casting call. She, along with pal Haley Kalil, went on to win the competition that year.
And just as quickly, the 28-year-old made the cover the following year alongside Tyra Banks and Alex Morgan. Along the way, Kostek has used Instagram to raise awareness on the importance of body positivity to her nearly 800K followers and encourage fans to break a sweat in a fun way with her #NeverNotDancing movement.
Kostek spoke to Fox News about why she still gets nervous on set, having boyfriend Rob Gronkowski by her side, as well as her journey in being more confident about herself.
Fox News: Looking back, what drew you to SI Swimsuit?
Camille Kostek: I actually didn't grow up wanting to be a model. This wasn't, you know, a lifelong goal. This wasn't something I wanted to do ever since I was little. But then in 2008, I was 15 years old and I saw Marisa Miller on the cover. And I was like, “What is this magazine?”
I saw her freckles. It looked like women [who] are in my life. Like my mom, like myself, like my friends. And it was the first time I didn’t see everything just smoothed out and everything looking in a perfect light. It looked real and it looked beautiful. And these women, even though it was just photos, you could tell they were radiating confidence.
That pretty much answers your question. That’s what drew me to modeling, specifically for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. That’s when it became a goal and the dream job… It’s insane to me that [the magazine] was able to speak to me so young, just through images on the page. Now that I get to know the women behind them, all the models, it just all aligns... It is truly the dream job.
Fox News: What was it like shooting in the Dominican Republic for the 2020 issue?
Kostek: It was so different, but so the same in the sense that being my third year on set, I still get so nervous and so excited at the same time. I always have to work through that first bikini. I’m a little jittery. I’m… like having a little bit of an out of body experience and almost forgot how to model. And then it just kind of all settles down. You’re able to appreciate this moment, just soak it in. I’m all about being present in the moment.
Being in the Dominican this year was incredible. I have family that grew up in the Virgin Islands, in St. Thomas. So I’m like a water baby. I love being in the islands. It just feels like home to me. It’s funny, I grew up in Connecticut, but my family’s from the islands. You can totally tell that I come alive when I land on those sets. But it’s just one of those things that you never take for granted… It was like the first time again. It’s an exhilarating rush.
Fox News: How did you physically prepare for the shoot?
Kostek: The only thing that really changed was that closer to the shoot, I was getting more physical at the gym… I like to dedicate time to this craft because this was such a dream job. I think the number one thing that I do is set less time away on other projects to really focus on this one. Because of all the work I do, this is one that I am the most excited about.
I cut back on eating out. I’m very aware of what I’m putting in my body on a regular day… it’s more so like, I’m going to an event or an appearance, I’m going to eat what I have at home. As far as working out, I do double up probably two weeks before. I do a lot of resistance band training… I just throw it in the backpack so I have no excuse. But I will say if I’m craving something, your girl will order a Postmates ice cream to the house, ‘cause if you’re going to have it, enjoy it. Don’t complain about it, just enjoy it. I definitely don’t cut everything out.
Fox Never: According to your Instagram, you’re "never not dancing." How does that help you also stay healthy in a fun way?
Kostek: My mom put me in dance class when I was 3 years old. Who knew that… it would still be my favorite go-to thing in life? And I took it very seriously. I started competing nationally at age 7. After school, that’s where I went. I got picked up and went straight to dance class. My summer vacations were spent at dance nationals. I don’t regret one thing about it because it became a passion. Dancing has always stayed with me. Even when I went on to become an NFL cheerleader and now, I was never not dancing. It’s always going to be a part of my life.
It’s forever going to make me feel good and make me happy. I can remember there were some times, some breakups, just some things where I wasn’t as self-confident as I am now. I didn’t have the motivation to get up and do anything. I then started my days dancing and it made a difference. I now dance on sets. I dance wherever I go, whether it’s appropriate or not, if there’s music or not. And what’s really cool is that dancing is something anyone can do, no matter their age. It’s the universal language of being a free spirit, of positivity.
Fox News: Where does your confidence come from?
Kostek: I think I owe a lot of it to my mom. I mean, self-confidence comes from yourself, but my mom really raised me in a way that - I actually grew up in a house without a scale and that was long before I even considered trying out modeling… It really made me just love where I was at that moment in time, or that part of my life, no matter what age I was or how much I weighed. I really never knew what I weigh unless I went to my doctor’s checkup.
It was just one of those things where my mom would always tell me, “It’s how you feel when you look in the mirror, how you feel when you put those clothes on. It’s not about numbers. It’s not about counting calories when you’re eating. It’s not about what your tag says. It’s about what you feel on the inside.” Ultimately, that’s what will radiate and shine through, whether you walk into a room or the streets. That’s what will stick with people - not the numbers.
I think that played a huge role in me even before I got into this industry - the importance of self-love. But it’s really a mindset. That’s one of the greatest things SI has given me - a platform to really share that. [My life is] not all rainbows and butterflies, you know. I go through the struggles and through those dark times. I haven’t made it all the way there yet. I’m still on this journey to self-love. But when you embrace yourself for who you are, that light comes through.
Fox News: How does it feel to have someone like Rob Gronkowski support you?
Kostek: It’s super great. I always like to say that I am one independent, strong woman. But I can still be that and then have the support of my man… It’s just like an added bonus to have him in the crowd. I remember last year when we had launch week and I was on the cover. It was really, really cool to have Rob by my side through a lot of that stuff. ‘Cause I’m always there waiting for him in the stands and follow him around to his sets and appearances, being his biggest fan.
It was really cool to have Rob by my side for that moment in time, watch him in the crowds and just cheering me on and being backstage waiting for me. It’s a really, really good feeling to be in these career paths that are so completely different, but are so the same in the sense that it was something we wanted so bad and we wake up excited for every day. It’s cool to share that passion and understand how important it is.
If he has a big game, he’s going to sleep early. If I’m not ready to go to sleep, I need to sleep down the hall. Or, if I’m not going to go out to eat that night, he respects that and we’ll cook in because I’m getting ready for a shoot day. It’s cool to have that together.
Fox News: You initially didn’t envision yourself as a model. Therefore, was there ever a point in your career where you felt like giving up because things weren’t going your way?
Kostek: Oh, definitely. There was a point in time where I was going to modeling agents for like three years in a row - from Miami to LA to New York. I was getting turned away. I was getting a lot of doors to my face. I was getting a lot of, “You should change this,” or “You should change that. You should lose weight. There’s an opening for this campaign. You just need to get into this jean size.” I wouldn’t have been me if I had lost weight to fit that model… But that’s when I saw the SI open call. I was like, “This is it. This is going to be it.”
There were a lot of doubts along the way. A lot of times I just stopped going for it and started pursuing other jobs just to make money because modeling wasn’t working realistically. It allowed me to be with myself and really think this through. I went into SI with no agent. I wanted them to see me for me. And here we are now.