The 28-year-old model is expecting her first child with fiancé Salvatore Palella. She also bonded with new SI Swimsuit cover girl Camille Kostek and is happily meeting fans — both men and women.
Hoopes, along with 31 other pinups, recently headed to Miami for “SI Swimsuit on Location,” a two-day ticketed exhibition that gave fans the opportunity to explore one-of-a-kind installations and photo experiences, among others.
The magazine’s stars all celebrated at Mynt and Myn-Tu, the newly opened Japanese-French concept restaurant by Romain Zago next to the lounge. It was there where they candidly shared their experiences posing in the sizzling issue.
Hoopes spoke to Fox News about the shocking reaction she received from followers after her pregnancy announcement, her relationship with fans and embracing her curves.
Fox News: This is your sixth year in Sports Illustrated. With such a massive following, how do you cope with critics on social media?
Samantha Hoopes: I block all the trolls on social media. I just don’t have time for hate or negativity in my life. If I type something out of anger, I just end up in a text fight and what good is that going to do? I just block and move on. It’s not worth it. You can’t fight fire with fire.
But this time it’s super interesting because I have people going into my DMs saying their goodbyes to me or that they’re leaving me forever because I’m pregnant. This one kid wrote, “Wow, I followed you since I was 15 and now I’m 20. You’re pregnant now and I just wanted to say goodbye.” Alright, goodbye, I don’t need you in my life anyway. But I am getting messages where it sounds like I’m dying or something because I’m pregnant. One wrote “It’s been fun these past five years. Goodbye.” But again, you don’t need those type of people in your life.
Fox News: Were you ever worried that being pregnant could jeopardize your modeling career?
Hoopes: I think it’s very important for me to be open and honest about the journey that I’m in. And I’m not going to lie, when I first was pregnant, for the first couple of months you can’t really tell if you’re expecting or gaining weight. That took a while to adjust. I was my own stylist this year which is big because I have no style. So I just went on Fashion Nova *laughs*.
But really, pregnancy is so beautiful. You’re creating a baby. You’re creating a life. You’re creating the next generation. We have the capability to do that and I'm just in awe of it all. Yes, I’m getting cellulite that I didn’t have before, but this is a beautiful moment in my life. And my bump has become my biggest accessory *laughs*. I love showing off my bump in tight clothes because it’s so cute.
Fox News: How has Sports illustrated embraced your body?
Hoopes: The magazine has never told me that I needed to be anything other than myself. From day one, when I showed up and had no idea what I was doing, they just make you feel so comfortable. That’s why the Swimsuit issue is so unique because everyone is truly an individual. And here’s the thing, when it comes to our bodies, you can either work with it or be unhappy. And SI has never told me I had to change my body. They just let me be who I am. And they loved me for that.
Fox News: You’re in the latest issue. Were you expecting at the time of the photo shoot?
Hoopes: No. I wish I could say yes because I looked really good *laughs* but it happened right after the shoot. I guess my body was such in a good state that it happened *laughs*.
Fox News: How was it shooting for this year’s issue?
Hoopes: Shooting the photos this year was exciting. For once, I feel like I’m such in a good place in my life. And I think that’s something that comes across my photos. You can’t fake being genuinely happy and complete. Happiness changes how you look, how you act and how you feel. I think that’s what made my pictures this year. I’ve been happy every year but I’m experiencing a new kind of happiness, one that’s making me a more confident woman.
Fox News: What's it been like appearing in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit for so many years?
Hoopes: I literally grew up with the magazine since I started at age 22. It’s amusing that I’ve been able to grow with this brand because when I started I really had no idea what I was doing. Sports Illustrated was one of my first modeling jobs ever. I only had done one other big shoot before that and it was for GUESS.
I was 22 and super uncomfortable. I really did not know what I was doing. I saw my very first video and I was just so nervous. I was just acting goofy to get over the nerves. But when I watch the videos now, it just makes me cringe. God, the faces I was making *laughs*. Now that I’m 28 and having a baby, it’s a whole new chapter in my life. The magazine still makes me feel confident and I’m surrounded by inspiring, strong women from all over the world. They range in age, size and background.
Fox News: How do you feel about its diversity theme for this year?
Hoopes: SI breaks boundaries every year and for this year it’s no different. I think it’s amazing that the magazine is celebrating everyone. I remember sitting in for a couple of the castings and seeing women from all over the country with this one goal. It was super exciting. I learned so much from these women.
I think it’s about time that we have a conversation about diversity. And Tyra Banks is on the cover. In this industry, if you’re in your 20s, you’re already getting old. In the past, age was a huge determination of whether you got the job or not. And yet she’s killing it. She’s proving age is just a number. I think it’s great for the magazine to be including everyone. You don’t have to be the tall, skinny model anymore, which is wonderful, because I’ve never been the tall, skinny model *laughs*.
Fox News: What advice or tips did you give to new cover girl Camille Kostek?
Hoopes: Camille and I are pretty good friends now. This is her year and she’s really been capturing the hearts of so many people. I don’t have advice for her *laughs*. She gives me advice now! She’s so strong and independent. And she just never gave up. She’s just a true Sports Illustrated fan. I think the message we can get from her journey is anything that you want to do in life can be possible as long as you have a plan. If you have a plan and focus on it, you can achieve whatever goal you want.
Fox News: Trolls aside, how important has it been for you to connect with fans?
Hoopes: Honestly, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do if it weren’t for the fans supporting us, buying the magazine. And it’s interesting before it used to be all guys when it came to events supporting the magazine.
Now it’s been all women really. It allows me to connect with women on a different level than I could with men. I’m finding myself having real conversations. It’s been inspiring to find each other and learn about our individual experiences. I think that’s more meaningful than for guys to come up to you and say, “You’re so beautiful.” Yes, that’s still nice and the girls certainly do say that. Who doesn’t love that? But what I truly value are those conversations where women support other women and not compete against each other.