The 29-year-old, who has appeared in the magazine a whopping seven times, is featured in the 2020 issue that's currently on newsstands. Olivia Culpo, Jasmine Sanders and Kate Bock were selected as the coveted cover girls.
The Pennsylvania native, who is now a proud mom to George Pallela, made her SI Swimsuit debut back in 2014. And while she was wary at first to slip into a skimpy bikini, Hoopes has zero regrets. In fact, she hopes her appearance will encourage new moms to proudly flaunt their bodies and celebrate their so-called imperfections.
Hoopes spoke to Fox News about what it was like posing for SI Swimsuit shortly after giving birth, how she physically prepared for the shoot, how motherhood changed her for the better, and her reaction to seeing the sizzling snaps for the first time.
Fox News: You posed for SI Swimsuit four months after giving birth. How nervous were you?
Samantha Hoopes: You know, being a model and having my body really be my work, it was definitely challenging to feel realigned with my body after birth. I had gained over 80 pounds. I was 200 plus pounds. I never had extra weight like that. I had my freshman 15 when I was in college *laughs* but other than that, I’ve been pretty lucky. But actually, it was really liberating for me. I wanted to make sure that I got my message across to other women who were struggling after going through such a dramatic change.
And look, your body does go through a major change. You’re gaining weight, your skin is stretched -- I got stretch marks. My butt got bigger -- I had no idea my butt was going to get bigger *laughs*. Everything got bigger. But Sports Illustrated never pushed me to be anything that I wasn’t. And I’m grateful for that because after you have a child, the only thing that really matters is your baby. Things that mattered to me seven years ago don’t matter to me anymore.
Fox News: How has motherhood changed you?
Hoopes: This new chapter that I’m in -- this is the best chapter of my life. It has taught me to slow down and really enjoy the moments of life, not just speed into anything. I look at life more optimistically. When I felt ready, I was motivated to get in shape and be healthy, not just for myself, but for my son. So posing for SI was super liberating. And I just want other women to feel comfortable with their new bodies.
Fox News: So there was no hesitation to slip into a swimsuit four months after giving birth?
Hoopes: I was aware people were going to have a lot to say. I remember I posted a video from the shoot and some were like, “Are you pregnant?” But the reason why I didn’t want to take a year off and come back looking better than before is that I wanted to be real. And this issue is about being real. When I was 22, I was striving to look and be perfect. But in reality, it’s unachievable because there’s no such thing. And they're so much beauty in your so-called flaws. My stretch marks came because I brought life into this world. My body changed because I had my son. I’m proud of it.
I think the key is to be happy in that phase you are in life - whichever phase it may be. You’re never going to be happy if you’re fighting yourself all the time, trying to look like something you’re not. Now that I have my son, I would never want him to grow up and think he has to change himself just to make others happy. That search for happiness, yes it’s easier said than done. But when you truly reach that point where you genuinely love and respect yourself, others will see the best parts of you.
Fox News: What was the shoot like?
Hoopes: We went to Scrub Island. I was with my baby and he’s a great traveler, thank God *laughs*. Before pregnancy, I knew all my angles when it came to modeling. But this time, I felt a little bit unprepared. But on the shoot day, I was super pumped to be back. I couldn’t believe that I was back as a mom.
Even after having George, I couldn’t believe I was a mom. I don’t think it’s hit me yet. But the crew and [editor] MJ [Day] make you feel so comfortable and pump you up, even when you’re not feeling good. I was super bloated and I still had my extra weight. I was worried about shooting from the side… but it was definitely exhilarating. And when I saw the pictures, I was like, “I don’t care what anyone says.”
Fox News: How did you physically prepared for the shoot?
Hoopes: Right before the shoot, I went through my favorite holiday, which is Thanksgiving, because the food is just so bomb. And then I went through Christmas, which is like cakes and everything that I couldn’t say no to. Then it was time to get ready for the shoot. I did about 20 minutes of stair steppers [daily]. I’m not good at cardio - I’ve never been a cardio girl. [The stair steppers] really destroy you. It’s really a mental thing on the stair stepper to keep going, you know?
But that’s really the only way that I could have shed a couple more pounds. And then just Pilates, strength training - stuff like that. I have a gym here in LA that I really love called Heart & Hustle. They really helped me get my muscles to grow back together. ‘Cause when you have a baby… your ab wall basically rips and you have to put the muscles back together properly… So you don’t want to rush into it. That’s why I waited until at least four months to start working out. I was cleared [by my doctor] after one month, but I was like, “Yeah, no, no rush. Why get back into shape now?”
Fox News: What was your reaction to the photos?
Hoopes: I was definitely shocked because they put me in such amazing positions. And they ask you, “Do you want your photos retouched?” I said, “I don’t want them retouched.” Because why am I going to try to pretend that I don’t have something that I do have? And I’m proud of my body. I’m proud that I was able to grow a baby. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world, watching that whole process. Why wouldn’t I own my new body?
Fox News: You’ve been in SI Swimsuit seven times now. What does the 2020 issue mean to you?
Hoopes: I’m standing next to inspiring women who are all diverse. We have different backgrounds. We have all different aspirations. This is so motivating to me because it brings us together. And I really realized how strong women are, especially when women are together.
I just feel like we inspire each other, we uplift each other and we really want to see each other succeed. And I think that’s so amazing and incredible. We all have our own stories, our own background, our own challenges that we all have been working on to overcome. But now more than ever, meeting these women, coming together, sharing our stories, our life goals and purposes has really been so inspiring. It’s all really incredible.