Camille Kostek has appeared in the pages of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit five times now, including one year where she even scored the coveted cover spot. But accomplishing those career milestones wasn't an easy journey after the model had set her sights on the goal when she was a teenager.
"My why is when I looked at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit magazine when I was 15 years old," she told Nick Viall while appearing on The Viall Files podcast. "When I see these women on the pages, it did something for me like oh, they're raw and they're real. It was the first time that I saw hips and thighs in a magazine. That I saw freckles. I didn't see all the Photoshop and everything has to be just so and just right and high and tight. It was real to me and that spoke to me at such a young age."
While she had identified these aspirations for herself as a teenager, Kostek, 30, explained that breaking into the modeling and entertainment industry was a difficult thing to do as she was underestimated and unrepresented at the start.
"I really had to pave my own path," she said. "I didn't get signed before I was in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit ... I landed the cover with no agent. And then that's when it started. You get that one big yes and then people are like, 'Who are you, what's your name and what do you do?'"
Even when she previously tried to get into broadcast journalism for sports, she recalled people seeing "a girl with blonde hair and blue eyes and be like, 'What does she know about sports?'"
Ultimately, her ability to make her dreams come true came down to her believing in herself, explaining that that's most important "in an industry where you literally have to show up in person and appear as you are." And although she's always carried herself with a lot of confidence, Kostek also admitted to having hard days.
"Self-doubt would creep in and low self esteem moments and things, especially since it's an industry driven by your body image and the way that you look and present yourself," she said, noting that she doesn't fit the traditional standard of being a model. "I have not and will never be that tall, Amazon woman."
Appearing in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit and becoming such an ingrained part of the brand has helped Kostek build her career and her self-confidence to a certain extent.
"To be that woman among the [magazine's] pages that someone can relate to and be like, 'I feel comfortable in a swimsuit now, I can buy a bikini or I can wear that bikini on the beach or I feel this certain way.' Just being able to see an image and feel like you could be celebrated is a win for me," she said.
She also shared that a lot of work has gone into her ability to tap into a true sense of self-love, although it can sometimes be misinterpreted by onlookers.
"I think it's a compliment when people are like, 'You're so obsessed with yourself.' F***ing thank you, thank God. You know how long that took? You know how long that took? Self-love is a journey for a reason, a journey for a reason because it never stops," she said. "If you don't have critics, you're not doing it right. You’re not speaking up, you're not doing anything. I invite it."
Kostek isn't alone in the spotlight as she is often seen alongside her boyfriend Rob Gronkowski, who recently retired from the NFL. The model acknowledged that "it's hard being in a public relationship" and that the couple works together to keep themselves grounded.
"We do reiki healing, we do yoga together, we meditate, we pray," she explained. "It doesn't matter the status of myself and Rob and the celebrity world. We're two human beings trying to figure it out and enjoy this life that we have."
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