Karolina Kurkova shines in front of the camera because she knows exactly how she wants to live her life when she’s not on the clock. The model and actress talks to us about parenting, charitable efforts, and finding her self-confidence.
Genevieve bikini twin set, Lisa Marie Fernandez ($595). Tenet, 91 Main St., Southampton, 631- 377-3981; lisamariefernandez.com. Stainless steel Da Vinci 36 Moonphase timepiece, IWC ($8,500). London Jewelers, Americana Manhasset, 2060 Northern Blvd., 516-627-7475; iwc.com. Lapis tassel earrings, Oscar de la Renta ($395). Intermix, 87 Main St., East Hampton, 631-907- 8025; intermixonline.com. 10 diamond bezel ring ($435), diamond shape bezel ring ($320), and vertical and princess prong diamond ring, Zoe Chicco ($475). Intermix, see above. 24k rose-gold-plated ring, Vita Fede ($305). Intermix, see above
Growing up a lanky, exceedingly tall girl in a small town in the Czech Republic, supermodel Karolina Kurkova began modeling as a way to learn English. But when she landed on the cover of Vogue at age 16, modeling quickly became a career that she still flourishes in today at age 33. The humanitarian and mother of two sat down with Hamptons magazine to discuss the changing modeling game, balancing motherhood and a career, and her summer Hamptons style.
What do you love about summer in the Hamptons?
I spend a lot of time in the Hamptons as someone who lived in New York for 15 years. I’d go to Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Montauk. I’ve stayed in Wainscott. I’ve rented houses in summers and have lots of friends who have homes. It’s beautiful and cozy. I love going to local markets and picking fruits and vegetables from the farm. I love food and I love cooking, so for me I love that. A lot of people do dinner parties, which I think is very nice.
What summer fashion are you into this season?
I appreciate trends, but I still go to my timeless pieces. I love a great buttondown shirt, white or pinstripe, which is just a little bit more elegant and fun. I am also feeling polka dots a little bit for summer. I do believe you have to stay true to who you are and have fun with fashion.
I speak a lot in front of young girls at schools and talk about fashion. It’s part of this mentoring program that my friend is doing, and I said, “Don’t forget [that] what you wear is very important, because that’s the first impression. What you wear is your business card.” As much as we should have fun with it, we should remember that what we wear should reflect who we are and how we want to be perceived.
Wish swimsuit, Sand & Blue ($297). Everything But Water, 66 Newtown Lane, East Hampton, 631-324- 5693; everythingbutwater.com. LouLou hat, Eugenia Kim ($395). Intermix, 87 Main St., East Hampton, 631-907-8025; intermixonline.com. Bezel diamond open cuff ($725) and bezel diamond eternity bracelet ($2,350), Zoe Chicco. Intermix, see above. Rose-gold Portofino 37 automatic timepiece with diamond bezel, IWC ($17,900). London Jewelers, Americana Manhasset, 2060 Northern Blvd., 516-627-7475; iwc.com
I’m sure a big topic when you’re mentoring is confidence. When did you, as a kid, find that confidence?
When I started modeling, I started to feel a little bit more comfortable and confident about how I look and about my body. Growing up, I had very long legs, very long arms, and I was the tallest girl of my whole class. My body was very different than a lot of the other girls that already had curves and breasts. I was just like Olive Oyl from Popeye. I was clunky and had these big teeth. I just wasn’t comfortable. I would stand out, and not in the beautiful way, so they would laugh and make fun of me. Growing up, I didn’t like taking pictures. I hated being in front of the camera, whether it was with my family taking pictures or at school pictures. So something I was never comfortable with ended up being my career. It’s interesting how the universe works—it forces you to deal.
Was there someone who said to you first, “You know, you could model,” and kind of switched your mentality?
When I worked for American Vogue with Steven Meisel and Grace Coddington, and they put me in everything short, I was like, Really, my legs out? They put me in all short things, which I never wore before, and they said, “You have a beautiful smile, you should smile.” I think from that moment, working with someone who is the best of the best, and having them acknowledge [that] you look beautiful, meant a lot to me—a girl who never felt beautiful. Now all those things that once bothered me are my greatest attributes: my legs, my smile, my teeth, my height.
Bunny “Greetings from...” ivory hat, Eugenia Kim ($475). Intermix, 87 Main St., East Hampton, 631-907- 8025; intermixonline.com. Melika one-piece, Araks ($335). Everything But Water, 66 Newtown Lane, East Hampton, 631-324- 5693; everythingbutwater.com. Stainless steel Da Vinci Automatic 36 timepiece, IWC ($6,400). London Jewelers, Americana Manhasset, 2060 Northern Blvd., 516-627- 7475; iwc.com
Now, as a parent to two young boys, how do you deal with confidence issues from the other side?
It’s hard. I have a seven-year-old, Tobin, and he’s starting, of course, to experience kids not liking him or saying mean things, and he’s sensitive. I feel for him. I used to feel for everybody, even before I had kids. If I saw somebody sitting alone in the corner, sitting by themselves at the table, I’d always join them. I always have that compassion because I know how it feels. But for my children, as much as I want to protect them, I can’t. They have to learn that not everybody is going to love them and not everybody is going to say nice things. That’s the role now that I play as a parent; it’s having a good talk with them and explaining to them and exposing them to different ways and different tools.
So how do you raise confident, well-rounded kids?
We take Tobin a lot of places maybe parents wouldn’t take their kids. We take him out to dinner or to certain events and to spiritual places and to meet interesting people, so he’s very open and he is very comfortable with anybody. He’s interested, he’s curious, and he loves to learn. We don’t say, “Oh you’re just a baby, you won’t understand.” We took him to India and took him to the slums. We are exposing him to different religions. He has questions and I want him to learn properly, so we watch documentaries.
Long-sleeve asymmetricalhem dress, Diane von Furstenberg ($528). Americana Manhasset, 2060 Northern Blvd., Manhasset, 516-858- 3384; dvf.com. White large impatiens earrings, Oscar de la Renta ($425). Intermix, 87 Main St., East Hampton, 631-907-8025; intermixonline.com
Was bringing him along for the ride a conscious decision, or is it just how you ended up juggling work and motherhood?
When I was working, I would always bring him with me. It was my first one, so I didn’t want to leave him behind. He would come to the set, or, while I was working, he could go and explore the different cities with my husband. It’s definitely harder having two. You have to divide your time. The little one needs his attention, but then the big one needs his attention. Physically and time-wise, it’s definitely harder, but it’s so amazing to see how much love they have for each other. The little one loves the big one and wants to hug him when he comes home from school.
With the kids and the work, what’s the secret for you and your husband to keep the romance alive?
I mean, we are both crazy about our kids and we love to do a lot of things together, but we do work a lot. It’s harder sometimes, but then it’s also nice because we are not always together on top of each other, so when we are together it makes it special. The most important thing is always paying attention. It works for your kids, and it works for your husband. Sometimes it’s hard because we can go a long time without really connecting, but we know we need to connect. That doesn’t mean we need to go on a fancy date or to a party; it’s more like, let’s go for a walk or let’s just talk. A few days ago, I hosted Dr. Ruth, and we did a small talk with a few different couples and she said that every couple who has kids should do a date night every other week or at least once a month, and not talk about work or the kids because once the kids grow up, you’ll have nothing to talk about. Dr. Ruth, at 89 years old, was very on top of it, very together, very clear. We all need reminders. We all need to learn.
To what do you credit your success and longevity in this career?
I was having a conversation this morning with a woman about how much pressure we put on ourselves as women and how much we are expected to do. We have to be perfect moms and perfect at our jobs, perfectly take care of the house and prepare the food. I’m like that too. That’s always been my personality. My passion, my drive—whatever I do, I’ve got to be the best. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be great. Of course, I get stressed, but what helps me is the meditation I do every morning. It changes how you think, how you operate, how you deal with things and people.
Exercise is also huge for me. That really helps me with stress—getting a good workout and being in my zone and getting my muscles pumped and tight. If I don’t work out regularly, I start to feel weak in my body and I start to feel weaker in my mind. For me they work together. It’s not just for how I look but how I feel.
Silk scarf-print dress, Monse ($1,190). net-aporter.com. Stainless steel Da Vinci Automatic 36 timepiece, IWC ($6,400). London Jewelers, Americana Manhasset, 2060 Northern Blvd., 516-627- 7475; iwc.com. Monarch deco fern ring, Fallon ($230). Tenet, 91 Main St., Southampton, 631-377- 3981; tenetshop.com
Mixed in with all of the work is a lot of charity work. Tell us about that.
I work with Feeding America, and I go to food banks or warehouses to divide apples into a package of 12. It’s not so glamorous, but it’s something they need a lot of help with, because it’s not in front of the camera or being at an event. I’ve been in kitchens chopping piles of vegetables for meals. It’s time now where I want to bring my older son so he can experience that and be part of that. I’ve also been working with Women of Tomorrow, going to different schools talking to students, and I work a lot with amfAR. I really try to be involved in different ways. I also work with injured marines, because my husband is a former marine. We work with Wounded Warriors and Semper Fi Fund, and my husband is about to open his philanthropic project. So that’s a very important part of our lives.
How did you and your husband meet?
We met nine years ago in New York. It’s a really long story about how we met and got connected, but it’s kind of interesting, because [people] are always like, “A former marine and a supermodel—how does that happen?” But I was meeting some of my friends for dinner, and he was meeting his friends, and we met. There was nothing between us when we met, but we really got to actually connect through Facebook. I found his friend and then saw his name. It’s funny, because he didn’t remember who I was. He didn’t know who I was, which was great. I think if he knew, it wouldn’t have worked out. But we started talking. It was nine years ago. It was a different time for Facebook. So we really got to know each other through writing, we got together, and the rest is history.
photography by EDUARDO REZENDE. Styling by Jamie Frankel. Hair by Claudio Belizario using Kérastase Reflection Chromatique. Makeup by Taryll Atkins at ABTP using Tom Ford. Fashion assistance by Brianna Ster.n Location: The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, 9703 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour - Miami Beach, FL, 305-993-3300; stregisbalharbour.com. Rising 27 stories above the Atlantic, the Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond St. Regis Bal Harbour features spacious, luxuriously appointed guest rooms and suites, all with direct ocean views from expansive balconies. The resort’s luxe amenities include a 14,000-squarefoot Remède Spa, gourmet cuisine at Atlantikós and BH Burger Bar, oceanfront day villas, and the St. Regis’s signature butler service. The resort sits directly across from the famed Bal Harbour Shops in an exclusive Miami enclave known for its manicured streets and pristine beaches.