You’ve probably heard of Olivia Culpo one, two, or three hundred times over the past few years. Maybe you’ve come across her on Instagram, or maybe you’re a fan because she’s dating Danny Amendola. I don’t follow sports, even though I live in Boston, but I’ve known about Olivia for about a year now. I randomly came across her on Instagram some months ago, and fell in love with her beautiful pictures (how the hell is her lighting always so perfect!!), effortless style, and humble soul. After I googled her, I found out that she is actually from Cranston, Rhode Island, which is a town very close to where I’m from in Mansfield, Connecticut. It can be difficult in an industry as saturated as the fashion one to find someone who you feel like you can truly relate to, but Olivia was the person for me. She’s currently starting a restaurant with her dad in Rhode Island, working with DSW & Le Tote, and hanging out with other badass chicks like Aly Raisman, who are known for their passion in helping inspire other people to love their bodies. I knew I had to talk to Olivia about her journey and mission to inspire other people across the globe.
So, let’s go meet Olivia Culpo!!!
A: How did you decide to open your restaurant?
O: My dad has had a restaurant for pretty much my entire life. My family is a big Italian family. We grew up with tons of food and cooking. My dad and I have never had a business together, and I’ve never owned a restaurant. It’s the first time my family has opened up a restaurant in Rhode Island- most of his restaurants are in Boston. All my brothers and sisters and cousins will work in it. It’s different for me and it’s been really fun working with my family!
A: What was it like being a child model? How did that influence your perception of yourself and your body in the future?
O: That’s so interesting. I think that no matter what you’re doing, there is so much pressure. It doesn’t even have to be in the entertainment business- any line of work. Every woman/person struggles to get to know who they are, and it can be so difficult to understand your shape. Everyone feels the pressure to fit in. I had to struggle with that just like any other person. You really start to know yourself and understand that everyone has a different body type and relationship with their body, and that’s what makes us all so special and beautiful.
A: Tell me about what you’re doing with DSW.
O: I’m the style investor for DSW, which is really exciting. I love providing for girls and showing them that they don’t have to spend a bunch of money to make an outfit amazing. Shoes are such investment pieces, and you don’t need a bunch of them. You just need a few important shoes to incorporate into your wardrobe so that you feel good. DSW has such a variety of styles that are so affordable.
A: How did you parlay your modeling career into acting, television, and fashion work?
O: I’ve always been really diligent about seizing every opportunity and making the most of it. That’s something that’s allowed me to get a hand in so many different areas of work. I’m acting, modeling, designing, traveling a lot, and I love to cook…there are so many opportunities that I’m so lucky to have. I’ve always really embraced the opportunities. That’s why I’m able to do so many random different things.
A: How do you think social media is affecting teens and their bodies?
O: I think that it’s definitely getting harder for people to experience their own journey with their own bodies, when they are constantly faced with comparing themselves to other people. I definitely struggle with this, it’s so difficult and such a hard thing to go through. Social media is definitely making it more difficult. I think the most helpful thing that every girl needs to remember (I even say this to my little sister who is 20) that you have to understand what people are posting online is a highlight reel: it’s very much what they want to put out there. A picture can say a thousand words but it doesn’t say much about the person. You never know what is behind the perfect body or that perfect smile. We all struggle with something. Whether they are mentally suffering or physically suffering, we have to remember that what we see isn’t necessarily the truth. As soon as you think that everyone is perfect except you, you’re going to lose no matter what because you’re going to give yourself an ideal that doesn’t even exist.
I’ve definitely dealt with comparing my personal situation to someone else. Sometimes you feel like you’re not doing enough because you’re constantly comparing yourself to someone who is doing something different. I think that what always brings me back to reality is focusing on what I have in front of me right now. I’m really passionate about creating in general; if anything, you want to be inspired by what people put out there.
A: What is the best lesson that your work on HIV with the United Nations Population Fund has taught you?
O: With every charity that I’ve ever worked with, especially when I was Miss Universe, I gained a lot of perspective about how people all over the world live. We are so fortunate to live in a country with so many rights. It was amazing that I learned a new perspective. We are so fortunate to live and have access to such a forward world.
A: Who is a positive role model for you?
O: I have a role model and she is younger than me. She is the sweetest and cutest girl! She is so smart and really really eager to learn. You’ll see a picture of her with like 30 books!
I always look up to Audrey Hepburn. She is so graceful and worked so closely with different charities. She wasn’t the norm and she stood in her own, unique power. I really admire Oprah and how she has her own network. She has done so much in the industry and has broken so many barriers. I think she’s a great role model to look up to.
A: What does being a powerful woman mean to you, and how can we help more girls believe that they are powerful too?
O: That’s a tough question. It does kind of change everyday. Everyday you have a new challenge that you personally have to overcome and wrap your head around. There are a few things in my life I swear by that really help me find myself and find the answers. I love journaling and writing down my thoughts, or writing down inspirational thoughts and thinking. I’ve been doing it since I was in middle school. Another thing that’s helpful for me is meditation. It really helps you ground yourself and get into reality. It gives you a fresh perspective. We all have the same amount of power.
A: What do you think about people who have overnight success?
O: I think that personally everyone has their own journey and experience. If it’s an overnight success, that’s a great thing. It may take a little bit longer, for some people, and that’s still a great thing. There is no wrong way to do this. Your dreams and your goals have so many different ways to get there. Social media is the one new avenue someone can take. There are so many ways you can keep a name for yourself. I feel like the thing that is most important is to think about what other people are not doing. You have to keep an open mind and go with it.
A: Was social media around when you started?
O: Social media wasn’t even around when I started. Twitter was the only thing that was relevant, but not really. For someone who is first starting out, you really have to find your niche. The most important thing is to find something you’re passionate about and tell that story. You want things to last for a long time, so you have to be careful about not doing things for the wrong reasons. That gets old really fast. It’s not gonna make you happy.
A: Do you consider yourself to be an influencer? Why or why not?
O: I like to say actress/model/fashion and beauty influencer. The designing I’ve been doing is a lot of fashion based. We all have a lot of titles because there are so many opportunities we’ve been able to gain through social media!
A: What piece of advice would you most like to give your younger self?
O: I still tell myself this now. I remind myself that it’s all going to be OK. The more things you get, and the more opportunities, and the more beautiful things that life gives you, it’s almost you’re so happy but you always want more. I remind myself that not everything is for me. Life should be about being happy, your family and your friends.
A: What keeps you grounded?
O: Going home to Rhode Island. Every time I go home, I see real life. I feel like I can be in a bubble sometimes with fancy things and different cities. When I see how simple my friends and family are as it is, they are so inspirational because it’s reminds me can have all of the money in the world but you won’t necessarily be happy. You have to be happy without materialist things.