In our ever-expanding efforts to get to know SI’s swimsuit models, we reached out to Hannah Davis' best friend from childhood to get the inside scoop on the first-year swimsuit model. Here’s what Zan Schmidt had to say.
SwimDaily: First off, tell us about yourself.
Zan Schmidt: My name is Zan Schmidt and I am from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Right now I live in Beijing, China and work for a Beijing based US start-up education consulting company called Due West Education. In November I will be moving to Sydney, Australia.
SD: How long have you known Hannah?
ZS: Our parents were friends for many years before we were born, so Hannah and I have been friends since day one. We hung out as little babies and attended school together from three years old until high school graduation and then we both moved to New York.
SD: What was Hannah like in high school? Was she popular? Did boys like her?
ZS: Hannah has always been easy going and quick to laugh, giggle or snort at life’s funny moments. She can also be really silly and is totally shy about anything awkward. We are from a small community and have always had a wide group of really close friends, so in high school we just hung out like always, just with more boat trips and beach bars in the mix. Hannah is not self-conscious and readily makes fun of herself, admitting readily that she often misses the punch lines to jokes. She is extremely loving and has always treated her close friends like family, with intense affection and generosity. She prefers being around a select beloved few instead of surrounded by acquaintances, and has always been very close to her family.
In high school Hannah was a killer athlete- star of the volleyball team and a Caribbean tennis star when we were younger. She was studious and always worried her schoolwork wasn’t perfect- we spent a lot of time together reviewing lessons and work she had missed while traveling for tennis or modeling. Hannah is a bit of a homebody- she often likes to hang at home with friends and gossip, or just be with a few people. She always had a good head on her shoulders and knew what was worth her time- she would rather be hanging with her family than wasting hours away in shady teenage situations like most of us were doing. On the outside Hannah definitely always came off as a good girl - shy of people who gave her too much attention and not trying to be the center of the spot light.
Boys definitely liked her but Hannah had a long time crush on one of them and eventually they dated for most of high school. Hannah is more of a friend flirt than anything overt - she would be way too embarrassed to admit that she liked a boy to anyone but close friends. In so many ways she is like a little girl! She still embarrassed about things that stopped being awkward for everyone else in middle school. So although in high school Hannah was totally sexy and had great fashion from her frequent trips to NYC, she shied away from added attention and in general is always blushing.
SD: I know Hannah used to play a lot of tennis? Did you think she'd go pro?
Hannah has always been a superstar athlete - since we were little five-year-olds on the soccer field through volleyball camp in high school. Tennis was a huge part of her life growing up and she was constantly traveling on the weekends to tournaments on other islands and returning with shiny trophies. Since she was one of the top seeds in the Caribbean in middle school we of course fantasized about her whooping at Wimbledon! Hannah also wanted a normal life and friends so leaving the Caribbean and going seriously pro seemed like an exciting possibility at the time but was always a long way off. Regardless I don’t think we doubted her ability to fight her way to the top.
SD: Did you have any idea she'd become a swimsuit model?
ZS: Funny enough one of our favorite pastimes growing up was doing our own at home fashion shoots! I was really into photography and costume shopping growing up, and it wasn’t hard to convince all my girlfriends to play dress up/model so I could break out my play around with my camera! All the action went down on my little porch overlooking the British Virgin Islands, which was a beautiful backdrop to our very short catwalk. Since we wore bathing suits at all other moments of the day our fashion shoots were rare occasions for fully composed outfits. So Hannah never actually modeled bathing suits in our early days but her modeling abilities were definitely clear! Hannah always did pull off the best pucker in our group…
SD: What would you guys do on a typical Saturday night in high school?
High school night life was sometimes like a perpetual Caribbean spring break party and other times we found ourselves spending multiple nights being ‘cool,’ hanging out at the small movie theater parking lot - serious teenage wasteland moments. Generally there were lots of beach parties with kids of all ages, photo shoots in cars, and swimming in the island’s hotel pools. We had a favorite tiki-themed open-air bar and every night ended with big girl sleepovers. Neighborhood driveways were popular gathering places and the occasional house party was thrown into the mix. We ended high school with a series of massive camp outs at a remote beach with our entire high school class- grilling, playing drinking games, staring at the bonfire and swimming late into the night. I guess you can tell there are no suburbs in St. Thomas.
SD: Tell me an embarrassing Hannah story.
ZS: Hannah and I went all out for birthdays and each year threw each other surprises that got more and more lavish. More interesting than the outlandish birthday activities were how hilariously they began. On my 16th birthday Hannah woke me up with such a sudden pounce that I screamed and she fell off the bed. When we both recovered from shock I realized that she had on giant fairy wings, a pointed fairy hat, a wand and glitter all over her! I had mangled my amazing birthday fairy! On Hannah’s 18th birthday I pulled the old trick of hiding in a huge wrapped present box and positioned myself right outside her bedroom door. Unfortunately she didn’t realize the cute joke I was going for and all of a sudden there are huge sharp scissors jabbing at my face! I clumsily tried to escape the now dangerous box, and reveal myself as the birthday surprise, only to topple onto her! She couldn’t stop laughing and both of our signature birthdays got off to righteous start.
SD: Tell me another embarrassing Hannah story.
ZS: When we were three-years-old and in pre-kindergarten, our very favorite game was playing ‘family.’ Of course everyone wanted to be the kids because obviously kids have the most fun. Since Hannah is the youngest of three in her family she also wanted to be the youngest at our school game as well. Heated arguments between our three-year-old girl group ensued about who would be the littlest, with each girl stating a very small age and then Hannah undercutting it. She always claimed to be zero, so that she could win, but when another girl insisted on being zero as well Hannah pulled out the real clincher- I will never forget when she announced “Fine, if you’re zero then I’m not even born yet!” From then on Hannah was always the littlest baby in the game and no one argued about it again.
SD: Now that we embarrassed Hannah, tell me a story that shows how good a friend she is.
ZS: Hannah was an extremely devoted friend all through growing up. We would hang out all day at school, she eating half my lunch before I even knew what my parents had packed for the day (she loved my family’s leftovers), and then we would inevitably end up on the phone with each other for at least an hour most nights. We would begin by reassuring each other about the homework and then quickly move to discussing boys. On Saturday mornings we would wake up late, drive to each other's houses, and then pile into just one car and cruise on down to the beach. Happy about our enhanced tans, we returned to Hannah’s house up the hill and she would expertly style me for our big Saturday nights out on the town. The next morning we would roll out of bed together and sneak in late to the back of church, excited for the cookies after the ceremony. Our favorite weekend activity was going out with her family on their boat to the neighboring islands, soaking up the sun and hanging on the beach with a cocktail. We were attached at the hip and really happy about it.
SD: Did you guys go to any concerts you're embarrassed about now? Did you have any dance routines nobody else knew about?
ZS: Singing and dance routines were definitely things we did a whole lot of but tried to keep as secret from outsiders as possible! Hannah was a huge Whitney Houston fan so we spent every other car ride belting out Whitney to our fake hand mikes, complete dramatic sweeps and gestures. Hannah always sang until she could she could belt out a proper diva solo and then giggle with embarrassment when it was over. Hannah is a good gymnast and actually an awesome dancer, but like most other things she was way too shy and embarrassed to ever dance in public! I can’t tell you how much booty shaking to her favorite island reggae and soca tunes I’ve seen in the safety of our bedrooms … most everyone else had only heard the myth of her awesome dance moves but almost never got to see them in person.
SD: It seems like Hannah's family is close as I always see her posting pics of her and her brother? Is that true?
ZS: Hannah has always been extremely close to her family and treats close friends like family members as well. She would chose her family over a night out any day, and even when we are hanging out together at her home we are usually hanging with her whole family as well. Her mom Debbie was always making us delicious food and catching up on our gossip, her Dad filling us in on Caribbean history and his latest scuba diving spots, her brother repeating his mantra “living the dream,” and her sister telling us funny stories about her high school boyfriends. Now her whole family travels back and forth to New York and St. Thomas often, and can always be found together in one place or the other. They have always been really tight knit and supportive- pushing her to be competitive and do her best, but also never passing up an opportunity to pile onto their boat and having a fun weekend. Being close to Hannah is synonymous with being close to her whole family.
SD: Did you ever think she'd be a swimsuit model? What was your first reaction?
ZS: Because we live in the Virgin Islands Hannah practically grew up in a bathing suit so that’s almost the first thing I expected her to do! Of course she would be a swimsuit model. It was the most natural thing. But definitely hearing that she was going to be in magazines and on campaigns that I had heard of and saw in my daily life was insanely exciting.
SD: How often do you guys get to hang out now? What do you usually do?
ZS: Hannah moved to NYC after high school and I went to college not far upstate at Vassar, so I would see her every couple months and on longer school vacations in the city. And of course for birthdays and holidays at home. We are from a small place so it was awesome to discover this crazy new city with my best friend who was living a glam lifestyle and already knew the ins and outs of New York. Now that I live internationally in China, I try to get back once or twice a year, at which point I always stop through New York and see Hannah. We spend a lot of time hanging in yummy restaurants and cafes near SoHo, popping into favorite jewelry shops and design markets, getting our nails done, eating ice cream and catching up. Hannah is low key and down to meet up wherever and just wander around. I always call her when I am doing something a bit out of the ordinary and she is down to join, no matter how obscure the activity. She gets along great with my college friends who now live in the area and we all go out to shows and dinner together. But true to growing up, we still spend a lot of time on the couch just lazing around and catching up.
SD: Is it weird having a good friend be a celebrity?
ZS: It’s not weird at all because to me she has just always been my best friend- you don’t really get star-struck with people you know and love so much. The best is telling others about your famous friend and watching them dissolve into celebrity stupor, it is highly amusing and always makes me laugh. We haven’t been on any major trips together but its fun doing city nightlife with Hannah because we are always being whisked through friends trendy nightclubs and into great restaurants - there is an ease and comfortableness.
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