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Meet Your Cover Model: Olivia Culpo

From Miss Universe to Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover.

Olivia Culpo was welcomed into the SI Swimsuit family after her debut in the 2018 issue. Having taken the social media world by storm with her style, the former Miss Universe has launched a multi-faceted career as a model, actress, philanthropist and entrepreneur. She embodies everything SI Swim hopes to showcase: brains, beauty and passion. We chatted with Olivia shortly after she heard she had landed the 2020 cover.


SI: Tell me about the moment after the Zoom call. What did you do? How did you feel?
OC: I was SO surprised! The news came out of nowhere and the way SI presented it was really creative and fun. I was so caught off guard and I cried immediately, followed by a shot of tequila after the call. I should probably add that I was on vacation in the Bahamas when they told me!

SI: Who was the first person you told when you found out you were on the cover?
OC: The first people I told were my mom and dad, but to be honest, my dad is a talker so I was petrified the entire state of Rhode Island would find out by the end of the day before it was officially announced. I had to swear him to secrecy. My parents know this was a goal that I set for myself so long ago and my dad was proud of me for achieving it.

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SI: What do you see when you look at yourself and the two other incredible women with you on the cover?
OC: I really think back to the day we were shooting and how great it was to be with two kind, inspiring and hard-working women. We had so much fun together and I really love Kate and Jasmine so much. They are true “girls-girls” -- supportive, kind and honest. Those are the type of friends you want to have in life and it is amazing to be sharing such an important moment with them.

SI: Who do you hope to inspire through the SI Swim platform?
OC: I hope I can inspire someone out there to know that their dreams can come true if they are persistent, visualize and work hard. I still have the vision board I made about five years ago where my goal was just to be included in the magazine so to now be on the cover is unfathomable. It is the definition of a dream come true for me. With this platform, I also want to continue to raise awareness for the issues I am passionate about and hopefully get more people excited to get involved in initiatives that are important to them. For me, I am proud of what I've been able to accomplish with my charity More Than A Mask, which is a company I started in hopes that it would encourage people to, one, wear their masks and, two, give back to people that are in need. Right now we are working towards our goal of donating 2.5 million meals through Feeding America.

SI: You’ve successfully entered so many different spaces across a multitude of industries. In other words, you're far more than a one-trick pony. What inspires you and gives you the confidence to pursue all of your dreams?
OC: Well, thanks for saying that. I feel like we all have many sides to ourselves and I have so many interests that I want to pursue. I am so inspired when I think about the young people out there who have unique dreams and ambitions they are striving to achieve. I can only hope to be a good example to those individuals. That is truly what fuels me. My favorite part about my job is the relationships I get to build along the way.

Olivia Culpo was photographed by Yu Tsai in Bali. Swimsuit by Ola Vida.

Olivia Culpo was photographed by Yu Tsai in Bali. Swimsuit by Ola Vida.

SI: How do you remain balanced and focused with so many things consistently on your plate?
OC: There are definitely times I can feel overwhelmed and anxious but what really helps center me is to try and be grateful and focus on what truly feels “fun.” Whether that is focusing on friends, family, cooking, fashion, volunteering with Best Buddies, or designing and growing More Than A Mask. At times, some parts of work for anyone can be really daunting but I think the key is never losing sight of what you are so incredibly grateful for. I try to make a gratitude list every morning -- it’s one trick I swear by and I would recommend it to anyone who has anxiety around work sometimes.

SI: Tell me about what led you to launch More Than A Mask.
OC: I started More Than A Mask because I was trying to think of a creative way I could make a significant impact with all the challenges people are facing in the current Covid-19 pandemic. My favorite part of More Than A Mask is that consumers can purchase a mask and know they are directly supplying 100 meals for people who are in need. I think that makes them feel more involved in the process. It’s a win-win -- plus the masks are very cute!

SI: What is next for you?
OC: I have three film projects coming up this year. Also, my sister is about to have a baby girl so I’m psyched about being an aunt again. I have a sunglasses collection I just launched with Prive Riveaux -- I was very involved in designing every step along the way. They are really cute glasses and at a great price so I hope they make some people happy! Also in the first month, we are partnering with Restoring Vision, a world health organization that provides glasses to underserved communities across America. For every pair of Prive Riveaux sunglasses sold, a pair of reading glasses will be given to someone in need. My sisters and I also have a fashion project coming out at the end of the year which is awesome because we’ve never worked together on a project like this before.