“I’ve learned in my life that putting a smile on your own face, can put a smile on other people’s faces… I look at somebody who is smiling and I get joy out of their smile…”
Beverly Hills, CA — it’s a hot summer day in July. Thank God for air conditioning and Olivia Culpo’s famous smile, about which she has tweeted, “A smile is the prettiest thing you can wear.” That says a lot, considering some of the incredible pieces celebrity stylist, Sonia Young, pulled for Culpo to wear during our cover shoot at Viceroy Beverly Hills with celebrity photographer, Ben Cope. Summer fashion in a 5-star hotel room with absurdly talented artists — no wonder Culpo chose fashion as a career. The former Miss Rhode Island, Miss USA, and finally Miss Universe of 2012, and and current actress and model — her film Reprisal with Bruce Willis and Frank Grillo premieres August 31st and you can find her on E!’s Model Squad premiering September 4th — Olivia Culpo is becoming a fashion icon of our time. She showed up to the shoot hip-hop chic in silver-chained baggy black pants, high top sneakers, and a white crop top. She had just hit three million followers on Instagram and her team was thoughtful enough to bring an adorable light blue and white Suzie Q’s Bakery cake in honor of the milestone.
MR: You grew up in Rhode Island and your parents are musicians — what kind of music do they play? Do you like it?
OC: My parents met at college during orchestra. My mom plays the viola professionally and my dad plays the trumpet. I grew up with classical music constantly blaring and all of my 4 siblings play a different instrument. It was definitely a really loud house!
MR: You play the cello — do you still play often? If so, how does that influence your life?
OC: I still play the cello a lot. I love how it can completely take me out of reality and ease my mind. It is the number one thing that helps me when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed. I try to practice as much as I can and it’s always awesome when I can somehow incorporate it into work. Last year I actually recorded the cello on a track produced by Snoop Dog. That was so cool. I also performed with ASAP Ferg for a holiday special.
MR: How is your relationship with your parents?
OC: I’m so close with my entire family. We certainly know how to get on each other’s nerves, but at the end of the day, they are the most important thing to me. I try to spend as much time with them as possible.
MR: I read that your parents didn’t approve of pageants at first. How do they feel now?
OC: My parents were so scared at first when I entered Miss Rhode Island. They thought it was narcissistic and out of character for me considering I had never done anything like that before. They thought I should be on stage performing the cello with an orchestra, not participating in a pageant. Now they are much more supportive and understand that I was working toward something.
MR: Do you have any advice for young people whose parents don’t support or believe in their career choices?
OC: Every person is going to face challenges seeking dreams regardless of what anyone else says or thinks. It’s something that is completely unavoidable whether it’s coming from your peers, parents, or even strangers or often times from inside yourself. You are the only person who has the ability to truly know your goals, so it’s important to keep moving in that direction and listen to yourself. I always think of it as having blinders on. Staying focused on the goal and not listening to outside or inside judgements. Also, when it seems too tough to continue, I try to put attention on what is working and my successes and this keeps me positive and excited to stay on my journey.
MR: What do you say to critics who say that beauty pageants foster competition among women instead of camaraderie?
OC: I find that women can be supportive of each other or competitive. I choose to actively be supportive and help promote women in everything I do.
MR: As someone who went to an all-girls school and entered pageants (now you’re going to be on E!’s Model Squad), you have a lot of experience with relationships with women. What is the most important thing about relationships between women?
OC: My female friends, my sisters and my mom are such a big part of my life and have made such an impact on who I am today. When I need advice, when I need a shoulder to cry on, when I need a pep talk, I typically go to some of the females in my life. I trust them and their opinions. I try to be as honest and communicative as I can in all my relationships and that can really help foster a real relationship.
MR: Would you call yourself a feminist?
OC: Heck yes!
MR: I listened to a very intense interview you had several years ago with Russia Today (RT). The interviewer made personal, seemingly negative comments about how much you smile (loved your answer to this by the way) and other comments regarding the beauty industry and pageantry. You remained levelheaded and calm during this segment. You are older and more experienced now — if you could do this interview over, is there anything you would say to this interviewer?
OC: I don’t have any regrets for how I handled this interview. It was pretty obvious that she was trying to “catch” me. She definitely made that very clear to the viewer.
MR: How do you remain poised under high-pressure situations? What are your tips when it comes to dealing with stress?
OC: I love meditating, exercising and journaling. For me, these are all the ways I am able to channel my energy and thoughts so I don’t feel totally overwhelmed. I also feel like it helps me stay grounded and in touch with who I really am. Sometimes in this industry there is so much going on that you can truly feel out of touch with yourself. My family friends (who feel like extended family) also help me a lot in realizing that sometimes the things we take super seriously are really not that stress-worthy anyway.
MR: You have a lot going on right now! TV series, Model Squad launching September 4th on E! and your film Reprisal with Bruce Willis and Frank Grillo premieres August 31st. What are you most excited about?
OC: I can’t wait to see how both projects come together! It is always so rewarding to see everyone’s hard work pay off. The fact that this is my first action movie is definitely the most exciting part for me. Also, Model Squad has some of my good friends in it, so it will be so fun to watch together.
MR: Have you always wanted to act? What is the best part about acting for you?
OC: It’s always been a dream to me. Acting is art coming to life. I love the idea of being able to leave my everyday life and tell someone else’s story. For a short time you’re able to completely escape reality and take the viewer and yourself on a journey.
MR: Do you have any other projects you are currently working on?
OC: I have a lot of things coming up in the fashion space. I have been designing a new project that will be exciting to share. I am also about to start a movie in Jamaica. Fashion month in September is always the busiest but most exciting month. I am literally going straight from NYC to Jamaica to Paris to Milan and back to Paris.
MR: How does travel play a role in your life? Where are some of your favorite places you’ve been and why?
OC: I love anything with a beach and beautiful weather. That’s the most ideal location for me to unwind and relax on vacation. I also love traveling to Europe. There is so much culture and depth. I always learn so much when I am there. Every time I travel somewhere I do my research and find a new restaurant and/or walk through a new neighborhood. Some of my favorite places that I have visited recently are Ibiza, Singapore and Montenegro.
MR: What is the best part about traveling and seeing new places?
OC: I think the best part about traveling is experiencing new cultures. You are given such a new perspective when you are immersed in a new way of living. From food to art, to architecture, there is always so much that surprises me. I always learn something new.
MR: Are you still involved with the HIV cause? Have you been involved in other charitable work since the pageant?
OC: Yes, I still work very closely with amfAR to raise awareness and funds for aids research and prevention. I am on the board of Best Buddies, an organization that helps foster a better life for people with developmental disabilities. I am also a global ambassador for Pencils Of Promise, which builds schools in developing communities all over the world.
MR: You hit your 3 million mark on social media! Congratulations! How has social media helped you connect with your audience?
OC: I love how creative I can be on social media. It really has become an outlet for me and a way to communicate with people. I enjoy creating content but I also am constantly inspired by other feeds.
MR: What are some of the craziest DMs you’ve ever received?
OC: I think it’s always crazy and weird when absolute strangers ask to get married. No thank you! (Laughs out loud).
MR: What do you want our readers to know about Olivia Culpo?
OC: That I love and appreciate them all!!