by andrew c. stone | June 3, 2011 | People
Mini Iris jacket ($2,580), Louis Vuitton. 919 N. Michigan Ave.
|»SLIDESHOW: Behind-the-scenes photos from our shoot with Elle|
More Thank Just a Pretty Face
To watch Erin Heatherton contort her curves for the camera, you might not suspect that a charming, hilarious personality lives inside her. One of the latest additions to Victoria’s Secret’s host of Angels, Heatherton stands 5-foot-11, has a bit of Kate Bosworth going on in the face, is framed by cascading blonde tresses and sports that rare, radiant tan you only find on beaches in paradise. That should be enough, right? But get this: She’s smart—like, geeky smart—and incredibly easy to talk to. Some haters might cite the unfairness of it all; that devastatingly attractive women aren’t supposed to be well-rounded and fun. But that isn’t Heatherton’s problem, nor is it ours.
At just 22 years old, Heatherton has reached extraordinary heights as a model, working for designers like Michael Kors and Versace, walking the runways for Diane von Furstenberg and Christian Lacroix and gracing the covers of Muse, Flair, and British GQ (alongside the three other new VS Angels). Not bad for a girl who claims she knew zilch about fashion just a few years ago. “I didn’t even know who Kate Moss was,” laughs Heatherton, who has been with the Marilyn agency since her senior year at Niles North High School. “If you gave me five million dollars and told me to go buy clothes, everything I’d get would be wrong. Fashion can be really painful sometimes, [especially] when you’re being judged on things that have nothing to do with your intelligence and personality. I’ve had to develop my style and learn what it’s about.” She credits her team at Marilyn with being extremely nurturing and letting her curl up on the floor near their desks when she was feeling lonely. “I’m so happy to have stayed with one agency since the beginning.”
The Discovery Story
Her journey to the top of the heap has been relatively quick, and the jet-set life’s a far cry from her upbringing in Skokie, a sleepy Chicago suburb. “I was a dork,” she insists. “I was really tall, friends with all the boys and never had a boyfriend. I was ninth in my class… I mean, I did science fair. My friends still laugh that this is what I’m doing for a living.” All this may be true, but a modeling scout for Abercrombie & Fitch saw nothing but potential when he spotted her in South Beach. Heatherton had been on a college visit to the University of Miami, and as she and a friend hit the beach, a man launched himself from a cab and asked who represented her. “No one had ever asked me about that before,” she says. “Modeling is not a normal career path in Skokie. I was embarrassed that he hadn’t asked my friend to model, too, but my friend’s mom was there and got his information. Later that year, I was in New York meeting with agencies, and that’s when I began with Marilyn.”
LEFT: Opera coat, Marc Jacobs ($2,400). 11 E. Walton St. Bandeau swim top ($38) and Tanga swim bottoms ($30), Victoria’s Secret. 830 N. Michigan Ave. Tahiti pumps, Dior ($1,500). Special order, 800-929-DIOR. Charme ring, Rebecca ($245). Marshall Pierce, 35 N. Michigan Ave. RIGHT: Dress ($6,325) and belt ($635), Yves Saint Laurent. Special order, 212-980-2970. Earrings, Oscar de la Renta ($395). Neiman Marcus, 737 N. Michigan Ave.. Shoes, Calvin Klein Collection ($2,850). Bloomingdale’s, 900 North Michigan Shops.
Fast-forward a few years: Heatherton has made a true splash among fashion’s elite and travels the world for work and pleasure. “I can’t stay in one place,” she admits, through the haze of jet lag. (She’s just returned from Paris Fashion Week.) “That trip to Miami was one of the first times I’d ever been on a plane! Now, my boyfriend [Andrea Sabrier] lives in London. He has a T-shirt label called Doodski. He’s way cooler than me.” To celebrate her Angel status, Sabrier toasted Heatherton with Champagne, and congratulations poured in from every corner of her life. “It was very sweet,” she recalls. “There’s just so much love in my life. Being an Angel is the greatest thing for a model, and what makes me the happiest are the people involved. I get to work with my best friend, Lily [Aldridge, fellow Angel] and I have such a great family.”
While there’s plenty of fun to be had working for Victoria’s Secret, Heatherton doesn’t shy away from the responsibility that comes with notoriety and always looks to expand her mind. “I love to learn and be challenged,” she says. “This is a huge opportunity because I get to go through media training, speak to so many people, go on the news. It’s an amazing challenge. I really enjoy talking on camera. My secret dream is to make people laugh and do improv. Will Ferrell’s my hero and Emma Stone’s my new obsession.”
Given her conversational ease and infectious happiness, comedy seems like a natural progression, but let’s hope that Heatherton sticks to modeling for a while longer. She’s a favorite among top photographers, stylists and designers throughout the world, so that seems likely. Her allure goes beyond the physical—she draws everyone into the process and inspires everyone around her with good vibes. “The most important thing I’ve learned is that we’re all just people,” she insists, “from everyone on set to the people booking me. Everyone likes to work with someone who’s enjoying herself, and lucky for me I’m such a huge dork that I can’t hide my personality. Beyond that, I just give respect to the people who’ve put me here and try never to take anything for granted.”
Sounds like good ol’ Midwestern values at work, if you ask us. “Chicago’s the best place in the world to grow up,” she enthuses. “We just shot a commercial there and it was great to go back for work. I remember driving down Sheridan Road and looking at all the beautiful houses, and the little restaurants in Evanston... It feels like a small town that looks like a big city. It’s beautiful, like a Marvel comic book.” And like any true Chicagoan, she’s even a good sport about our winters. “I spent many mornings at 5 AM, waiting for my Tercel to warm up so I could get to basketball practice,” she smiles. “The cold builds character.”
photographs by thomas whiteside; Styling by Laurie Trott; Hair by Dominick Pucciarello at
bryanbantry.com; Makeup by Glenn Marziali at artistsbytimothypriano.com; Manicure by Julie Kandalec at