Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model and former Patriots cheerleader Camille Kostek, 26, was born and raised in Connecticut and went to Eastern Connecticut State University. She’s best known for winning the first SI Swimsuit open call. As a competitive dancer for most of her life, she took her passion to the professional level as a New England Patriots cheerleader in 2013, ending her career at Super Bowl XLIX in 2015. She has hosted events for South by Southwest, the Maxim Hot 100 and the Levitate Music Festival, and last year, she was the Sports Illustrated correspondent at Super Bowl LII. She has appeared on Good Morning America, Access Hollywood, Extra and SI TV, and has co-hosted shows on Sirius XM radio. Recently, she made a foray into acting and can be seen in the Amy Schumer movie I Feel Pretty. She now resides in Los Angeles and is frequently seen with her longtime boyfriend, the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski.
Jonathan Soroff: Was there anything you were insecure about growing up?
Camille Kostek: Luckily, I grew up in a very supportive household. My mom is my biggest inspiration. I grew up in a home without a scale. But I had always been involved in things that relied partially on the way that I looked, whether it was as a dancer, or a cheerleader, or TV hosting, and eventually modeling. I’m very well aware that I hold myself to a high standard for beauty, but at the end of the day, everyone has their issues.
How uncomfortable is it to do the SI Swimsuit issue? It was sort of the culmination of my journey of self-love and acceptance, and it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. I only started modeling four years ago, and that was something I’d dreamt of doing since I was 15. I’d been going to modeling agencies who were holding me to these completely unrealistic standards. They’d say, “You need to lose an inch off your hips,” or whatever. Doing the swimsuit issue was just reinforcement that I could be successful at this.
Is the modeling business all about rejection? Well, becoming a swimsuit model put pressures on me that I never knew about, being told when I went to agencies and had my measurements taken, “Come back in three weeks. We’d love to pitch you to Sports Illustrated as soon as you’ve lost an inch and a quarter off your thighs or your hips,” or, “Lose 15 or 20 pounds.” They were these unrealistic standards that I wasn’t interested in conforming to. It wasn’t laziness. It just wasn’t me. It wasn’t how I was comfortable. So winning the first-ever open call for model search and getting myself into Sports Illustrated without an agent was 100 percent pure satisfaction and it reassured me.
What’s your best feature? My smile. When I was posing for Sports Illustrated, I had to find more of a smize, more of a sexual presence in my face, because I’m so used to smiling broadly and being bubbly for the camera. But it was cool, because a lot of the images they ended up picking were smiley shots, which were the most me.
Are you a one-piece or bikini person? I’m a classic one-piece person. I love a high cut that goes above your hips.
What are your thoughts on people saying that cheerleaders are objectified? I get this question a lot. I became an NFL cheerleader because I had been doing dance since I was 3 years old. There are only so many ways you can take it professionally. Being in an electric environment like an NFL stadium was why I did it. Having two-piece outfits just comes with the job. I never felt objectified. I never felt that any of my teammates did, because if we did, we wouldn’t be in that position. Anyone who felt that way shouldn’t be in that job. We learned through media training and the audition process how to deal with fans, whether it’s at a game or appearances. And we learn as women how to deal with men staring at us and, unfortunately, it’s something women deal with on a daily basis. We’re strong women, and these are our bodies, and we do with them as we please.
Who’s prettier: Tom Brady or Julian Edelman? [Laughs.] I’m going to say Tom Brady, just because right now, with Julian, all I can see is the scruff. I don’t like the beard.
Camille Kostek on the cover of the Wedding issue
So is Gronk as big of a party monster as he seems? No. Let’s put it this way: When he parties, he parties, and he definitely lives up to the reputation. But if you think about it, he’s locked in nine months of the year in football mode. I’m used to homebody, work-mode Rob. Snuggles and movies. Once the offseason hits, we definitely have our fun times in Miami or Vegas, and he is the life of the party.
How do you deal with women throwing themselves at him? Honestly, it doesn’t really bother me. He and I both love to meet new people, and when someone comes up to either of us, we entertain them. We would never snub anyone. I have a memory of being at a club at Mohegan Sun, and he was talking to a group of girls and I was with my friends. He and I saw each other from across the room and both gave each other a thumbs up. We have each other’s backs, and we both trust each other.
Best location you’ve ever worked? Modeling? I would say Belize and St. Thomas are right up there.
Worst? That would be not because of the location but the time of year. I shot on the Cape in the winter for a spring season clothing line. It was a beautiful location on the beach, but the temperature was freezing and I had to look all warm and comfy.
Best part of being a Patriots cheerleader? The relationships that I’ve built between the women on the team. Even though I only cheered with them for two years, I feel like I’ve known them my whole life. It’s really cool to be a part of each other’s bridal showers and weddings. They’re my best friends. And living through all the trips and tours and the Super Bowl. I even got to take a trip to China my rookie year. You go through a lot together.
Worst part of being an NFL cheerleader? For me, the schedule was so demanding, and I love to travel. We had no offseason. As soon as the season ends, you’re auditioning for the next one, and you’re training, and continuing to do appearances and charity work. So I wasn’t able to travel as much as I wanted, and that was a big part of why I resigned when I did.
I was sure you were going to say being out in the cold. Oh my gosh! I kind of forgot about that. Being a New England cheerleader, that was the hardest part.
Favorite Gillette Stadium snack? Hmmmm. I used to pack game day lunches. I’m a huge hummus fan. I love chickpeas. So peppers, carrots, cucumbers and hummus were always in my locker.
One thing most people would be surprised to know about you? That I’m a total girls’ girl. I’ve dealt with a lot of people judging me before getting to know me, and I think one of the most common phrases I’ve heard for years is, “You’re a lot nicer than I thought.” I always give people the benefit of the doubt. I like everybody until they give me a reason not to. Especially women. We already deal with enough cattiness and pressure in the world.
Something people would be surprised to know about Gronk? That he is a teddy bear at heart. For as crazy and wild as he’s portrayed by the media, and that is him in the videos being Rockin’ Rob, but I know a very soft side of him that he shows every day.
Camille Kostek; Wardrobe: 360 cashmere sweater at Nordstrom Rack, Tibi skirt at Saks fifth Avenue
What’s your workout routine? Because I’m on the go a lot, I love to mix it up. If I’m in Los Angeles, I’ll take some Rumble classes, and another day, I’ll be in the gym on my own, and then sometimes I’ll work with a trainer. But I always travel with resistance bands in my backpack so I can work my core, my legs and my arms if I’m in a hotel room.
Would you ever do a reality TV show? I don’t think so. I’ve been offered to do a handful of them, and I’ve said no every single time.
One thing you’d never be caught dead wearing? A big feather skirt. I saw Cardi B wearing one to like the Met Gala, and I love Rihanna—she’s one of my favorite fashion icons—but I just don’t think I can carry off a big feather skirt like them.
Model or person you idolize? There are a few. I’m a big Brigitte Bardot fan. But the model I admire just for her message to women and she’s so raw in the modeling world is Ashley Graham.
Are you a huge football fan? I am. I’m more of a Patriots fan than just a football fan.
Favorite swimsuit designer? So many. Probably Moana Bikini. It’s an Australian brand designed by a girl named Karina Irby, who’s a young entrepreneur. I haven’t met her in person, but through social media we have kind of the same message to women about body positivity, so I love her, and her designs are amazing.
Tips for Instagram swimsuit shots? I always go for the light. I love natural light. I don’t like things that are so set up and staged. A lot of my photos are as is and raw. My favorite time to shoot is the golden hour, just as the sun is setting. It just brings out the golden quality in everything, so that’s it.
How much do your photos get retouched? It’s pretty much what you see is what you get. I’ve only had one experience so far where the finished photo didn’t look like what we shot. When
photographers reach out about a collaboration, I immediately look at their Instagram feed or portfolio. I can tell if there’s a girl with freckles who’s had them smoothed out. You can just tell. I prefer the photographers who shoot raw and let the images be as is.
Did they retouch Gronk’s butt for the ESPN Body Issue or those pictures in GQ? I wasn’t there but I see him in the flesh, and he’s got a great, toned, muscular booty. I mean, I’m sure they enhanced him with a little bit of body oil on the set, but what you see is what you get with him. He doesn’t need any Photoshop or booty lifts.
This is our Wedding issue: Any chance there are wedding bells in your near future? I don’t know about my near future. I like to think of my life as very spontaneous and new all the time. So whenever a proposal comes into my life, I think that I’ll be very surprised, but right now, Rob and I are totally career-focused. We’re not just a fling. We definitely see a future with each other. But as of right now, there are no plans.
On the cover: Camille Kostek / Maggie Agency; Photographer: Kolby Knight; Location: Boston Harbor Hotel’s John Adams Presidential Suite; Hair and Makeup Artist: Dianna Quagenti / Ennis Inc. using Face Atelier; Stylist: Robin Reilly / Anchor Artists; Wardrobe: Zara sweater