Scroll through Alessandra Ambrosio’s social-media feeds and you’ll see the tongue-in-cheek #foreveronvacation hashtag popping up everywhere. She does not mean it literally, of course—you don’t become the world’s eighth-highest-paid model (she is said to be worth US$60 million) and a veteran Victoria’s Secret Angel by taking a whole lot of days off. But the sentiment has become something of a personal philosophy for the 33-year-old Brazilian beauty; a happiness hack she uses to get the most out of every moment, even when she is hard at work.
Speaking to Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore from her home base in Los Angeles, Ambrosio says her definition of happiness is, simply, “being present in the moment—doing something you like and having a good time.” And, crucially, she feels this can happen anywhere. “I love spending time with friends and family, especially my kids,” she says of Anja, seven, and Noah, four—her children with fiancé Jamie Mazur, 35. “But I like to enjoy myself even when I’m working.”
Thus, even in the middle of a long fashion shoot, or in the thick of her take-no-prisoners exercise regime leading up to the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show—which took place recently in Paris—Ambrosio has figured out how to slow down and savour the moment.
This ability is, in part, a product of her Brazilian heritage. “In Brazil, people are just naturally happy. They might not have a lot but they’re just happy with what they have, because life is to be celebrated; and I grew up in that culture.”
Brazil is also where she first fell in love with fashion and discovered an affinity for the business side of the industry. “I have always loved clothes. My godmother was one of the biggest seamstresses in my town when I was growing up, and after school I used to go to her atelier and just watch her making clothes; I think that’s where my love for fashion came from,” says Ambrosio, who grew up in the small southern city of Erechim. Because of those early years, she might be one of the only supermodels who can sit down at a sewing machine and rustle up an outfit from scratch if she had to. “I used to make clothes for all my dolls, so I know how to sew a little bit.”
Ambrosio grew up surrounded by working women, who provided a template for how she would later juggle her own duties as an entrepreneur, model and mum. “All the women in my family worked, so I always took it as a normal thing—to work and to be able to run a business. My advice to women doing the same is that it’s all about scheduling. For me, it’s about picking the right job. I try to stay here in Los Angeles more than I travel, so I can take care of [my kids] and go to work like a normal working mum. But sometimes I’ll go away for a week, and then I’m [home] for the next two weeks. It’s really just about working out a balance.”
Another thing Ambrosio has inherited from her family is her entrepreneurial streak: Her Italian-Polish parents own a chain of petrol stations in her hometown and her mother, an accountant, keeps the books in order. The model says she has a decent head for numbers herself, though she oversees more of the creative side of her own business.
Her sunny boho-chic clothing line, ále by Alessandra, has been seen on the likes of fellow models Heidi Klum and Candice Swanepoel. Here, her 12 years as a Victoria’s Secret model have proven instructive, particularly when it comes to emulating the lingerie brand’s appeal to a wide range of women—like the launch of its youth-oriented offshoot PINK, which Ambrosio was the first spokesmodel for. “When you make something that’s for different body types, that’s how you become successful, because you want to take your product to all kinds of women.”
She has also figured out that the customer is always right. “What I’ve learned is although sometimes I’m really into one thing, you never really know what the customer is going to accept. If you make something you like but it doesn’t sell, that doesn’t make sense.”
And while the model wields a formidable social media presence, with 7.3 million followers on Instagram, there, too, she is still learning. “It’s really hard to know what’s going to get likes, and sometimes it surprises me.”
“I posted a picture of myself when I was visiting Singapore a few months ago. It’s just me putting on jewellery in the mirror, but it became the most liked picture I have so far—and it has no boobs, no ass, which is what you’d think people usually go for!” she says, laughing. “So I think you have to just be yourself, and don’t try too hard. The natural and organic thing works best.”
The model shares of her visit: “It was my first time in Singapore and even though I was only there for two days, I was very impressed with the architecture and the people. Everyone was so friendly and hospitable. I visited Singapore Botanic Gardens, Gardens by the Bay and, since I live my life #foreveronvacation, a trip to Singapore wouldn’t have been complete without me going to the beach.”
That same breezy Brazilian boho-meets-Malibu aesthetic is perfectly captured in her clothing line. “alé by Alessandra just did this amazing collaboration with Revolve, and we have lots of cute, flowy boho dresses in cute flower prints. That’s usually what I go for as well—very boho, comfortable, easy to wear and casual, so I can be with my kids or running errands and still be on trend.”
Or at Coachella, the annual music festival where Ambrosio’s knack for putting together effortlessly chic ensembles has seen her become a style inspiration for many other attendees. “For Coachella, it’s about good vintage denim. My fiancé has a denim brand, Re/Done, so I obviously go to him to get the best denim every year. It’s about having a cool pair of vintage denim shorts or a denim jacket, with lots of hats and, this year, it was about the chokers—everyone was wearing them.”
Whether it’s through fashion or social media, Ambrosio, whose Facebook wall is overflowing with inspirational quotes, is acutely aware she is a role model for many of her young fans. “Especially now that I have kids, I see that whatever you do, they do.”
“I just try to send the right message because I have a lot of people who look up to me. It’s really about believing in yourself and having confidence,” says the model, who a few years ago opened up about having had a botched plastic surgery operation to have her ears pinned back when she was 11.
“Women sometimes don’t have the confidence, but you’ve just got to show your best features—everybody has something special, you know? So work on that; that’s how I see it.”
By Alison de Souza
Photographed by Yu Tsai
Styled by Martina Nilsson
Model: Alessandra Ambrosio/IMG Models
Makeup: Vincent Oquendo/The Wall Group
Hair: Bridget Brager/The Wall Group
Manicure: Christina Aviles/Opus Beauty
Digital imaging: Luis Jaime/88 Phases
Producer: Trever Swearingen/88 Phases
Photography assistants: Huel Tavares, Graham Dalton
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore.