A blonde bombshell who has climbed the modeling ladder from Miami to Malibu, Charlotte McKinney trades in burgers for Baywatch while setting her sights on the top of the fashion and entertainment world.
Bodysuit, Marika Vera ($95). Selena gold hoop earrings, Bonheur ($119). Calypso St. Barth, Village of Merrick Park, 358 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables, 305-448-7642. Belt, Max Mara ($450). Miami Design District, 109 NE 39th St., 305-770-6200. Boots, Fausto Puglisi (price on request). Curve, 2000 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-532-6722
Walking down the street naked, holding only a pair of melons, with the eyes of the entire world fixed on you may not be your idea of success. But when you’ve spent the better part of your life being pointed at, gawked at, and whispered about, it’s actually right where you’re supposed to be: starring in a Carl’s Jr. commercial that aired during the Super Bowl with 114 million people watching.
Growing up in Orlando, dropping out of high school at 17, and moving to Miami to become a model, Charlotte McKinney has lived anything but the glamorous life. Bullied for having larger-than-normal "features" at a young age, she embraced those assets and not only became an international sensation—doing everything from selling hamburgers to starring in music videos—but she is now set to appear in no fewer than five movies in a one-year span, including May’s much-anticipated Baywatch (with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) and Mad Families (opposite Charlie Sheen), as well as films with names like Kiefer Sutherland and Harvey Keitel. Throw in headlining a spring 2017 campaign for Guess alongside Joe Jonas, and McKinney is in fact doing exactly what she set out to do. But it wasn’t always like this, the 23-year-old former Miami It girl explains, when she returns home to the town where she got her start.
You dropped out of school at age 17. What was that like?
There just wasn’t any other choice. I had really bad dyslexia and I was failing. If I’d stayed in school, then I would still be in school now. I am much more of a visual person and school was just never really my answer, and I knew that at a really young age. My parents were freaking out—what parents want to hear their kid is dropping out of school and moving to Miami? But in the end they were helpful and were behind me. They knew I would be successful at whatever I wanted to do. So yes, I was a dropout.
What gave you that confidence to say, "Well, at least I can go model."
I just knew that from seeing photos and seeing girls, I had what it takes. I knew I could do it. I was a very determined kid, and not only in modeling; I wanted to break into the entertainment industry. Whether it was modeling or acting, I kind of fell in love with it.
LEFT: Dress, La Perla ($840). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-864-3173. Elle hoop earrings ($280) and Laurel necklace ($198), Bonheur. Calypso St. Barth, Village of Merrick Park, 358 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables, 305-448-7642. RIGHT: Alice bikini, Moeva ($179). Cristalina, 18407 W. Dixie Hwy., Aventura, 786-440-7383. Shorts, Missoni ($955). Fontainebleau Shops, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-535-3283. Neo tassel collar, Eddie Borgo ($675). The Webster, 1220 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-674-7899. NudeWrap sandals, Stuart Weitzman ($455). Brickell City Centre, 701 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 786-482-2984
Was being dyslexic and wanting to model and struggling in school hard as a teenager?
Obviously, I got more attention from the male side than from the female side. I didn’t have any girlfriends. A lot of my friends were guys, and I was called a slut by a lot of people. I was just growing these large breasts at such a young age, not really knowing what to do with them or how to wear them. So it was definitely awkward.
Were the girls calling you a slut?
Definitely. I also left school because of all of the bullying. Girls would yell at me and call me a slut. I would go to parties and get beer thrown on my head—there was so much bullying. It was just so awful, and that’s why now I kind of use my platform to promote anti-bullying. I try to use what I went through to be a voice for it, because it’s still happening and getting even worse now with social media.
How does dyslexia affect your career now?
I was always in those slower classes, but I think dyslexia can also be a [positive] thing to have, because you use your brain in a different way. I don’t find it as something that’s bad.
What was it like moving to Miami at 17 years old?
I was living on 60th and Collins. And one day I went to every single modeling agency in Miami—Ford, Next. I went to small boutiques. And everyone was like, "No, you are too short." "Your boobs are too big." But I was like, "Yeah, well, I photograph well." I was always battling with these agencies, and they were always like no, no, no. But it didn’t stop me. I just kept doing photo shoots and meeting photographers and doing my thing. So I was building up a portfolio.
And living in Miami, where it’s not all work…
I was so young and I loved the feeling of being out at night in Miami. I always hung out with the local vibe, not the touristy places. We would go out to cool bars like Radio, and I always ended up going to Wall on Tuesdays. I loved the atmosphere there. I felt at home, and it was just always a good time. I would work all week, but then Tuesday night was kind of a Miami, let-your-hair-down night. For dinner, I love going to Milos—that is one of my favorite restaurants. That’s something I do miss, the energy.
Top, La Perla ($600). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-864-3173. Panty, Montelle ($12). Selena hoop earrings ($119) and Irene ring ($170), Bonheur. Calypso St. Barth, Village of Merrick Park, 305-448-7642. Wedges, Santoni ($640). Bal Harbour Shops, 305-613-5911
You got your start here in Miami but then wanted to transfer into bigger things?
I was flying back and forth from New York, but there were no big jobs. I knew it could be so much better. I was still using Instagram as my platform, and ultimately LA just seemed more commercial, and within a month of living there I booked Guess.
Almost every commercial, role, or print ad features one prominent characteristic.
My boobs. I had them at 14 years old. So they are definitely not enhanced; they are real. I kind of just always had them.
Would you get a reduction at some point when you’re older?
I’ve been thinking about it. They’ve definitely gotten smaller from my diet and over time. So I can see myself getting a reduction or a lift in the future.
"I’M ALWAYS GOING TO BE SEXY, I’M ALWAYS GOING TO HAVE THOSE PHOTO SHOOTS, BUT I’M REALLY LOOKING FOR DIFFERENT ROLES."
What are your thoughts on plastic surgery?
If that’s what makes you feel better, then go for it. But for me, I just don’t see the point. I’ve always said I want to get a nose job, but I think it just makes you lose your face. Some things that aren’t perfect on people are actually extremely gorgeous. I think we all have funny features that we don’t like. My nose—one side is really out and the other is really in. I’ve been made fun of for it. But if I changed it, I wouldn’t look like me. That’s a feature [that] makes my face and makes me who I am.
Carl’s Jr. certainly catapulted you onto an international stage.
I’ve done two commercials for them; the first one was for the Super Bowl and it was just amazing. I was just eating burgers all day, so of course I had to spit some out or else I would have gotten really sick. We had a spit bucket because we used about nine burgers. They really started my career, and it was such a huge spot for me and got me to where I am.
But you don’t eat burgers anymore?
I quit red meat. I eat chicken sometimes. My diet just kind of changed. I don’t do dairy; I don’t do gluten. I have gotten a lot healthier. I don’t think I was unhealthy then, but I’m on a good diet plan that really works for me now.
Cardigan, Polo Ralph Lauren ($498). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-861-2059. Bra, Eres ($190). The Webster, 1220 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-674-7899. O-ring button earrings ($160) and peaked body chain ($225), Eddie Borgo. The Webster, see above. Ani ring, Bonheur ($115). Calypso St. Barth, Village of Merrick Park, 358 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables, 305-448-7642
What changes have you seen from your diet?
My boobs decreased in size—down one size, for sure—because I’m not eating sugar anymore or packaged food. It’s funny to see how much food can have an [effect] on your body type.
You’re starring in a Guess campaign with Joe Jonas and you were in his music video as well; what’s that relationship like?
Our first time working together, I was half naked, kissing in an elevator [in DNCE’s music video for "Body Moves"], so we definitely had to get close really fast. [Joe] is a really sweet guy. He’s just a lot of fun. I think we work together really well.
Did you ever think you would be kissing a Jonas brother?
I knew it [would happen] down the line.
Charlotte McKinney Dress, La Perla ($840). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-864-3173. Elle hoop earrings, Bonheur ($280). Calypso St. Barth, The Village of Merrick Park, 358 San Lorenzo Ave., 305-448-7642. Blakissima sandals, Christian Louboutin ($895). Miami Design District, 161 NE 40th St., 305-576-6820
Guess has had some iconic women as the face of the brand, from Anna Nicole Smith to Claudia Schiffer and more.
It’s the brand that I feel like I belong to the most. Marciano really embraces women’s curves, and to me that’s huge. [They’re] my best client, they admire my chest, and they’ve had so many iconic beautiful women.
What was it like working with Charlie Sheen?
Mad Families came out last month, and I play Charlie Sheen’s sister. When I found out Charlie was going to play the character, I was kind of nervous, but then I met him, and working with him has been so much fun. He’s so healthy and so vibrant. He’s such an awesome guy, and I had such a fun time shooting with him. I really learned a lot.
You always seem to be naked or half naked; do you embrace that or would you prefer different roles?
I think that’s what’s coming in 2017 that I’m really excited about. I’m always going to be sexy, I’m always going to have those photo shoots, but I’m really looking for different roles that aren’t so commercial and are a bit cooler. Maybe even an ugly role where I’m not such a glam person. I hope to be taken a bit more seriously.
Sometimes you get spotted by the paparazzi at not-so-glamorous times; does that come with the territory now?
I know that comes with the business. I get their job, and I get mine. But lately I’ve just wanted my privacy. I’ve been sick and I don’t want to be in makeup, but no matter what, they still catch me. So that’s something I’m learning to cope with. It can definitely be tough when you don’t want it.
Are you dating?
I’m single right now and really enjoying it. A lot of times when I’m in a relationship, I am focusing on the other person so much. Now I can focus on my work and focus on me.
Photography by RANDALL SLAVIN. Styling by Lysa Cooper. Hair by Joseph Maine at Jed Root Makeup by Tonya Brewer at Dew Beauty Agency. Manicure by Pilar Noire for Tom Ford in Toasted Sugar at Nailing Hollywood. Styling assistance by Anastasya Kolomytseva and Briana Singleton. Location: SLS Hotel, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills, 465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 310-247- 0400; slshotels.com/beverlyhills