There are many beautiful women in the world. A small handful of them actually have what it takes—at the height of their beauty—to make it in the modeling industry. And out of that minuscule subsection of gorgeous girls, 10 or so are lucky enough to call themselves Victoria’s Secret Angels.
More than just long-stemmed, smoldering babes, the Angels are bona fide ambassadors whose personalities and lifestyles are intrinsically linked to the Victoria’s Secret brand identity. Wisely, VS recently inducted red-hot Lily Aldridge into its über-elite subset of the industry’s brightest standouts.
A tomboy at heart, Aldridge grew up in Los Angeles surrounded by doting, creative parents and seven equally ambitious siblings. (Her sisters are also successful models; one of her brothers is a musician, and another, Miles, is the famous photographer.)
While immersed in the fashion industry as a kid, she never imagined that at 27 she’d be where she is today. “I was always on a set when I was little,” she recalls. “My sister Saffron was a Ralph Lauren model, and I’d walk in and see Bruce Weber taking her picture. He’d take mine, too. Back then I thought I was going to be a soccer player—and for a while, around second grade, I wanted to be an astrologer—but I remember thinking how gorgeous the Victoria’s Secret Angels were. It’s pretty amazing that now I am one!”
While she’s had great success through the years—appearing in campaigns for J Brand, Coach, Baby Phat, Banana Republic and many more—not to mention high-end editorial spreads and covers for the likes of Vogue España and British GQ (alongside her fellow Angels)—the Victoria’s Secret experience is far and away the crown jewel of her career.
She loves that it allows her, on the one hand, to explore philanthropic endeavors (she supports children’s charities such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis), and on the other, indulge in a bit of glitz and glamour—not to mention a little camaraderie. “Victoria’s Secret really is so special, because you shoot with the same people every week, and the other girls become your best friends,” she says.
Aldridge also notes some personal-health benefits to being an Angel: “It helps me want to stay in shape year-round. I’m very conscious about being toned and healthy now. I don’t smoke cigarettes, and—let me be clear—I consider healthy eating all about good, nutritious foods, which for me includes pasta.”
She admits that steering clear of fried food is difficult in Nashville, where she lives (when not in New York) with fiancé Caleb Followill, the frontman for Grammy-winning indie band Kings of Leon. A total music buff, Aldridge lives for live shows. “I’m seeing Queens of the Stone Age next week, then Radiohead, then LCD Soundsystem,” she says. “I’d see a show every night if I could.”
“It’s blissful to be in love,” she says of her engagement. “In any relationship, you know it’s right when you’re happy and the other person makes you a better person. That’s what Caleb does for me.” The couple owes much to our fair city, in fact. “Miami is wonderful—the food’s amazing, and it’s so warm and beautiful—but I love it for one main reason: Caleb proposed in South Beach, and it was very romantic.” Aldridge is keeping the exact location a secret, though…. Believe us, we asked. What she does reveal is that she hopes kids will be the next chapter in her life—though she’s in no rush.
Her road to Angel-dom was not easy or quick, but Aldridge credits her supportive parents and good, old-fashioned elbow grease with getting her where she is today. “I’m lucky to have had a real foundation in this industry, and my success developed over time,” she insists. “It must be scarier to come out of the woodwork one day and suddenly be a top model. I did all the jobs I didn’t want to do, and got on all those airplanes I didn’t want to get on. But a big key all along has been my belief in myself. A couple of years back I said, ‘Let’s go to Victoria’s Secret.’ And then, ‘I want to be on magazine covers.’ All of it has since come true. You have to aim big!”
Photograph by Chris Colls; Styling by Vale Polnoroff; Hair by Frankie Foye at Photo Op Management for Hair Rules; Makeup by Linda Hay at The Wall Group; Manicure by Julie Kandalec at artistsbytimothypriano.com