Classic American beauty Erin Heatherton sizzles in summer's hottest trends on the sands of South Beach.

Erin Heatherton
Space Garden one-piece swimsuit, Clover Canyon ($255). Bloomingdale’s, The Falls, 8778 SW 136th St., Miami, 305-252-6300. Green resin and metal cuff, Gucci ($1,250). Village of Merrick Park, 342 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables, 305-441-2004

Plenty of young girls arrive in South Beach with the intention of becoming a model, but very few actually achieve that goal—let alone supermodel status—especially just minutes after touching down. But for model Erin Heatherton, that’s exactly what happened. As a junior in high school on a college visit to the University of Miami, the Illinois born 5-foot-11 stunner stepped out of a minivan and onto South Beach, and before she could even burn her feet, a model scout was chasing after her, business card in hand. Since then, the 25-year-old has walked the runway for everyone from Diane von Furstenberg to Victoria’s Secret, graced the pages of Vogue Paris, and been romantically linked to Leonardo DiCaprio. On a gorgeous Miami Beach day, Ocean Drive brought Heatherton back to where it all began.

RELATED: Meet Heatherton's fellow Victoria's Secret Angel Lindsay Ellingson>>

Ocean Drive: You were discovered within seconds of stepping foot in Miami Beach. Had you always wanted to model?
Erin Heatherton: [Coming to Miami] was my first time on a plane. I came with my friend and her mom; it was a beautiful day when we arrived, so we decided to walk around South Beach and then in the afternoon go to the University of Miami campus. That’s when I was scouted. Some guy jumped out of a cab and asked me what agency I worked for because he was scouting for Abercrombie & Fitch. I was horrified—I was like, “I don’t model,” and I was embarrassed that he didn’t ask my friend to be a model. But my mom followed up with him, and after my junior year of high school, we packed and went to New York. My mom left after two days because I signed with an agency.

Erin Heatherton

Model Erin Heatherton heats up Miami Beach in the season’s sexiest swimwear.

You moved to New York City at 17 years old—what was that like?
I really loved it. I felt so charged by the energy, and I would just walk around alone. New York is a place where everybody is just alone together in the street, doing their thing. It was a lot of self growth during those years; that kind of education is priceless.

Erin Heatherton
Bikini, Roberto Cavalli ($380). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-865-1749. Matt aviator sunglasses, Isabel Marant par Oliver Peoples ($365). Eyes on Lincoln, 708 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305-532-0070; Watch, 40 Nine ($49). Miami Surf Style, 421 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305-604-8592

The world sees you as beautiful, but how do you see yourself?
I’m not perfect. I never identified with the way I look; I was just born this way. I don’t feel rejection if I’m not the right person for a job, because that’s not where I find my self-worth. I’m a beautiful person, and that’s not because of my modeling career. There are good shots, and there are bad shots, but it’s just like playing a character. If you think of the top five people that you care about the most in your life, you probably don’t care if they look good in every angle or photo.

Erin Heatherton
Clubbing swim top, Eres ($285). Aquamarine, The Shops at The Fontainebleau, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-674-4783. Crystal fringe earrings ($215) and Aurora gold bracelet ($330), Lele Sadoughi. Mayda Cisneros, 4102 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 305-448-5848

You’ve said you didn’t fit in very well when you were younger because of your height.
That’s the standard tale of most models. I was always the tallest, so that contributed to me being a tomboy and playing sports. A lot of my friends were boys, but I didn’t have “boyfriends” in high school, really. I was 5-foot-5 in fifth grade; I grew six inches in two years. When I was 15, I stopped growing at 5-foot-11.

Erin Heatherton
Cabrillo one-piece, Tori Praver ($264). Mermaids Boutique, 7328 SW 57th Ave., South Miami, 305-662-8621. White iconic chandelier earrings, Oscar de la Renta ($395). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-868-7986. 18k yellow gold Sugarloaf ring with white opals and diamonds, Kara Ross ($5,400). Neiman Marcus, 151 Worth Ave., Palm Beach, 561-805-6150. Zephyr beach towel, Lacoste ($42). 1026 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305-674-6810

You’re Jewish—did you get Bat Mitzvahed?
I did; it was just a wonderful day in my life…. and humiliating. I sang! They’re like mini weddings for awkward preadolescent weirdos changing voices.

Erin Heatherton
Space Garden one-piece swimsuit, Clover Canyon ($255). Bloomingdale’s, The Falls, 8778 SW 136th St., Miami, 305-252-6300. Peggy sunglasses, Tory Burch ($195). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-867-7469. Green resin and metal cuff, Gucci ($1,250). Village of Merrick Park, 342 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables, 305-441-2004

Are Jewish mothers always trying to set you up with their sons?
Yes. The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city—grandmothers, too. But I’m probably going to do that too one day.

Erin Heatherton
Bikini, Missoni ($475). Saks Fifth Avenue, 7687 N. Kendall Dr., Miami, 305-662-8655. Limited-edition Renaissance bracelets in black and gray aluminum, David Yurman ($350 each). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-867-1772

How do you handle working with women who are considered icons in the modeling world?
In the beginning, I was surrounded by the most beautiful people in the world, and I spoke to these icons for five minutes and I didn’t think they were beautiful anymore. When you’re surrounded by the best of the best, it’s a really quick way to understand what does matter. Ever since I was a kid, I never really cared what people thought. I was kind of a loner.

Erin Heatherton
Adriana bikini top ($110) and bottom ($110), Sinesia Karol. 19k white gold and diamond necklace, Djula ($1,940). Vault, 1024 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305-673-5251. Gold-plated bracelets ($290 each), gold-plated zipper bracelet ($490), and silver-plated ring ($250), Salvatore Ferragamo. Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-866-8166. Cabana stripe beach towel, Kassatex ($63). Bloomingdale’s, The Falls, 8778 SW 136th St., Miami, 305-252-6300

Being that type of person, what is it like dating in the spotlight and reading gossip about yourself?
It’s not a comfortable feeling. With modeling it’s fantasy, so it doesn’t touch you, but when it’s your personal life, then it can burn. But that’s part of the job. It helped me to find more inner strength.

Erin Heatherton
Pushkar one-piece swimsuit, La Perla ($408). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-864-3173. Goldfoil leaf earrings, Jennifer Miller Jewelry ($285). 5 Via Mizner/Worth Avenue, Palm Beach, 561-659-9095. Large polished gold dome ring, Kenneth Jay Lane ($100). Babalu Miami, 1121 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305-538-0777

What do you love about Miami?
Miami is amazing. It’s such a comfortable place. There are so many different neighborhoods and so many different experiences you can have. The beaches are beautiful. The people are really alive, and the spirit is quite eclectic. It’s just a bold place, a colorful place. It’s so laid-back and carefree.

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