Imagine a fantasy day on a fantasy island where the sun casts a golden light over the sea and diamonds sparkle on the sand. Where a goddess draped in silk and dipped in salt dances in the waves. This is what it looks like to spend a day on Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve—a private island on the Bahamas—with Nicole Williams English.
Nicole Williams English shot on location at Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve
In the past month Nicole Williams English has flown to rural Cambodia to raise awareness for The Brannerson Foundation, melted Instagram with bikini selfies and saved the life of one very fortunate hermit crab. She is a model, designer, activist and WAG (more on that in a minute), a woman of multiple talents and simple acts of kindness. After spending a day admiring her otherworldly body and superhuman strength on the beach in the Bahamas, we sat down with the Canadian beauty to chat about marriage, modeling and staying grounded while making her brand bigger than ever.
Vintage cardigan, $48, at House of Findings; bottom, $98, at Onia; earrings, $156, at Adina's Jewels; white diamond ring, $1,900, and pink diamond ring, $1,360, both at Luis Morais; all other jewelry, stylist’s own.
Let’s start at the beginning. How were you discovered?
I was born in Newfoundland, Canada, where there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for me to make it in the fashion world, but from a young age I knew I wanted to be a model. I remember doing these little runway shows in my kitchen when I was 8 years old and forcing my mom to record me! I had so many dreams of moving away so I could pursue a career in entertainment and eventually move to Hollywood. My family moved to Toronto when I was 14, and I was never ‘discovered’ while strolling through a mall or anything but instead had to knock on 100 doors until an agency signed me.
Lucky for us, one of those agencies was right here in Miami.
In 2010 I was signed by Elite Models in Miami. They wanted me to move to Miami for a couple of months to build my modeling book and test out the market. I agreed, and as soon as I stepped into the model apartment in South Beach I was greeted by a gorgeous, tanned and topless model. Her name was Chrissy Teigen! There were about six models in the house, but Chrissy and I connected immediately and became close and continued to be friends even after we left Miami. I will tell you this: She has not changed a bit, in the best possible way! Miami was fun; I completely fell in love with the city and come back any chance I get.
Earrings, $156, at Adina's Jewels
Work has kept you busy for the last decade. What has been the best experience?
As I model I’ve been able to travel the world and experience so many different cultures. I recently traveled to Cambodia on a charity trip with a fashion brand that I work with regularly. I visited a school that was built to further the local children’s education and teach them English and give them more opportunities. Meeting the locals and having dinner at one of their homes was so eye-opening and special. I loved experiencing the beautiful culture and being able to help in some small way. This cover is something I’ve had on my list of career and life goals for over a decade. I actually saw Adriana Lima on the cover when I was living in the modeling apartment and fell in love with the magazine. My agency told me that it wasn’t possible for me because it’s such a prestigious cover, but I didn’t let them deter me.
Any bad experiences as a model?
I have not really had a ‘bad’ experience because each experience is something that I’ve learned from and grown. Every challenge follows with an opportunity if approached the right way. If I had to choose something, I guess it would be the constant years of rejection. As a model there is so much competition for the same goals and jobs. If you put all your eggs in one basket and all your hopes into that one gig and not expand your horizons for other opportunities to come in, then you can really set yourself back. I spent years thinking that if only I got that one job I’ll be set! I’ve learned over time that there’s so many ways to succeed, and it’s never that ‘one’ gig that will make or break your career.
You use your star power to bring awareness to important causes. Tell us about your passions.
I am a huge animal lover, and I truly believe in animal equality. I’ve been vegetarian for years and am a Beyond Meat ambassador as well. I don’t think that it’s possible to be perfect, but if everyone tried just a little harder to be a little more aware and have a little more compassion, then we could make an even bigger impact. I use my platform to show my followers easy ways to make vegetarian meals using Beyond Meat and also help spread the word for animal adoption and helping dogs in kill shelters get their forever homes. I do believe we can get better and make a huge difference for these animals so they can live in peace and harmony. I also work with Road Dogs and Wildlife Vets, and that experience has been both informational and rewarding. I recently talked on Instagram about the work Wildlife Vets is doing with sea turtles. I also had Road Dogs bring some special needs dogs to my clothing capsule launch. It was a huge hit, but everyone was having so much fun playing with the pups that my collection took a back seat.
Have you always been an animal lover?
Always! I grew up with so many animals in Newfoundland, and my parents were huge animal lovers too. I would bring dogs and cats home all the time, so we had tons of animals running around the house. I really take after my mom because she treats her dogs like her children; she talks to them like babies and would probably jump in front of a car for them. I was raised to treat all living things with love and respect, and I’ll also pass that on to my kids. I have two French bulldogs, Ace and Jasmine, that are my obsession.
When did you become interested in designing?
My mom was an amazing seamstress, so I grew up watching her sew and I’d always have the best clothes because she would make me literally everything that I wanted. When I moved to NYC, I was modeling swimwear and lingerie all of the time. I became an expert in knowing how clothing should fit and make you feel. I built my own swimwear line, Nia Lynn, and it took me some time but I finally launched the first collection in December 2017.
Nia Lynn is gorgeous. Tell us how you’ve positioned the collection so that it feels different from the other swimwear out there.
From my own modeling experience, I noticed that many swimsuits didn’t fit right. I found that the top didn’t fit my boobs or the butt area was too saggy. I wanted to create swimsuits that would look amazing and stay on, even if you’re doing a cannonball. I have a range of swimsuit styles; my first collection was very sexy, for a woman who is a little more daring. Then I recently launched a basics line for the woman who just wants to feel a bit more covered and comfortably sexy. I love listening to my customers’ feedback, and I always take their advice and put it into my new designs.
You and your hub Larry English are relationship goals. Tell us how you met.
I was shooting a few campaigns in Los Angeles, and while I was out at a friend’s birthday I met Larry. Funny enough, when we actually met I remembered that I had seen him the weekend prior from a distance and thought he was really cute. I guess it was meant to be. My friend actually pointed him out because she knew he was my type, but I had recently gotten out of a relationship and I thought I wanted to be single. That didn’t last! He was living in San Diego at the time, and he pursued me for a few months and then I caved. A couple of weeks later he introduced me to his family, and we have been together ever since.
We got to watch your relationship evolve on E!. What was it like being on WAGS? (Do you hate that expression?)
Ha-ha! Well, honestly, I didn’t even know what a WAG meant before I started filming our pilot for WAGS LA! Once I learned that was what our show was going to be called, I looked up the term and found out it was used in the U.K. for women dating athletes. It’s so funny; I’m now starting to get used to being called a WAG simply because of the show. And I don’t hate the expression, but I don’t think it encompasses everything I am as a woman. I did meet some amazing friends on the show, so I am not complaining. When I first met Larry, it was a rocky road because there’s a lot of attention on the ‘new’ girlfriend of an NFL player. It sounds silly, but people love to gossip and are very nosy because they want to know everything about you. There’s jealousy all around, so it’s extremely important to have a solid relationship and trust one another. If you make your foundation solid, then nothing really gets in the way.
Everyone assumes WAG life is all glam and good times, but I imagine there were some tough moments when Larry was still playing in the NFL.
We have an awesome life together. I wouldn’t say it’s glamours all the time because we love to do normal things like take road trips with the dogs rather than flying, or stay in on New Year’s and eat pizza rather than attend a big fancy party. We have a pretty normal relationship if you know us personally. When Larry was playing, it was definitely a little more challenging because he was always on the road and I must admit I have had trust issues. We were also just younger at the time and not as bonded as we are today as husband and wife. We have been together for almost nine years now, so I do believe that everything we went through together has shaped us into the couple we are today. We are best friends; we love being together, but it has never been perfect, but I think that’s why we are so strong.
What’s life like for you guys now that he is retired? Do you still watch NFL?
I was probably more lost than he was after he retired. Larry is so smart, and not many people know that about him. He’s always been the smartest person I know, so he had another plan ready to go by the time he said goodbye to football. For years throughout his football career, he was studying and learning about investments and real estate and now has his own investment company. He’s happier than ever, but of course it wasn’t a completely smooth transition and it had its ups and downs. He played football since he was 9 years old, so it was really a huge part of who he had become. As for me, I loved watching him on the field, and going to the games was the highlight of my weekends. So I do miss that, but it was also hard to see him beat his body up and have to ice his knees and ankles after all his surgeries.
Was reality TV a positive experience for you?
There are always ups and downs when it comes to sharing your personal life with the public. It can be good if you know what you are doing going into it and stay true to yourself. There were definitely risks involved, but Larry and I spoke about it and thought long and hard about reality TV before we agreed to shoot WAGS. I think overall it was positive because it helped me reach so many more people and build the platform I have today. It gave me leverage to build my career, and it allowed me to share another side of myself that people wouldn’t have known just looking at photos of me. Even my wedding was aired on E!, so I was able to share that special day with people from all over the world. I would definitely do another show if it was something that was organic to me. Who knows, maybe Larry and I will do a show together! I’d be up for that.
Bodysuit, $995, by Balmain at Saks Fifth Avenue, Brickell City Center; hat, $517, by Carolina K at Mrs. Mandolin; vintage necklace, $58, and vintage earrings, $88, both at House of Findings. Below: Top, $460, and skirt, $400, both by Elena Makri at Mrs. Mandolin; Chiara bikini top, $95, and Dalia bottom, $95, both at Onia; earrings, $720 each, and necklace, $16,710, all at Luis Morais.
You look amazing. Tell us your beauty and fitness secrets.
Well, first of all, thank you. I try to practice self-care and especially try to take care of my skin. One of my secrets would be to always wash your makeup off the moment you get home and before bed. No matter how tired I am, I’ve never slept in my makeup. Another trick is to use essential oils and vitamin C on your skin at night, or you can wear it under your makeup during the day. As for fitness, I really hate working out but I force myself! I think the main reason I stay fit is because I eat pretty healthy or at least I am mindful. I usually fast in the morning until around 1 when I have my first meal; then I usually cook something healthy for dinner. For this shoot, I tried a keto diet and cut out all carbs and sugar and noticed a difference in my body right away, but it was tough. In general, I am trying to do a lot better with being kind to my body and to be more aware of what I am putting in it.
Favorite places to hang out in Miami?
I love Setai beach. I grab a beach chair and a fresh coconut and just lie in front of the ocean all day taking dips in the water and tanning. It’s so relaxing. I also love shopping in Brickell during the day and then going to a fun restaurant at night. The restaurants in Miami have such great vibes and energy, and one of my favorite things to do is find plant-based restaurants in every city. Recently I went to Planta South Beach, and it was amazing! Great choice if you are looking for an upscale vegan restaurant. For a night out, I love dancing the night away at LIV or Story.
What are your personal and professional goals for 2020?
My personal goals would be to stay more focused on health and wellness. Like I said before, I try to eat healthy, but it’s hard to stay away from junk food. So I really want to find a better balance in the new year and start on a fitness path with more attention to working out. It doesn’t have to be dieting all the time, but it’s about balance and finding a better, healthier lifestyle overall. For my professional goals... well, let’s just make it clear that one of those goals that has been on my list for over a decade just happened! I’m on the cover of Ocean Drive!
Linen shirt, $245, Orlebar Brown, Bal Harbour Shops; vintage earrings, $58, House of Findings; necklace, $16,710, Luis Morais. Below: Super Coral bracelet, $30, MSC Foundation, Super Coral Play; white diamond ring, $1,900, and pink diamond ring, $1,360, both at Luis Morais; shorts and all other jewelry, stylist’s own.
Photography by: RIOCAM; Styled by Caraline Zeizel Goldenfarb; Makeup by Soleil Atiles; Hair by Danny Jelaca for the Danny Jelaca Salon; Shot on location at Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve