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Yu Shing Ting

In The Swim with S.I.

STORY BY YUSHING TING
PHOTOS BY LEAH FRIEL

The Annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Is Now On Newsstands And Features Several Photos Of Kailua Girl Michelle Vawer Shot In Australia.

Local girl Michelle Vawer makes her rookie debut in the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue on newsstands now with three full-page photos throughout the extremely popular magazine.

There are a lot more photos of the island beauty online at si.com/swimsuit and that’s also where you can vote for her for Rookie of the Year.

“I ended up being so incredibly lucky because I literally got the best location and the most amazing photographer, Walter Iooss,” says Vawer about her experience.

“We got to go to Australia to this place called Cairns and it was a fun, interesting little town. We did one shoot in a bar, and they’re like here’s your tiny, little bikini, and I’m getting oiled up, and then all these local dudes in the bar are just looking and asking to marry me. It was fun.

“My other location was this gorgeous beach. We had to take a helicopter to this pristine, white sand, blue water beach. The whole crew is just so much fun. Everyone really put a lot into it and you can see it in the photos. It’s such an honor to be a part of it. I’ve always sort of looked up to the Sports Illustrated girls in terms of how they are as models. And the press that goes with it, we just were in Las Vegas on an SI promotional tour, we had a party in New York. I hardly got any sleep in the last few days (after the magazine’s release), but it’s been so much fun.”

She first met with the editors at SI last March, did her photo shoot in November, and had to keep it all a secret with only her mom knowing about it until the magazine came out.

“Michelle’s modeling journey and pilgrimage to the SI Swimsuit Issue was such an unexpected outcome,” her mom says. “She was so shy until she was 13 or 14 … barely said boo to anyone.”

This year, Vawer is one of six rookie models selected for the highly coveted job, following in the footsteps of legendary supermodels Christie Brinkley, Elle Macpherson, Kathy Ireland, Bar Rafaeli and others.

“This is my biggest job, definitely,” she says. “It’s really more than a modeling job. it’s not just the fashion world that sees it, it’s literally all of America and it even reaches beyond that. It’s a dream come true and I was so happy with my photos when I saw them.

“I had a little bit of a say (on the suits I wore). I remember walking into the room for the fitting and they have racks on racks on racks of suits that all these designers send to them and hope to have in the magazine, and we chose ones we loved and I felt good in. I’m from Hawaii, I’m a beach girl, a swimmer and a water person, so to get to try on these bikinis and to have that as my job, it’s crazy. I get my hair and makeup done and go to these beautiful beaches and have fun.”

Vawer also has a new commercial airing now for Rock & Republic jeans, and before all of this she has worked for numerous lingerie and swimsuit companies, as well as editorials in Italian Vanity Fair and Vogue, and Vogue in India. She also has been featured in fashion shoots for HILUXURY magazine. More recently, she had a meeting with the folks at GQ, and has been doing a lot of auditions for pilot TV shows.

Born in Vancouver, and raised in Kailua, Vawer didn’t start modeling until she was 17 at the suggestion of a friend. She attended Kaelepulu Elementary, La Pietra Hawaii School for Girls and Iolani School before graduating from Myron B. Thompson Academy. Then, at 19, the 5 feet 10-and-a-half inches tall beauty was scouted by international model management firm IMG Models (the agency that also represents Heidi Klum, Gisele Bundchen, Kate Moss and Miranda Kerr, among other top supermodels) in New York where she now lives. However, much of her time is spent traveling, as her work has taken her to various exotic and stunning locales around the world, including Africa, Bali, Germany, Milan, Paris, Colombia, London and Japan.

“When I started modeling, I didn’t take it too seriously,” recalls Vawer, 22, who is of Latvian/IrishEnglish heritage. “I just thought it was fun. Now, I recently worked on a TV show pilot with the guys from Entourage. I kind of love having things to study and projects to keep me busy. If I were to focus solely on modeling I’d go a bit crazy, so it’s been fun to have other things to apply my brain to and studying acting has been one of them. Also, doing Sports Illustrated is such a great platform. A lot of Sports Illustrated girls go on into other interests, such as Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks. They took their position as a model and became mega businesswomen and got to do all these other fun things, and I would like to go in that direction.

“I love to do interviews and I look up to people like (journalist) Charlie Rose, and James Lipton from Inside the Actors Studio. I would love to do something like that one day.”

Vawer, who has a passion for drama and literature, enjoys writing, reading, watching movies, drawing and listening to music (ranging from Hawaiian and reggae to rock and the Rolling Stones, Etta James and Al Green), and she’s active on Twitter (follow her @Michelle Vawer). She also grew up swimming competitively for Aulea Swim Club in Kailua, and for a moment considered pursuing the sport at Yale.

Michelle Vawer

Kailua girl Michelle Vawer makes her debut in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, which is now on newsstands. http://si.com/swimsuit

“Basically the swim coaches at Yale wanted to work with me and were willing to help me out,” she explains. “I still swim for fun. I will always love it.”

Her parents still live in Kailua, and she hopes to be back this summer. Her older sister Vanessa, with whom she is very close, is a missionary on a yearlong mission trip in Ireland. As for her love life, she says she “might be” dating someone.

“It’s weird because I’ve never sort of had anything in my private life talked about publicly, so I’m still figuring out how to answer that question,” she explains. “I might be. It’s a mystery.”

But one thing is for certain: her love for the Islands she still considers her home. “I always need to get back to Hawaii at least once a year,” she says. “It’s my recharge place, and it’s really important to me. I’m enjoying living in New York, but Hawaii is my home.”

GETTING TO KNOW MICHELLE VAWER:

> My favorite designers are … Yves Saint Laurent, Celine, Missoni, I love Missoni bikinis, and Tom Ford. And my favorite swimsuit and coverup designer is Letarte. I actually worked with them before I moved to New York.

> My favorite snacks are … I love so many snacks, I go through so many phases of trying to eat healthy, but on this trip I ate so bad and I was actually eating a lot of bacon. That was always my favorite food growing up. It’s probably the worst thing I could eat but I don’t think anyone can resist the smell of bacon.

> My favorite dessert is … Chocolate souffle cake.

> Are you a coffee drinker? I’m a big coffee drinker. I drink a lot of coffee. I usually order a soy cappuccino or soy latte.

> Favorite restaurants in Hawaii? I really don’t eat out that much in Hawaii. I kind of am just at home. If I eat out, I eat mostly in Kailua. I like Baci Bistro.

> Favorite restaurants in New York? In New York, all I do is eat out, there’s never any time for cooking. I love Locanda Verde. There’s a Jamaican restaurant that I like called Miss Lily’s that’s a pretty fun hangout spot. And I like ABC Kitchen. There are so many good restaurants in New York. I just like restaurants that do stuff that’s fresh, with the highest-quality ingredients, and pure and natural ingredients.

> What are you reading now? I have a book that I read on and off by Harold Bloom called Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, which is pretty cool. I tend to read multiple books depending on where I am and what my mood is. I’m actually really guilty of starting a lot of books and not finishing.

> I have a bad habit of … overthinking everything and daydreaming all the time!

> I love my … family.

> My last splurge was … a red, lacy Dolce & Gabbana dress that’s super sexy. It was $1,400.

> My favorite model is … Gisele. I actually met her very briefly when I first moved to New York at a photo opening and she was there. Also, I did a shoot for Vogue India and they had shot her for the cover the day before and one of her dresses she didn’t end up wearing, and I got to wear that same dress the next day.

> My biggest pet peeve is …getting myself stressed for no reason.

> My first job was … in Hawaii! For a Japanese golf magazine? Haha. Something like that I cant exactly remember.

> I’m a big fan of … Tina Fey.

> My favorite item in my closet is … a beaded necklace from a close friend.

> I collect … stories.

> People often tell me that I … have a soft voice.

> I spend way too much money at … natural health stores. I convince myself I need everything.

> I’m really good at … eating and listening.

> I’m really bad at … getting to the point.

> I spend way too much time on … my iPhone.

> My favorite book is … anything by Roald Dahl or Salinger.

> My favorite movie … this year is Drive. All-time, I don’t have one, but I can watch Princess Bride and Breakfast at Tiffany’s over and over.

> My favorite beauty item is … Maybelline mascara.

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