“Sure, she’s beautiful, but what’s she like in person?”—that’s what we typically ask ourselves when perusing the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and we finally got the chance to find out for real when Julie Henderson stopped by Gilt’s Brooklyn studio to model some of the looks in our upcoming sale with Sports Illustrated (bonus: all proceeds benefit The Nature Conservancy’s work to conserve our beaches and oceans). Read on, take careful notes, and check back on February 14 at noon ET to shop the sale (plus pick up or download the 2012 issue that day too).
Let’s start with the most important topic: The Henderson hybrid grapefruit, which your grandfather developed in the sixties. What makes that particular hybrid so special?
It’s delicious! And it’s a Henderson. What could be more special than that? [Laughs]
How did you get into modeling? Why not continue the grapefruit legacy?
Well my family stopped doing the grapefruit after my grandfather, so that’s part of it. Plus, I’m not really outdoorsy, so having to farm wouldn’t really be ideal.
But the modeling… When I was around 13, I lived with my father—he was a single dad—and I wanted to do my makeup, and do my hair. He had no idea what to do with me, so he sent me to a modeling school.
If you weren’t modeling, what would you be doing?
I definitely would have gone to college. But who knows what I would have decided to study. I started studying psychology, but I obviously couldn’t do both college and work, so I kind of went where the money was. [Laughs] But it’s funny to see how your interests change as you get older. If I were to go back, I’d study history.
I’m sure you’ve had more than a few guys take a pass at you. As a public service announcement: What tends to work?
Well, pickup lines never really work, so not those. Just be cool and funny. I’m always attracted to funny guys. I think it’s a big deal: You’ve got to be with somebody who makes you laugh.
How should a guy dress to impress you?
I think a guy should own his style, no matter what it is. If you like something, then rock it. You’ve got to have that confidence. Also: wear clean clothes. If you’ve got a stain—I mean, come on. I’m looking good for you; you can look good for me.
The Swimsuit Issue comes out on Valentine’s Day. What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
Jewelry’s always nice. I’m never going to complain about that. Ever.
What about the best date?
Well it wasn’t Valentine’s Day, but on our first date, my boyfriend took me to this gallery where you come in, they give you an apron and two spray paint cans, and you just go crazy on the wall. It was a lot of fun. I’d never spray painted anything before that so I was just like, “What?! This is my favorite!”
What can you tell us about the Sports Illustrated/Gilt sale?
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit and Gilt have teamed up to showcase some of the swim trends featured in the issue, and we also have exclusive surfboards with some of the girls printed on them. So you can go surfing on us.
How do you feel about that one?
[Laughs] It’s a little weird, because you’ve either got a lot of cleavage, or a lot of bum and leg showing. So it’s kind of like, “Hmm, some guy’s going to be riding on top of me.” But it’s for a good cause—all the proceeds go to The Nature Conservancy’s efforts to preserve the beaches and oceans worldwide.
Well, buying a surfboard with an SI Swimsuit model on it isn’t exactly a difficult way to support the earth.
Yeah! And you can start buying everything on the day the issue comes out, on Valentine’s Day.