Rosie claims she wasn’t always this beautiful: “I was a bit of an Ugly Betty when I was 15,” she says. There she was, a teenager on a farm in Devon, England, dreaming of the glamorous life in London, when she took an internship at a modeling agency, “getting coffee, lighting people’s cigarettes.” It wasn’t until she visited the agency months later and met a new agent that she booked her first job. Not So Ugly Rosie would turn up at castings “in trainers, with braids, a ton of makeup, plucked eyebrows.” Sigh. “I had braces.” The braces, and her baby fat, didn’t stick around. Huntington-Whiteley’s “transition” period happened at 18, when she moved to New York and quickly scored a Victoria’s Secret deal.
The Victoria’s Secret wings: About those mythical wings, she says, “I’d love to wear them for a fancy-dress party sometime. People assume I have wings hanging all over my house, but that,” she says reassuringly, “is not the case.” While the wings don’t exactly scream Steinem, “It’s still such a huge thing for a model.” She adds, “People kind of laugh about it and think it’s irrelevant, but I don’t know a girl in the world who would put those wings on and not feel, just for a split second, very special.”
She’s the new face of Burberry: “To be 21, working with Mario Testino and Christopher Bailey, it was a milestone moment,” she says. This past fall, her bodacious Burberry Body billboard was splashed all over venues as diverse as Herald Square in New York and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris (giving new meaning to impressionism). How many trenches does a Burberry campaign earn a girl, anyway? “I counted the other day; I have 12.” Based in L.A., where she lives with her boyfriend, action star Jason Statham, Huntington-Whiteley is navigating her next transition carefully. “It’s interesting coming from modeling, where women rule the industry, into one where there are so few great female parts and the competition is so much higher.”
Ironic runway walks: Now, though, Huntington-Whiteley has ascended to a level of celebrity where she can model ironically. At parties, she’s been known to rock a runway walk or two. “There’s always a moment when some great song comes on and everyone’s like, ‘Do the runway walk, Rosie!’ And you’re like, ‘No, no, no,’ and then you begrudgingly get up and do your thing.” But maybe she secretly loves it. “Yeah, it might be my little party trick. It always gets applause.”
So who feels sorry for Rosie? She went through an ugly phase at 15 (who didn’t).