NEW YORK - Now that she's stopped modeling, former Sports Illustrated Swimsuit star Brooklyn Decker is posing for the cameras more than ever: There she is with the paparazzi in Australia, on the red carpet in London and on the cover of this month's Women's Health and the June issue of Redbook.
When she hung up her bikini after appearing in SI four years in a row, the 25-year-old decided her new job would be working as an actress.
She has starring roles in two movies, "What to Expect When You're Expecting" and "Battleship," both opening Friday, and she has spent the last three months promoting them. (She won last year's Teen Choice Award for female breakout star after her big-screen debut in "Just Go With It.")
Decker began modeling when she was 16, when she was cast in an ad for prom dresses in North Carolina. Modeling was meant to pay for college, she says, but it didn't turn out that way. Sometimes she thinks about what could have been, but adds: Who would say "no" to top magazines and photographers, and a chance to see almost every corner of the world?
"The problem is I really missed going to college. I missed not having that education and that experience," she says. "The only thing I could study when traveling so much is acting because I could actually take it with me. ... Acting was the one thing I could commit to studying abroad. I started reading a lot of plays, a lot of Tennessee Williams initially."
At one point, she flirted with going back to her childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian. Instead, she has settled into being an active pet owner, even doing video chats with her beloved English bulldog, Billie Jean, while she's on the road. Maybe someday she'll have a "mini farm," she says.
The whirlwind global press tours have been "amazing" and will surely help her budding film career, but she's eager to get back to Austin, Texas, where Decker and professional tennis star Andy Roddick were married in 2009 and still have a home.
She's not quite complaining, but Decker says all the high heels, designer gowns and especially the fussing with her hair and makeup for the press tour are getting to her. "I want to wake up, throw on workout pants and a T-shirt, and I'd like to go on a big hike."
It's gotten to the point that she balls up the gowns to get them into her suitcase.
Makeup artist Patrick de Fontbrune and hairstylist Charles Baker Strahan, who accompanied her on a recent visit to The Associated Press headquarters, confirms she's over it. "She hides from us," says Strahan with a laugh.
When she needs to, though, she turns it on and answers more questions:
Q: Will you sneak into a theater and watch your new movies with an audience?
Decker: I have a really difficult time watching myself on film. I literally cower in my seat and cover my face. ... There's zero evidence that I was a model in my house, no pictures of me anywhere.
Q: Would you be willing to take on a role with an unrecognizable or unattractive look, one that required you to, say, chop your hair or color it?
Decker: I think that's the fun of being an actor. If an actress is concerned about how she's looking all the time, I feel like you can't really focus on becoming a character so I would welcome a physical change.
Q: Are you more comfortable in a bikini or a ball gown?
Decker: It's not that I'm comfortable in a swimsuit, and this is going to sound weird, but when you have a gown, there's much more to be concerned about. Where is this crease falling? Are you making a weird shape with the dress? Are you doing the designer justice? With a bathing suit, it's more about you and the mood you convey. So, I feel like a bathing suit is a little bit easier to wear, not more comfortable but easier.
Q: You're a big sports fan and a good athlete, what's your game?
Decker: I have zero hand-eye coordination - zero - so I've never been good at softball, basketball, golf, things like that, but I'm really strong and I have really good endurance so I can go forever - I'm a tough girl. Growing up, I played soccer, which is a lot of endurance, and I ran track and field. I ran the 400-meter relay, the 800-meter relay, and the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles. Hurdles were probably my best events.
Q: What would most surprise the public about models?
Decker: What surprised me most was how business savvy and how intelligent these girls were. They're traveling around the world so they're worldly and they're exposed to places that some of us will never get to see and most girls are very well-read because they're on planes all the time. Most girls realize it's a business. There are dozens of examples of girls who have transitioned what they do into a business model and that's to be respected.