CATCHING SOME RAYS WITH ROCK ’N’ ROLL’S FAVORITE MODEL
WHEN YOU’VE BUILT a multimillion-dollar career out of wearing next to nothing, the question of just how much skin to reveal can come down to a few very strategic centimeters of fabric.
Full back? Yes. Microscopic bikini bottoms? Sure. Still, it’s a game of inches, and something has to be left to the imagination.
For Lily Aldridge, 29, the “prettiest girl in the whole fucking world” (according to her husband, Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill), toeing that line between lust object and celebrity-power-brand-in-the-making is all part of the business plan.
Though she’s been modeling since she was 14, Aldridge debuted as a Victoria’s Secret model in 2009; she is now one of just eight Angels. She landed the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s 50th anniversary issue last year. Add her cred in high-fashion circles—shoots in Vogue and a campaign for Michael Kors—and Aldridge has won the Triple Crown of modeling.
As you might expect from any thoroughbred, she says her contracts are ironclad, stipulating precisely how much of her extraordinary physique she’ll bare. “I’m very careful about it,” she says. “I enjoy feeling sexy and beautiful; I just don’t think everyone needs to see everything.”
So what does it feel like to have millions of men wishing they could? “I don’t think of myself as an object of lust. I can’t even say that with a straight face,” she says with a laugh. The attention, she admits, is flattering. “But I’m more flattered when someone thinks I’m funny.”
In person, she’s lean and long, given to slouching her shoulders in a boyish way and playing against onlookers’ expectations. “People think it’s all rock concerts and runway shows,” she posits. OK, there are plenty of both. But there are also 3 a.m. call times for bikini shoots and a fitness regimen that would make an elite athlete groan. “I don’t take this life for granted,” she says. Aldridge and Followill also have a 2½-year-old daughter, Dixie Pearl. “That’s why I like social media,” she says. “People see that I’m married, they see I have a family, they see that I’m human.”
Over lunch at Barbuto in Manhattan’s West Village, she expertly orders wine for the table, plus steak and roast potatoes. (Her usual drink of choice: “A shot of Patrón and a Corona. That’s my jam.”) The gap in her teeth is arresting, just enough of an imperfection to make her seem real. “I don’t walk around feeling like a supermodel. I mean, I high-five people.”
Aldridge insists she was a “lanky, awkward” teenager, though she began modeling for Abercrombie & Fitch in the ninth grade. “I know it’s an age-old story that no one believes,” she says, laughing, “but no one asked me out in high school!” She didn’t even attend the prom. “I was in Paris, working. But I would have rearranged my schedule,” she adds with a bemused shrug.
Decidedly more comfortable in the spotlight these days, Aldridge has tapped into her inner show woman on the Victoria’s Secret catwalk, an experience she calls “exhilarating” (the yearly runway extravaganza is seen by some 10 million people worldwide). And yes, that was her in the video for “Use Somebody.” (You’re welcome.) “I don’t know how I ended up where I am,” she says. “I was so painfully shy as a child, [but] I eventually learned that it’s more exhausting to be shy than just to be open.”
Aldridge grew up in L.A. with her mother, model Laura Lyons—playmate of the Month, February 1976—and spent summers and a year of high
A PROUD NASHVILLIAN— BY WAY OF LONDON AND L.A. — VICTORIA’S SECRET MODEL LILY ALDRIDGE IS A BEWITCHING BEAUTY WITH A ROCK ’N’ ROLL HEART.
school in England with her father, the British artist Alan Aldridge, who designed album covers for the Who and the Rolling Stones. “The punk scene was so big in London then,” she recalls, “so I was able to go to all of these incredible concerts.” She chose public school over private because “I was a typical teenager, and the [private school] uniforms were like something out of Harry Potter. The skirts were down to your ankles. I was like, no….”
In 2007, Aldridge met her husband-to-be at Coachella, and they now split their time between Nashville and Tribeca. “I never thought in a million years a girl from L.A. would end up in Nashville, but I love it,” Aldridge says. When she’s not hanging at home, power-streaming Homeland or Game of Thrones, she’s “dancing at honky-tonks with 80-year-olds” or sup- ping with pal Taylor Swift. “Taylor makes me dinner,” Aldridge says. “And she’s the sweetest, most humble girl I’ve ever met.”
No doubt the two discuss the costs of fame. On a recent swimsuit shoot in Hawaii, Aldridge and the photo crew hiked to a secluded beach, where she shed her clothes and began posing in a tiny black bikini. Two days later paparazzi pictures emerged—taken by a drone that had hovered over the ocean, unseen. “It terrified me,” she says. “It’s no way to live. I mean, if you see the paparazzi and they’re in your face, OK, but it really freaked me out. So now if I’m on a beach, I’m scanning the sky, and it kind of takes away the magic of the photo shoot. I can’t with the drones.”
Take a picture, sure. Just ask nicely first. ■