Samantha Hoopes is a veteran when it comes to sexy photoshoots — this year marks her seventh in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue — but hitting the beach in a bikini for the 2020 issue hit differently.
“It was almost like my first shoot all over again,” the 29-year-old model told The Post of the January photoshoot on Scrub Island of the British Virgin Islands. “I was really nervous.”
The Doylestown, Pennsylvania native had given birth to her first child, George, a mere four months before she was set to pose nearly nude for the mag, which drops July 21.
“My body was different, my angles were all different, my skin was still super loose and just finding the confidence again to be in front of the camera … was tough,” she said.
And while there were a few hiccups, like when she started “leaking milk halfway through because your boobs need to milk,” she ended up feeling more confident than ever.
“It was kind of liberating because I didn’t care about the things I cared about when I was 22,” she said. “Having stretch marks and everything that goes along with growing a baby … I just owned it and I wanted to own it for other women, too, because it’s not an easy thing.”
After giving birth to her son on August 28, 2019 with husband Salvatore Palella — who’s the founder and CEO of Helbiz — the model said she struggled to accept her new body and the extra 80 pounds she gained during pregnancy.
“I didn’t feel good, I didn’t feel confident or beautiful and I didn’t feel anything that I would have felt in the past,” said the model, who has 1.1 million followers on Instagram.
The 5-foot-8 mom, who splits her time between NYC and LA, expected her body to bounce back to its chiseled, statuesque state after a month. But when that didn’t happen, she turned to her good friend and model, Hannah Jeter, who has two daughters with former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, please, how do I look good after the baby?’ And she was like, ‘Listen, wait a year and a year after you have the baby everything will be back,’” Hoopes recalled.
“I really didn’t even start working out until December,” added the model, who’s appeared in ads for Guess, Levi’s and Carl’s Jr. “I worked out maybe the last three weeks before I went on the shoot.”
During that time, she hit the gym four days a week for 45-minute toning sessions and did an extra 20 minutes of cardio after.
“Let me tell you, I’ve never struggled so much in my life because I was so out of shape,” she said. “I didn’t work out my whole pregnancy.”
Hoopes — who’s signed with Elite LA and Select Model Management London — added that she “enjoyed every second of my pregnancy,” which included “eating cookies, doing exactly nothing and sitting on my butt watching TV.”
While exercise is important to Hoopes, she says a healthy diet high in protein and vegetables and low in carbs is key to being camera-ready.
“I do believe bodies are made in the kitchen,” she said, citing fish and red meat as her favorites.
But having a baby didn’t just change the way her body looks; it changed the way she thinks about life.
“When I was younger … this is going to sound horrible, but all I cared about was what party I was going to or what I was wearing or who I was talking to and things that really don’t matter,” she said.
“It might sound cheesy, but looking at my son every day gives me a special kind of confidence that I have never felt in my life. He is my whole entire world and watching him grow and learn … it’s the best thing I could have done.”
And while Hoopes hopes to set an example for other moms out there to embrace their imperfections without shame, she does have one last piece of advice.
“A good fake [spray] tan always helps me feel good. You look more toned than you really are,” she said.
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