Add a pair of wings to the backs of many models and you'll find they walk even taller than their long, lean stiletto-wearing frames normally do.
Lily Aldridge, Candice Swanepoel and Erin Heatherton are the newest to win Victoria's Secret "angel" status reserved for its top models, and that means they got some of the best outfits to wear in the retailer's annual catwalk show recently.
At their fittings, though, these young women kept their eyes wide, their attitude humble and gave off more of the girl-next-door vibe than jaded fashionista.
—Lily Aldridge jokes that she's becoming so used to walking around in her underwear — in front of a crowd, to boot — that it's beginning to feel a little "weird" to be fully dressed.
In preparation for the big, televised splash on the runway, Aldridge, 25, says she does extra sessions of pilates and kickboxing — and the dreaded series of 100 crunches, leg lifts and rear-end lifts. She also tries not to eat sugar, she says, but she'll go back to cooking steak, peas and mashed potatoes, and playing shuffleboard when she visits her family in Nashville.
She wasn't a shoo-in for Victoria's Secret, although it's been a longtime aspiration. "Every year, there's always a big photo op, and you'd see the models looking so pretty and so happy. Remember the year of the pink-and-white matching outfits as they stepped off the jet? I wanted that."
Aldridge went to a casting about 18 months ago, got a catalog gig and then won a slot in last year's show as one of the models in the teen-oriented Pink portion of the catwalk.
Her mother came to this year's show, taped earlier this month, when Aldridge wore a gingham push-up bra and matching panty and a one-shoulder, balloon-bottom, micro-minidress.
"My mom is over the moon about this. ... I don't know if she can handle it," Aldridge says. "I'm sure when I'm on the runway, she's screaming at the top of her lungs."
Aldridge says some people will now recognize her as she's walking down the street. But her boyfriend, Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill, has yet to see to see her life-size, pinup poster that previously hung in the window of the store in her downtown Manhattan neighborhood. "Hopefully they'll put me back in," she says.
—Erin Heatherton, an Illinois native, doesn't go on any of her globe-trotting fashion shoots without her iPad. She needs a constant, eclectic soundtrack to her work, fun and travels, she says.
Currently Heatherton is playing a mix of Katy Perry, Kings of Leon, Hall & Oates, Tito Fuentes, LL Cool J and Tupac Shakur.
Her other must-have is the Rodin Olio Lusso botanical-based face oil that she uses to keep her skin hydrated. "I like to take care of my skin on my downtime," she says. In the days leading up to the Victoria's Secret show, her skin started to "freak out."
"I put calming cream on my face — and then I went out that way. Some people looked at me, but I don't care, my skin comes first," Heatherton says.
Most people don't put it together that she of the fresh-scrubbed face doubles as the glamorous model who wore a gold-warrior capelet and peacock panty on the runway, as well as a sequined boxing bra.
"Sometimes people know me when I'm shopping in the store, but, otherwise, I transform a lot with makeup. My look is normally almost boyish and very young looking," says the 21-year-old.
She's fallen in with a crowd of friends that includes several of the other Victoria's Secret models, and that makes her a little less nervous about the show. It means there's some fun happening backstage — and maybe on the runway itself, she says.
"I shoot for Victoria's Secret all year, so every day I do that, I have to be at my best. That means I have to be sleeping, having dinner with friends and be relaxed. I am always eating healthy and working out — but I had chocolate last night."
—Candice Swanepoel gets "in a zone" that's positive, upbeat and confident when it's time to model lingerie on the catwalk. Yes, the thought of stumbling in the heels does cross her mind, but that happens more in the weeks beforehand than on actual show night.
"Getting down to your knickers in front of the whole world is a little nerve-racking, but I love it," she says. "I feel very comfortable in my own skin, and it's our moment to shine."
It's the 22-year-old South African who has been the face of the runway show this year, with her face featured on ads, in displays and on the invitation received by celebrities, stylists and fashion editors.
But when Swanepoel gets the retailer's catalog in the mail, she'll study her own photos and look for flaws that surely no one else would notice.
Christmastime is when she'll let down her guard a little bit when it comes to exercise, but eating right and being fit is part of her job, she explains. The free time she does have is spent on the beach. "Being cold is not something that comes naturally to me," she says.
Because of that, her cold-weather uniform usually includes leather pants and several scarves.
She's also not a stranger to cozy, comfortable clothes that allow her to hunker down with her new Jack Russell terrier, Luna, and indulge in her homebody tendencies, she says.
Tell that to her midriff-baring gingham bra and bustle set — covered up just a bit with a red crocheted sweater.