Forgive Tyra Banks if she appears a bit unkempt these days. She's had to let her primping slide a bit because she's fully immersed in her duties as executive producer of UPN's hit reality show America's Next Top Model. The two-time Swimsuit Issue cover girl (in 1996 and '97) and Victoria's Secret regular says working behind the camera is more hectic than being in front of one. "It's been really stressful," Banks says. "My stomach aches, and I haven't had a manicure in months." Although she has starred in films, written a book and recently recorded her first single, Shake Ya Body, the 30-year-old L.A. native says working as a producer has brought her the most satisfaction in her career. "It's something I've always wanted to do," says Banks, who is currently developing a film and a TV series for her production company. "It's nice to finally be in charge."
Christie Brinkley wasn't always enthusiastic about her chosen profession. "I thought modeling was something you did if you couldn't do anything else," she once said, "but I discovered that it gave me great freedom." Brinkley has been on more than 500 magazine covers worldwide—between 1979 and '81 she was the first woman to appear on three consecutive Swimsuit Issue covers—but the former Mrs. Billy Joel (and original Uptown Girl) has proved to be more than an unforgettable face. Brinkley, 50, who lives on Long Island with husband Peter Cook, an architect, and son Jack, 8, and daughter Sailor, 5, has worked as a photojournalist and stays busy as a political activist. She has testified against nuclear power plants, on Capitol Hill.
On the short-lived ABC show Are You Hot?—the two winners got $50,000; everyone else got lambasted with catty critiques- Rachel Hunter was often a cold-blooded, Simon Cowell-like judge. But make no mistake: This Swimsuit vet (seven appearances in SI since 1989) feels for aspiring models. "It's a tough industry," says the 34-year-old Kiwi, who recently signed on as the face of Classified Cosmetics, a line of spray-on makeup, and is headed to Melbourne this month to shoot You and Your Stupid Mate. Hunter lives in L.A., where she's raising her two children, Renee, II, and Liam, 9, whose father, Rod Stewart, has been separated from Hunter for years. "Renee thinks modeling is completely stupid," says Hunter. "That's what I thought when I was her age."
At 30 Heidi Klum is the archetypal modern sex symbol—one of the world's most bankable beauties, a savvy businesswoman and a mother-to-be. "I'm embracing the fashion world now, not just as a model but also as a designer," says Klum, who appeared in four straight Swimsuit Issues after gracing the 1998 cover. She is still paid handsomely to make Victoria's Secret lingerie look good; she is developing a line of jewelry for Mouawad, and last spring Birken-stock released a line of sandals she designed. This will be a year of big firsts for Klum: Her first book, Heidi Klum's Body of Knowledge, will be published in December and her first child, with boyfriend Flavio Briatore, is due in May. "I'm very excited to be a mom," she says. "Teaching, loving and raising another human being is the biggest—and best—responsibility a person can ever have."
The woman once known as the Body has become the Mother. "The most important thing in my life is the well-being of my children," says Elle Macpherson, 39, referring to sons Flynn, 4, and Cy, 2. "Perspective has come with age. I've been spending a lot more time looking at the inside rather than the outside." Macpherson was a Swimsuit Issue regular between 1986 and 1994 (and a four-time cover girl) before a successful but brief stint in Hollywood in the mid-'90s. Today she lives with her longtime companion, Arpade Busson, a financier, and when her children are off at preschool, she works on her lingerie business, Elle Macpherson Intimates, which she hopes to expand from Britain into the U.S. "I'm still juggling a lot of balls," she says, "but my life has achieved a very nice serenity."
As the ebullient host of TV talk shows in Italy and Argentina, Valeria Mazza says she has finally found her niche. Mazza, who shared a 1996 cover with Tyra Banks, got her start on Italian television in 2001, (Think Letterman—but with a host who is better-looking than all her guests.) Last year she started a similar program in her native Argentina, and both shows are ratings-winners on Saturday nights. Mazza, 31, regularly shuttles between her homes in Buenes Aires and Milan with her husband, Alejandro Gravier, an industrialist, and their two sons, Balthazar, 4, and Tiziano, 2. "I'm much more myself now on TV than I was in fashion," says Mazza. "Fashion is a bit like acting—you're always playing a part."
She has appeared on more than 350 magazine covers—including those of the Swimsuit Issue in 1984 and '85—but the 38-year-old, Czechoslovakian-born Paulina Porizkova says she has never felt as exposed—nor as exhilarated—as she does now, working on her first novel. "Writing gives me such a high," says Porizkova, who in 1989 signed a $6 million contract with Est�e Lauder. "It's a feeling I never came close to in modeling." Porizkova, who lives in New York City with her two children and her husband, Ric Ocasek, best known as the leader of the band the Cars, hopes to finish her book by the end of the year. She won't reveal what the subject matter is, except to say, "It's about what I know best."
After she had her first child in 1998, Vendela had a frightening thought. "I wondered, 'Wow, is my life over?' I was thrilled to be a mom, but I was also afraid that I wouldn't be able to do anything else with my life." Turns out the 37-year-old Swede, who was in the Swimsuit Issue five times from 1992 to 1997 and on the cover in '93, had little to worry about. Vendela lives in Oslo with her husband Olaf, a prominent businessman who may run for prime minister in 2006, and their two daughters, Julia, 5, and Hannah, 3. She is the face of a new Liz Claiborne ad campaign and has been a UNICEF goodwill ambassador for the last 10 years. Her current project is to create schools in poverty-stricken Eretria.
In the late 1970s and early '80s, Cheryl Tiegs was at the height of her long and lucrative modeling career; two decades and four marriages later, Tiegs is 56 and single—a thriving businesswoman and, still, a siren in a swimsuit. Tiegs, who has her own lines of eyeglasses, watches and hosiery, lives in L.A. with her 12-year-old son, Zack, whom she had with her third husband, Tony Peck (son of Gregory). In her free time she practices yoga and plays tennis, all the while juggling her various business ventures—most recently, a new line of skin-care products called Ageless Woman. "I don't mind aging," says Tiegs, who appeared on the 1970, '75 and '83 Swimsuit covers. "Every year is better than the last."
"I've always had varied interests," says Roshumba Williams, who made three Swimsuit Issue appearances in the early 1990s, "even when I was modeling. When we were off in foreign locales for shoots, the other girls would spend their time smoking cigarettes and complaining that they didn't have boyfriends. I was busy exploring the city." The 35-year-old New Yorker, who wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Being a Model, has been a veejay for VHI, a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight and the host of the Tennis Channel fashion show Slam Glam. She is also working to become an ambassador for the United Nations, and wants to specialize in projects for disadvantaged children.