“My dad is such a goof. He sent pictures of me to modeling agencies in Sweden,” Elsa Hosk tells me in an embarrassed laugh backstage in the Victoria’s Secret hair and make-up area. “It’s a little frustrating because my dad takes so much credit for my [modeling] success. I’m just, like, ‘Dad!’ but I’m totally happy about it.”
Mr. Hosk is indeed a proud father. Later that day I bump into him at the after-party where he’s gesturing so enthusiastically at the TV replaying the runway show that he obliviously knocks an entire glass of champagne down my front, while excitedly stating: “She’s my daughter.”
I join the rest of the mostly male bar in gawping between the runway spectacle and the real-life ‘Angel’, who, now keenly apologizing for the ‘Dad!’ moment, is standing beside her father at the bar in the Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London.
The 26-year-old Swede, with tousled golden blonde glossy locks, impossibly blue eyes and nymph-like features, has the effect of turning what you’d imagine usually bullish corporate types into swooning Justin Bieber-esque fans.
“My friend over there would like his picture with you… would you mind?” coyly asks the bravest of the banker bunch, glancing over to a grinning thirty-something man, who can’t quite maintain proper eye contact with his infatuation.
I’ve not witnessed angsty desire on this scale since those awkward school discos where boys and girls lined opposing perimeters of the no man's land dance floor. Luckily, Hosk – the face of PINK, the sporty youth line of Victoria’s Secret – is clearly used to dealing with quivering overgrown puppies and immediately strikes that perfect poster girl pose with a smile to the pleasure of the rather pathetic male posse.
Hosk, who has walked for VS since 2011, puts her self-awareness and modeling ability down to the time of her life when she was pursuing a professional career in Sweden’s women basketball league. “You have to be aware and know your body for when you’re posing and have muscle memory and things like that.” It’s a sport she still misses, regretfully adding: “Every time I pass a basketball court my hands are like ahhh [excitedly twitching her fingers].”
Now based in New York, the Stockholm native dedicates her time away from modeling to working with FAIR Girls, a worldwide non-profit organization which sets out to help victims of female exploitation such as sexual abuse and trafficking. It’s a group she discovered after watching the hard-hitting movie “The Whistleblower”, which is centered around sex trafficking in Bosnia. “After seeing this I was like, ‘Oh my god this is what I want to do’. It was so heartbreaking that I broke down in tears,” she says earnestly.
You’re probably thinking “slow clap for the ‘Angel’ helping the lowly”, but for what it’s worth there is sincerity in her voice to do ‘her bit’ for “a charity that’s not in the media and nobody is really talking about”. Her voice starts to wobble as she recalls meeting “a 12-year-old girl who has been a sex slave for the most part of her life”.
Admirable, even if you do picture a cantankerous Bob Geldof swearing into the camera or a smug Bono every time you get word of yet another celebrity putting their face to a serious charity. Hosk, for her part, doesn’t come across as the sort to satisfy her ego with self-indulgence, particularly in choosing such a little-known charity.
At this point, there’s a throng of beauty journalists forming around us all giving me that accusatory ‘what have you done to her’ look – and I’m acutely aware that I’m chatting to one of the most beautiful lingerie models in the world and I haven’t even asked about underwear. “Men often get it wrong when it comes to buying women lingerie. What are your tips?” I start to the burning gaze of my detractors, who are still not impressed by my line of questioning.
“It’s funny when men buy lingerie for women. They buy what they want to see on their girlfriend and I like that,” she says, getting back to her beaming best. “I will wear it even if I don’t like it because if my boyfriend likes it or the guy that I’m seeing likes it, then I think it’s interesting. Just get the size right and go to Victoria’s Secret.” “Thanks!” I simper like a love-struck teen… pathetic.