Although she was recently named Esquire magazine’s Sexiest Woman Alive, a place in Brooklyn Decker’s heart is reserved for something decidedly unsexy. “You have to love the squishy face, the stinky breath, the snorty sounds, all the farting,” says Decker. No, it’s not her (very gorgeous) husband of 16 months, tennis champion Andy Roddick. Decker’s talking about Billie Jean, the family bulldog. “They’re the most disgusting animals, but I find her so endearing and so adorable, and I think she’s the sexiest dog in the whole wide world. All her fat wrinkles are so beautiful.”
If anyone knows beautiful, it’s Decker. Over the past year, the North Carolina native went from pretty face inside the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue to its heralded cover girl. Now, she’s making the leap from glossy to big screen as Adam Sandler’s love interest in Just Go With It, costarring Jennifer Aniston.
“Everyone was so welcoming,” says Decker of her A-list costars. “They were all very well aware that it was my first movie. They just extended a hand and were willing to help me with anything and everything. [But] no matter how many months I worked with this cast, I was incredibly intimidated because they’re just so good at what they do. There’s a sheep scene that I can’t even begin to describe; it’s just hilarious.”
Sandler’s ability to keep the mood on the set lighthearted did more than ease the 23-year-old Decker’s first foray into film; it also helped the real-life newlywed best the butterflies of playing a newlywed (complete with a “you may now kiss the bride” scene) on screen. “It’s funny because when they call ‘action,’ you play this couple getting married, and as soon as they call ‘cut,’ we’re talking about our families,” she says. “He was really good about making me feel like, ‘Alright, kid, this is our job; let’s get this over with.’”
While the movie’s release date is still months off, Decker’s bodacious bod will be burning up DVD players across the country as the three-part Make Better series she filmed in conjunction with Elle magazine appears in retailers this month. “To be honest, I was sort of apprehensive because I was thinking, I’m a model and I want to be relevant in fashion, and now that I’m moving on to acting, I don’t want to just do workout DVDs,” she says of her initial reaction to the project.
Thankfully the magazine heard her concerns and the videos are more Style Network than Jane Fonda aerobics. On the programs, Decker attends Fashion Week shows for Charlotte Ronson, Brian Reyes and Chris Benz alongside Elle creative director Joe Zee and learns to “shop her closet.” For the fitness portion of the series, Decker shows off her best cardio and sculpting moves. When it came to the yoga installment, Decker, an ashtanga newbie, was more than happy to show her beginner stumbles on screen. “It was the first time in my career that I was able to have a lot of creative control, which is very exciting, because as a model your job is to show up, put on the clothes and look pretty,” she says.
While the Make Better series provided Decker’s first run at creative control, it was Sports Illustrated that launched a plethora of new adventures for the then-fledgling model. “It was my first time traveling outside the country, the first time I had a huge photo shoot—there were so many firsts for me, and so many big steps all in one job, that it was incredibly nerve-racking; I was terrified,” says Decker of her initial stint posing for the iconic Swimsuit Issue. “Then I went there and felt incredibly comfortable and so connected. I think that’s why they’re so successful, because they make the girls feel so at home. They quickly became a sort of work family. Now, five years later, it really is like a family—they’ve seen me grow from a just-graduated 18-year-old to what I am now; I’ve been in the business for a while and got the cover. They’re like the closest things to me in this world.”
But though Decker’s fame has certainly grown, her feet remain firmly on the ground. “I think it was a photographer that told me the most successful models always view modeling as a job and not a lifestyle,” she says. “That was probably the best advice I ever got, and the best advice I could pass on to any girl trying to get into the business. When I have my fun, it’s me going home to Texas or North Carolina, being with my friends and going out on the lake and having a beer or two. That’s my idea of fun. It’s not going to be dancing on bars in Manhattan by any means.”
That’s not to say the stunning sports fan doesn’t slip on her stilettos now and again. She’s been seen on the Strip more than once, often (to the delight of the local lads) accompanied by a gaggle of fellow swimsuit models. “My first time was last year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit launch,” she says of visiting Vegas. “If you’re gonna go to Vegas, that’s the way to go. I was there with all the girls from the issue, and it was just a lot of fun. We stayed at The Mirage this year, which was unbelievable. We went to The Beatles Love show. I would go to that again and again and again; I absolutely loved it. There’s a steak place in The Mirage, Stack—it’s like good home cookin’, and after you’ve been running around with Sports Illustrated in a skimpy dress all day, you want good home cookin’.” A post-Wimbledon getaway with Roddick in July also proved to be a great escape; sightings of the couple at restaurants and shows sent tabloids buzzing.
Sure, Decker’s work attire may be skimpy dresses or the yellow Delfina bikini she (somewhat) wore on the 2010 SI cover, but her personal style is decidedly more relaxed—and a lot more budget friendly. “Oh my god, I regret it!” she says of her first big fashion splurge—a pair of black Chloé motorcycle boots. “Not because they’re not beautiful, I just can’t swallow the amount of money I spent. For me growing up, Gap was a huge splurge. I did it once and I love them, and I still wear them, but it’s very difficult for me to spend that kind of money on stuff.”
Still, Decker appears to relish the exposure that comes with moving off the page and into the limelight. “I think what happens is instead of seeing you two-dimensionally on a page, people start seeing you three-dimensionally—you do the Ellen show, you do Letterman, you do Jimmy Kimmel, so they start to put a voice with an image, and I think that’s really key.”