It’s two hours before the Victoria’s Secret Angel is scheduled to start signing autographs for her admirers at the Galleria, but a small group has already gathered near the entrance of the store to watch Sara Sampaio meet the press. In her curve-hugging colorblock lace Alex Perry dress, Sampaio turns at the sound of her name and grins, waving back at the pair of girls who’d called out to her. “Hey, guys!”
“It’s one of my favorite parts—meeting the fans,” 24-year-old Sampaio tells me among piles of soft lace underwear and beautiful bras. “You can put a little bit more of yourself out there.”
This is Sampaio’s first solo appearance as a Victoria’s Secret Angel since the new batch of Angels were officially announced back in May, and if the fan reception is any indication, it's going well. On Thursday she visited three Victoria’s Secret locations across Houston—the Galleria, Willowbrook Mall and The Woodlands Mall—to introduce herself as a VS Angel and promote the new, super soft Body by Victoria collection and the Body Care collection, a line of scrub washes, creams and oils that promises to give you the silky smooth skin of a Portuguese supermodel.
Before she met with the fans who had now lined up to the back of the store, Sampaio told me what it was like to finally get her “wings,” how she balances her hectic modeling career with her personal life, and how she maintains a body-positive attitude despite the immense pressure that comes with working in an industry where looks are everything. The only subjects that were deemed off-limits by her VS handlers were Harry Styles, the One Direction heartthrob she's been linked to recently, and whether she is joining Taylor Swift's clique—Swift famously dated Styles and is friends with numerous VS models including Lily Aldridge, Martha Hunt and Karlie Kloss.
Houstonia: How does one go about becoming a Victoria’s Secret Angel?
Sara Sampaio: I’ve been working with the brand for about four years now, and it’s a process. You always want it, but you never know when it’s going to happen, if it’s going to happen. For me, I started with the Pink line, and this past year I started doing more of the main products. And in February, I got the news.
How did it feel to find out you’d been chosen as an Angel?
I couldn’t believe it! Like I said, it’s been a long process for me, and it came out of nowhere. My agent called me, and once I knew I was an Angel, I was like, “What? What? What?” I think it only sunk in once they officially announced us. It’s been a surreal experience, but it’s been incredible.
What’s been the biggest change in your day-to-day life?
I definitely get recognized more, and I get paparazzi more. The other day I got paparazzi at the airport, and it’s like, "No, not today! I’ve been working all day; I’m exhausted." I was wearing really awful clothes and no makeup and I was like, “Oh no, this is going to be horrible.” So that’s been the hardest thing to adjust to. You always have to be on point.
What the best advice you’ve received in your career?
It wasn’t given to me directly. I read an interview with Jourdan Dunn, and Naomi Campbell had given her this advice: It’s OK to take time to not wear yourself out. It’s OK to say, ‘You know what? This week I’m not working, and I don’t care if I lose jobs.’ When you’re a model who literally lives from day to day, it’s very hard, because you get used to not making plans. If you make plans, you just have to cancel them all the time. So that’s the best advice: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s OK to take time off. And that’s been very valuable, so thank you, Jourdan, for giving that interview that I read!
What’s the difference between walking in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show versus other runways?
When you’re on a Victoria’s Secret runway, you’re there as yourself. I’m walking as Sara. Of course, we’re trying to sell the lingerie, but people know the girl’s name, and as you’re walking you’re representing yourself and the brand. When you’re walking other runway shows, you’re there to represent the designer’s [line] for that season. I’m not there as Sara; I’m there as whatever character they want me to walk.
What’s your personal style like?
I like things that are simple, comfortable, but still a little sexy. In the summer, I love high-waisted shorts with a crop top and sandals. I like things that are easy to wear. I tend to wear a lot of black and white. I don’t really like patterns or floral; I tend to wear one color.
Are you allowed to change your appearance in any crazy way? For example, could you dye your hair pink?
(Laughing) I’m allowed to, but when I go back on the job, it better be back to normal! I can’t go shave my head or anything, but I wouldn’t want to do that.
What’s the biggest misconception about being a lingerie model?
There is the idea that we don’t eat, which comes with all models. I think the biggest misconception is that everything is Photoshopped to the last bit. People are always like, 'That’s SO Photoshopped,' and I’m like, 'It actually isn’t.' I mean, yeah, they clean up the skin a bit, but at least at Victoria’s Secret, they don’t go in and change the whole body of the girl. But people think they do.
I imagine that being a lingerie model takes a lot of self-confidence and getting over the fear of how people perceive you. How do you get into that mindset, and what would you tell someone who struggles with insecurities?
That’s something that working with Victoria’s Secret really helped me with. I wasn’t that confident growing up, but I also didn’t really care; I was kind of a tomboy. I think I’m lucky that I grew up in Portugal and at a time where we didn’t have this much social media. People can be very mean nowadays, especially when you don’t have to meet face-to-face. I think it’s mostly important to look at yourself and look at the good things instead of focusing on the bad things. Like everyone, I have bad days — 'I don’t like this, I don’t like that.' Look at the good things, and then look at the bad and think if you can work on them. If not, embrace it.
I was always insecure that my breasts are small. But now I’m like, 'You know? It is what it is.' I like them, and I rock them. There are a lot of dresses that actually look better on small-breasted girls. It’s my body, and I love it, and that’s all that matters. I’m not going to try to make myself something that I’m not.