Like most bona fide supermodels, Karolína Kurková has been a citizen of the world since she was young. But at the Ace Gallery in Beverly Hills, she’s the quintessential California Girl.
In the queue for an 8:30 a.m. SoulCycle class, Karolína Kurková, her husband, Archie Drury, and I are contemplating the difficulty of what we are about to endeavor. Drury, a former Marine (who, Kurková proudly volunteers, served in the Persian Gulf War), compares it to military training. Behind Kurková, David and Victoria Beckham are warming up and looking toned. Once inside the dimmed, slightly heated room (with Becks front and center), Kurková adjusts her seat a few notches to accommodate her svelte 6-foot frame and clicks in.
The whirring of the bikes picks up amid intermittent cheers, claps, grunts and music. At one point, Angela Davis (our zealous, merciless leader) turns down the lights for an excruciating uphill climb to R. Kelly’s “The World’s Greatest.” Davis beats her chest and belts out, “I’m that star up in the sky / I’m that mountain peak up high / Hey, I made it…” And it works. After 45 minutes of hard-core motivation, and now pumped with endorphins, it really does feel as if you actually could be the world’s greatest.
“I love the whole vibe of this place,” Kurková says while sipping a Muscle Up shake post-workout (Drury has disappeared on a work call). It’s a feeling she has missed since the couple and their 5-year-old son, Tobin, relocated from New York to Miami two years ago—the cult workout has yet to open there. Maybe that’s the point. Kurková wanted her family to spend more time outside. “Plus it’s good because I can separate from work—now I’m not constantly available,” she says while noting its proximity to Europe. The tropical clime is also more in line with the supermodel’s philosophy about healthy living. “People want to work with you not just because of how you look in front of a camera, but also who you are as a person—what you represent, what you stand for.”
Kurková has been acutely aware of health and fitness from an early age. “I go to wellness retreats all over the world. I was a raw foodist, I was a vegan. It’s funny to see chia seeds and quinoa becoming so mainstream because I first had them years ago,” she says.
“I came to realize that if you want to be the best that you can be and if you want to feel great and be happy, then you have to put in the time and effort to learn how.”
The source of this dogged self-determination is twofold. One being good old-fashioned Czech fortitude—she grew up 100 miles outside of Prague in a town of 50,000 people, her father was a professional basketball player/police captain, her mother, a banker/artist. When Kurková was 10, she trained with a competitive Czech gymnastics team. And secondly, she left home at the age of 15 and had to learn how to take care of herself. (She was spotted by a modeling scout in 1999 and signed her first contract with Miuccia Prada in Milan.) “I travel to Europe sometimes twice a week and when I arrive nobody is thinking, ‘Oh, yeah, she is probably very jet-lagged, she came straight from the airport,’” says Kurková. “At the end of the day, [modeling] is like being an athlete. You just have to perform.”
Kurková, who celebrated her 30th birthday in February, first appeared on the cover of Vogue when she was 16 (still the youngest model the magazine has ever featured on the cover). Soon after, she signed a contract with Victoria’s Secret, which she maintained until she had Tobin. “When I started, it was not like it is now. People in the fashion industry smoked and drank a lot. We didn’t have cellphones or email or social media. It was strictly about your work.” Kurková never dabbled in the party scene, in part because she didn’t really have the time. In her first few years of working, Kurková booked 52 covers and to date she’s made over 400 runway appearances.
In 2008, 25-year-old Kurková met Drury, an L.A.-based entrepreneur/film producer. After a year of dating she became pregnant and they quietly wed in fall 2009. Like most expecting couples, the newlyweds did a lot of research on becoming first-time parents. “It was clear to us that we wanted to do a home water birth. It was an amazing experience. It was just the four of us: me, Archie, a doula and a midwife,” she says. “Oh, and then, of course, Tobin came along and made five of us.”
It was a joyous time but also a difficult one for someone who relies on looking perfect for a living. Any strain on her career was short-lived; since giving birth she’s landed campaigns for Roberto Cavalli, MaxMara, Elie Saab, Donna Karan, Rag & Bone and, recently, Banana Republic. She spent the past summer in Europe, working with Giuseppe Zanotti in Ibiza, and also visited her family in the Czech Republic before hitting New York Fashion Week (making appearances at the US Open, a Tod’s opening party and Polo Ralph Lauren’s Central Park show).
Kurková’s interests extend beyond the runway: In 2004, she attended London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and had small parts in a handful of films and television shows (“My Sexiest Year,” G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, “FCU: Fact Checker’s Unit”). She also hints at a forthcoming e-commerce business, which will, not surprisingly, provide a platform for her to expound on the importance of developing healthy lifestyle habits. She also hopes to have more children. And as modeling careers are increasing in longevity—Cindy Crawford, Carolyn Murphy and Christy Turlington are all in their 40s—Kurkova is encouraged. “They are great women. They are real, they go to work and are home with their families,” she says. They are also all based in California.
When Drury reappears to collect Kurková, he’s in a hurry. They have to run back to his dad’s house in the Hollywood Hills to pick up Tobin before heading up to Napa to visit with some of Drury’s college pals from Berkeley. Like a true Californian, Drury insists they’re taking the 5 freeway, not Pacific Coast Highway. Kurková spins around and assures me, “Don’t worry, we’ll be back.”
By Kelsey McKinnon.
Photographed by Doug Inglish.