"The most important thing in my life is my family"
Valeria Mazza thought the hardest part about balancing her modeling career with having children would be "getting my body back," she says. But in 1999, shortly after the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED swimsuit model gave birth to son Balthazar, "I knew I needed more of a routine," Mazza, 37, admits. "You can't get that in the fashion industry." So in 2001 she said bye-bye to her contracts with Victoria's Secret and Guess and, after a brief period working in Spain, moved with her husband, businessman Alejandro Gravier, 43, and their kids back to her native Argentina. Today, Mazza poses in local ads and has put out a perfume and a line of sunglasses—businesses, she says, that allow her to put her family first. "I've organized everything," she says, "to work for me."
"I have a head for business"
Sure, she flaunted her famous curves in the pages of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for 13 straight years, but modeling, Kathy Ireland says, "was not what I aspired to do." Her real dream was to build a company—a proposal "not taken seriously," she says, when she first started talking to potential investors. In fact when Ireland launched a line of socks in 1993, "people laughed," she recalls. "They said, 'You're out of your mind. You can't start a brand with socks!' Doors slammed in my face." But Ireland, 46, says her husband, Greg Olsen, a doctor, wouldn't let her give up. "Whenever I've faced challenges, I've thought, 'Oh, am I up for this?' And he says, 'Why not you?' " Ireland explains. "It's amazing to have someone believe in you like that." Today, the ex-model oversees a $1.4 billion business that includes everything from home furnishings and cut flowers to skincare and, yes, socks—and says she hopes to instill a similar determination in her three children, Erik, 15, Lily, 11, and Chloe, 6. "I tell them, 'Whatever you are gifted with, there are opportunities out there. Just find them and seize them.' "
"My body is beautiful—at any size"
Call to book Beverly Johnson for a modeling gig and, these days, she's going to hesitate. "I'm very athletic now, and I know if I were to do a modeling job, I would have to stop working out to lose that muscle mass to trim down," she says. "Then it gets complicated. All those demons come back." The demons she's referring to are anorexia and bulimia, which she battled throughout her groundbreaking, decades-long career, during which she became the first African-American model on the cover of Vogue. "I didn't drink water because I thought it was fattening," says the 5' 9" Johnson, 58, who lived on coffee, salad and brown rice to stay between 103 and 117 lbs. "I had always been naturally thin, but naturally thin wasn't good enough if you were modeling in New York." It wasn't until a family intervention in the late '80s that she agreed to get help. A food therapist coached her on nutrition, and Johnson hired a trainer so she could maintain a healthy weight through exercise (including swimming and strength training), not by starving herself. "I always feel like I need to lose 5 lbs.," Johnson admits. "But I'm much stronger and healthier now."