by jennifer blossom | October 29, 2010 | People
Fresh-faced and newly winged, 2006
Going tribal with a fur bustier and shiny bikini train
Working a poker bikini with a caged bustle, 2006
Backstage beauty, 2007
Making the season sexy, 2007
Judy Jetson boots and an urban jungle bikini set, 2007
"hands-on" lingerie, 2007
Glammed up in diamonds and lace, 2008
Spreading her wings, 2008
In a Lady Gaga getup with the Black Eyed Peas, 2009
Supermodel Selita Ebanks has a two-trip-per-year minimum to Las Vegas, but she sometimes jokes that maybe it should instead be her max. “I always have way too much fun—too much shopping, too much great food, too much partying,” says the supermodel, best known for donning the coveted wings as a Victoria’s Secret angel. “Whenever I’m in Vegas, it feels like the whole world is there. It’s constant, nonstop. I can only bear so much!”
Chasing her from one hot spot to the next during a recent trip, no one would ever know she was feeling like it was “too much.” She bounced from Tao to Lavo to Tao Beach with ease, sipping Champagne and tirelessly dancing with a huge group of friends from home. Out on the town, the down-to-earth New Yorker (she was born in the Cayman Islands but grew up on Staten Island) gives off a Rosario Dawson-esque toughness, like she’s friendly but loyal. In other words, it would be unwise to mess with her—or anyone else in her tight circle.
SELITA'S RISE TO THE RUNWAY
The supermodel hasn’t always lived such a charmed life of celeb-packed pool parties, bubbly and shopping sprees at The Forum Shops. As a child, she spent some time in foster care, and her mother has been on welfare. But Selita always persevered. In high school in New York, she was a star on the debate team and at one point was trying to decide between careers in law or journalism.
She had just completed internships at Vibe and Spin magazines when, at age 17, a scout from the Elite modeling agency spotted her at Six Flags, and her life as she knew it got turned inside out. Just a few months prior, she’d been turned away from an agency’s open call for being too short. (“I’m only five-eight,” she explains. “I just have long legs. It’s almost an illusion.”). To be rejected one moment and sought out another was humbling, she says. “I learned very quickly that whatever you’re doing in life, it’s important to have people behind you who believe in you.”
Selita's Sexiest Victoria's Secret Fashion Show Looks
APPRENTICING FOR "THE DONALD"
These days, Selita packs a very tight schedule. Aside from her work at Victoria’s Secret and A-list appearances in cities like Las Vegas and New York (sometimes on the arm of pal Kanye West), she’s writing a book and she recently shot a video for The Dream. A contestant on the third season of Celebrity Apprentice, she got canned in week five, but won $20,000 for the group Shine on Sierra Leone. “I’m not a very aggressive person,” Ebanks says of her performance on the show. “I just kept reminding myself that I was there to raise money for the charity.” She rattles off the statistics that moved her to focus on the war-torn country: “One in five children die before the age of five, and one in eight women die in childbirth.”
Ebanks used her Celebrity Apprentice winnings to launch a healthcare initiative called BirthRight, and this past summer, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons hosted a fundraiser at his home in New York, which brought in $400,000. (Take that, Donald!) “Russell Simmons is my philanthropic mentor—he’s such an inspiration,” gushes Ebanks. With the money raised, BirthRight will be able to build six village birth centers. The first and second ladies of Sierra Leone are sponsoring the project; Doctors Without Borders is partnering to help train local physicians and midwives. “We’re putting solar panels on the buildings so they don’t have to rely on generators as much,” she says. “They’ll have ultrasound machines and will be able to give blood transfusions and have enough supplies and antibiotics.”
The book she’s working on is part memoir. “It’s sort of a diary/self-motivation book,” Ebanks says. “I feel like at my age I’ve accomplished so much, but there are a lot of young women out there who are struggling, and I want them to know that it wasn’t always like this for me. There was a time when I was in foster care, there was a time when my mother was on welfare, there was a time when I didn’t have half of what I have now.” The single supermodel (“If love happens, it happens,” she says. “But it’s not something I’m looking for”) swears by her own fashion-y take on the old proverb, When one door closes, another opens: “I always say that when one stiletto heel breaks, you can always buy a new one!”
photographs by indira cesarine
Criss-cross jumpsuit, Juju Costa ($305). jujucostablog.blogspot.com. Corsica heels, Marc Jacobs ($846). The Forum Shops at Caesars; marcjacobs.com. Rose-cut diamond fl ower cuff, Bochic ($23,500). Bags, Belts & Baubles, Wynn Las Vegas, 702-770-3555. Hero bracelet, De Beers ($3,000). The Forum Shops at Caesars; debeers.com. Rhinestone hoops, Giles & Brother by Philip Crangi ($163). Neiman Marcus, Fashion Show mall; neimanmarcus.com. Columbus ring, Charriol ($3,750). The Shoppes at The Palazzo; charriolusa.com