Diary of a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model

How Costa Rican beauty Jessica Perez stayed centered before her 2012 Panama shoot.

It's Sports Illustrated's Valentine to men everywhere: the 2012 Swimsuit issue hit stands today, with 18 models posing on beautiful beaches from Zambia to the Seychelles. But for 24-year-old Jessica Perez, who appears in the magazine for the first time this year, it's also a career jumpstarter. The newly relocated New Yorker kept a diary of the days leading up to shoot, and what it's like to balance a regular-girl lifestyle with the pursuit of physical perfection. "Modeling is such a physically demanding job, and a lot of girls end up passing out from 'exhaustion,'" she says, "I’m thinking, uh, she just needs to eat!"

Monday

7:30am: 
"I started my day with cereal with rice milk and an Earl Grey tea. I do eat dairy, but I find regular milk upsets my stomach. I need my caffeine kick, but since I have a sensitive stomach, I usually choose tea."

9:00am:
"I met with my trainer who had me do lots of slow, controlled exercises that require stability and balance with resistance bands, which helps me hold all those bizarre poses on set."

10:30am:
"Headed to my castings for the day — a London-based catalogue client. I’m glad I got my workout in, since that always makes me feel more confident. It takes a lot of self-assurance to stand there in your underwear or a bikini with 15 people staring at you thinking about what could be different or better. You just have to say, this is me, take it!"

1:00pm:
"Arrived home, made a spinach, Swiss cheese and mushroom sandwich on toasted whole wheat bread. Instead of thinking about health as something that makes me feel bad or guilty, I try to focus on doing a lot of good for myself. Sometimes you just have to change the way you think about things — not actually change what you do."

2:00pm:
"Took my dog, Sasha, out for a 15 min. walk. She needs to be walked four times per day even if it’s raining or snowing. My boyfriend helps. It’s nice to have a little mini cardio dose here and there."

3:00pm:
"After getting some paperwork done, I researched dresses to wear to upcoming events. I look at Style.com to see if there’s anything from the new collections my stylist should pull. The way you feel when you wear something can make or break a look, so I like having a say in what I wear."

6:00pm:
"Started making lentil soup in a slow cooker (added garlic, potatoes, kale, carrot, onion, etc). When I’m home in New York I try to cook every day, or I art direct my boyfriend to cook for me!"

Tuesday

9:30am:
"My Muay Thai trainer put me through a rigorous cardio workout. I just started doing it about a month ago, and I’m completely addicted. He doesn't treat me like 'some girl,' he trains me as if I’m going to become a professional fighter, and I love it! It’s a great cardio workout and a big stress reliever for me. Martial arts training has replaced my treadmill time."

11:00am:
"Headed to a model casting. I think most models are too aware of their bodies — especially lingerie and swimwear models — but I workout and I eat healthy and just try to tell myself, 'there’s only so much you can do.'"

12:30pm:
"Picked up a romaine salad with olives, feta cheese, avocado and walnuts with a balsamic vinaigrette. I get moody when I don't eat."

3:30pm:
"Headed to movie audition. I honestly don’t know if acting is something I can do well, but I’ve gotten good feedback so far, so I’m going to keep learning and keep trying."

7:00pm:
"Made dinner: put Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, zucchini and squash with olive oil in the oven. I generally don’t like to eat carbohydrates for dinner or any meal where carbs are the main part. A side of potatoes or something, sure, but I really try to avoid heavy meals at night."

Wednesday

11:00am:
"Meeting with my stylist. I have a bunch of big red carpet launch parties before the Sports Illustrated launch, which take a lot of prep work. It’s a big team effort! With all the awards shows and Fashion Week going on, everyone is sort of competing for dresses.

1:00pm:
"Arrived home, made an avocado, swiss cheese and alfalfa sprout sandwich with lime juice on toasted wheat bread. Drank a bottle of water. Except for wine, I really only drink water — if you just cut juice and sodas out, you’d probably cut more than half your daily calories without even thinking about it."

3-5:00pm:
"Did laundry and packed for tonight's flight to the SI shoot. Since I won't have time for a workout, I do some yoga poses at home to try to counter the effects of sitting on a plane for so many hours." 

5:00pm:
"Headed to the airport [for the flight to Panama.]"

Thursday:

7:00am:
"I woke up early to do some yoga exercises and stretches to prepare my body to stand in awkward positions all day. Hips, for me, are most important. I usually do pigeon pose since it’s such a good hip opener."

7:30am:
"When I get to set I have tea and toast. Here we go!"

Curious how a health pro eats and exercises? Read our diary of a master trainer.