Hilary Rhoda is easygoing and friendly, the well-broughtup product of a Catholic girls school. She’s also the proverbial girl-next-door—if your neighbour happens to be five foot 11 and drop-dead gorgeous and earns millions a year as a model. In five short years, Rhoda has transitioned from a sports-obsessed suburban Maryland teen to a globe-trotting top model, as well as a
Sports Illustrated swimsuit super-babe and an elegant Estée Lauder spokesmodel.
Now based in New York, Rhoda, 23, seems remarkably unfazed by her life’s amazing trajectory. She can recall with equanimity the brutal rejection of go-sees, where new models are cast for ad campaigns and designers’ runway shows. “It happens to everyone,” she says simply. “One person isn’t going to like your look, but someone else is going to love it. And then you catch on. That’s what happened to me.” Although the model-on-model bitchiness shown on reality-TV modelling shows is commonplace, Rhoda says that that is not her reality. “The other girls were never catty, mean or rude—at least not to me,” she insists. “There was a group of us who started at the same time. We did the shows together every season and kind of grew up together—
Coco Rocha, for example. We’ve become friends.”
Not that all her pals are fashion-and beautyindustry titans. Now that her friends from home have graduated from university—with many of them working in New York—Rhoda says that she spends most of her time with people she has known forever. Although she applied for university, and was recruited by some schools to play on their field-hockey teams, Rhoda decided to take a chance and pursue modelling instead. “It was a big risk, but I’m pretty happy with the way things have worked out,” she says.
Besides, adds Rhoda, she enjoyed a vicarious university experience through her older brother. “We’ve been really close since high school,” she explains. “So when he went to the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, I went down there almost every weekend—until he graduated last year. It was so much fun, and I became great friends with his college buddies.” There were no romances, however. “My brother is very protective of me,” she says, laughing. “He wouldn’t let me date any of his friends.”
Although she is an accomplished basketball, lacrosse and field-hockey player, Rhoda only has time these days for tennis and daily workouts with her trainer-to-the-stars (Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow) Tracy Anderson. “We do these dance cardio routines with choreography you have to learn, so it’s never boring,” she explains. “Tracy always keeps me on my toes. And the music’s really good. It’s fun.”
Maintaining her seemingly flawless pale complexion presents a slightly greater challenge. “I had a lot of freckles when I was young,” says Rhoda. “They still tend to come out if I get sun on my face.” So now, especially since signing with Estée Lauder, she is very careful about sun protection. She wears an SPF 30 sunscreen when she’s playing outdoor sports and Estée Lauder Double Wear Light Stayin-Place Makeup SPF 10 the rest of the time. Sheis also pleased with a couple of recent hat purchases, including a fetching fedora. Not surprisingly, her skin-care regimen includes Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex and Advanced Night Repair Eye Synchronized Complex, as well as its Hydrationist moisturizer, which she uses day and night. “My mom taught me that from a young age: moisturize, moisturize, moisturize,” she says, adding that, no matter how tired she is, she always takes her makeup off before going to bed.
Because her long locks get so much abuse on shoots—blow-dryers, flat irons, hot rollers—this brunette beauty doesn’t ever use heat on her hair. “It naturally dries pretty straight, so I’m okay,” she says. And all those hours spent in makeup chairs at photo sessions and backstage at catwalk shows have paid off. “I can do my own makeup when I go to events,” she states confidently. “I have learned the makeup artists’ little tricks and try to recreate them myself.”
Rhoda is also quite proud of the packing skills she has acquired over the years thanks to modelling jaunts that repeatedly take her to Los Angeles, the Caribbean and Paris, as well as more exotic locations, such as Rajasthan, India. “No matter how many days the trip lasts, I’ve learned to get everything into one carry-on duffle bag,” she says. “I pack one outfit per day, and I have one plane outfit that I wear there and back.” Since she’s partial to simple flats, shoes aren’t a problem. And she buys little drugstore bottles and decants all her beauty products. Oh, and depending on the length of the flight, she’ll also take along her pet Chihuahua, Chloe. Alas, Canada hasn’t been on her itinerary lately. “The only time I’ve ever been to Canada was a field trip to Quebec City with my seventh-grade French class. I really must go back!”
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's bi-weekly newsletter