A tip: Before you challenge Erin Heatherton to a game of 1-on-1, get a good stretch in. The former Victoria’s Secret Angel and current Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model and Curve Sport brand ambassador is as comfortable on the court as she is in front of the camera. Despite her easy-going personality and those big green eyes, the Chicagoan —who lacks that Windy City accent, but swears it comes out after a few drinks — is fiercely, unapologetically competitive. “I have three siblings and all we did was play sports,” she says over midday drinks at a local bar in Manhattan. “The only thing our parents did was watch us play or watch sports together.”
It makes sense then that Heatherton, who was discovered at the age of 18 while visiting the University of Miami (“this guy jumped out of a cab, chased me down the street and asked what agency I was with”) finds solace in fellow fans. “People that watch sports are just people that I identify with more,” she says. “I can scream at the Blackhawks and everyone will understand why. Or, they better.” You’ve been warned.
So, we’re guessing you’re a Bulls fan?
HugeBulls fan. I’m a big Chicago sports fan in general, so Bears and Blackhawks too. But I’m also a big Rangers fan.
Rangers fan? Is that even allowed?
I live in New York so I love to go support New York teams and I don’t get any crap for it. Sports-wise, the only hate I’ve ever received was when I was invited to a Miami Heat championship game. I wore white as a neutral color, but I had to root for Miami, right? People booed me!
What was it like playing in the Celebrity All Star Game last year?
Honestly? It was horrifying – the scariest day of my life. I had jokingly begged my publicist to get me into the game but had no idea I’d actually play. I mean, I’ve played my entire life and I’m constantly watching it. When the season’s over, I’m super bummed. But being on that court? Scary.
But you had Snoop on your team. How bad could it have been?
Thank God Snoop was there to numb the pain. He’s the sweetest person; I had met him once before, too, and he’s just so happy and mellow. Plus, he’s great at sports. He’s got such finesse.
You played well, though.
I ended up playing well. I’m ultra competitive on the court but only with myself. I don’t transfer that competition to anyone else. I don’t think its fair. But I take it seriously. When I played in high school, my Dad was constantly screaming at me from the stands to do things like box out. So I get really into it and by now it's like second nature to me.
What is it about sports that you love so much?
I just relate to it. Sports bring me back to my upbringing and always having sports on TV. I always had Mike and Mike in the morning on when my dad came home from work, or when we were in the car. Being a sports fan to me is just a lifestyle. It’s comforting.
When you’re done modeling, have you ever thought of being commentator or very present in that community?
I love Erin Andrews, but I find that, if I’m going to dream, I’m going to dream big about something that no one has ever done before. I think that’s more exciting. I’d love to do a “Between Two Ferns”-style show with professional athletes.
Not bad. Maybe you could channel some of Coach Crowley, the snarling, stone cold basketball coach you played on The League.
I actually pitched that character to them and based it on my Dad. I’ve watched stand-up comedy my whole life and am obsessed with improv. In fact, I only watch stand-up which is like a weird lame thing about me. But love it and Chicago is such a comedy-centric city. Its humor is so specific and so untainted.
Have you ever done an improv show?
Oh no. I love it too much, it’s too personal. It’s like touching a nerve on myself.
But as a model, you’re constantly in front of people.
Yeah, but it’s different. It’s kind of like the requesting to play in that celebrity basketball game, this is something from my heart and now I’m doing it and I’m horrified. Don’t pass me the ball. You know what, that’s a lie: Pass me the ball. I want it.