How Olivia Culpo's Wellness Philosophy Is Helping Her Cope with Endometriosis — and Quarantine

She may be known for cutting a fierce figure in a swimsuit, but the model, actor, designer, and fashion influencer is just as commanding in a power suit. Here, she opens up about taking charge of her life goals, owning her health, and finding pure happiness in a glass of champagne.
By Mary Anderson
November 10, 2020

If this were one of those 20-things-you-don’t-know lists about Olivia Culpo, we might try these for starters: Growing up in Rhode Island, she spent most of her summers at band camp (yes, band camp — and she’s got mad skills on the cello to prove it); she got certified in Transcendental Meditation at age 18 (more on that later); and she worked through the early days of the pandemic to launch her face mask line out of the New York home of a seamstress when factories everywhere ground to a halt.

“I felt helpless, which is why I started More Than a Mask,” Olivia says of her fashion-forward charity collection, which benefits Feeding America. “That was what I did to find a purpose and to cope.” She would spend a long stretch of lockdown — “93 days, which was nuts” — at the Colorado family home of her boyfriend, Christian McCaffrey, a running back for the Carolina Panthers. As summer was just wrapping up in late September, Olivia was home at last, making pizza with her roommate, younger sister Sophia, in Encino, California, where outside the skies were subsiding to “this yellow tint” from their previous wildfire orange. “The sky is becoming more blue as each day passes,” she says wistfully, as if willing a forecast about the future at large.

It would be easy to see this Miss Universe turned actor and swimsuit cover model with the football-star boyfriend as leading a charmed life, but then you’d miss how hardworking she has been throughout her career. Olivia has steadily built a TV and film résumé, with three credits this year alone: starring roles in movies The Swing of Things and Venus as a Boy and a part in the series Paradise City, in which you can witness her virtuoso cello playing. And at 28, she’s on her fourth fashion line; the latest, for Macy’s, called Culpos X Inc., is a joint project with Sophia and older sister Aurora. “Every collaboration is filled with pieces that are interchangeable for dressing up or dressing down and staples that people will continue to go back to,” says Olivia, who was intent on making the line affordable. “I’m the middle child of five. When one person grew out of something, the next one got it.”

Yes, her Instagram feed is replete with paradisiacal beach shots, Willy Wonka cakes she bakes from scratch, and her quarantine-acquisition puppy — a toy goldendoodle named Oliver Sprinkles. But there are also gravitas moments, like a recent post revealing that she suffers from endometriosis, a painful condition in which endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus. “It was a really frustrating experience, which is one reason I’m so passionate about talking about it,” says Olivia. She shares her hard-won path to wellness plus how she’s mastered the trick of seizing the day even when time feels so warped.

Credit: THOMAS WHITESIDE

Be the Hero of Your Health

“About a year and a half ago, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, but I knew there was some- thing wrong before that. I had gone to a number of doctors in agony — crying, shaking. When you’re living with chronic pain, you don’t know if you want to throw up or just curl into a ball and cry. That’s when I started a six-month journey of trying to figure it out. ‘OK, what is going on here?’ I finally went to a doctor who was able to diagnose me. Good thing, because my condition was advanced, and she needed to check my eggs immediately to make sure my fertility was intact.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out new ways to heal holistically through what I’m eating and the rest that I’m giving myself. I’m also exploring acupuncture, massages, Chinese herbal medicine, and maybe cutting out caffeine. I’m going to actively try to help people who live with this and not just talk about my experience. ”

Credit: THOMAS WHITESIDE

Eat Between the Lines

“My eating philosophy is the 80-20 rule: 80 percent of the time I’m super healthy, and 20 percent of the time I indulge. I love to bake, and I love to cook. So typically when I indulge, it’s not by going out somewhere. Today we’re making pizza since my mom just mailed me a pizza pan that’s been in our family for four generations. The other part of the 20 percent is having a cocktail or a glass of champagne. I love champagne. I always have.”

Primp, Pamper, Repeat

"Makeup is like cooking. If you like it and enjoy it, you will become good at it. It’s something that I constantly learn about and research — finding new products, new ways to apply, new looks to try. Many people have commented, ‘I can’t believe you did this makeup yourself,’ so I started doing makeup YouTube videos.

As for skin care, there are lots of steps. I go to bed with a mask, then I wake up and put on another one to take off the first. I put on a second mask in the morning that’s an exfoliant. After that, I use a salicylic acid to remove dead skin. Then I do my moisturizers.” (Related: Olivia Culpo Says Her Skin 'Drinks Up' This Face Mist When She's Traveling)

Credit: THOMAS WHITESIDE

Do You for Workouts

"I love Pilates — the Lagree method with Megaformers and traditional Pilates. My grandmother went to Juilliard with Joseph Pilates. She’s almost 90, and she still teaches ballet. She actually owns her own studio. Maybe that’s where I got my love of Pilates.

I also found high-intensity interval training to be the most fun and also the most effective for my body. I love the competitive angle of it too, making it a group situation with friends at classes like SoulCycle, where you can take in the energy of everyone else.”

Credit: THOMAS WHITESIDE

Live Your Vision

"I journal every day — getting out all my thoughts, ambitions, goals. That escalated into vision boards. I really enjoy having a visual component for goals I want to achieve, things I have in my head that I can’t quite articulate yet. In my room, I have a vision board that I made the day before the Shape cover shoot. I went to bed staring at it and getting myself into the mood of the shoot.

I’m also a big believer in meditation. I implemented Transcendental Meditation into my pageant training. I did it daily as I was preparing. It was not about winning, but more soul searching that meditation definitely helped with. These days, it’s about closing my eyes and visualizing what I want to see even in the day that’s ahead.”

Photographer: Thomas Whiteside, @thomaswhiteside // Styling: Brit Elkin/A-Frame Agency, @britelkin // Hair: Bridget Brager/The Wall Group, @bridgetbragerhair // Makeup: Kate Synnott/The Wall Group, @katesynnottmakeup // Manicure: Amy Le, @amyle.nails // Creative Director: Noah Dreier, @noahdreier // Photo Director: Toni Loggia, @toniloggia