“In February of 2017, I was still not represented,” the 27-year-old told Ocean Drive for their September 2019 issue. “An agency in LA asked me how I would feel about gaining weight because the plus-size initiative was flourishing. It felt like defeat. But I am a firm believer in the law of attraction and manifesting,” she said.
She continued: “That March, I was on Instagram and SI posted their first-ever open casting call. It said, ‘Are you the next Chrissy Teigen? The next Kate Upton? Then submit a 60-minute video telling us why.’ I was like, ‘Screw the agencies, I’m doing this myself.”
But the cover girl admitted she didn’t always feel so confident about her curves. In fact, Kostek told Ocean Drive it was difficult to find someone she could easily identify with.
“Growing up, it was hard to associate with some of the women who were being portrayed in the media,” she explained. “I was a girl with freckles and grew into a young woman a little bit more quickly, with hips and thighs. It wasn’t until I picked up an issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit at 15 where I was like, ‘Whoa! If I ever were to be a model, this is what I would want to do.’”
“I was like, ‘Screw the agencies, I’m doing this myself.'”
“Looking at the women, I was like, ’She’s got freckles, she’s got hips, she’s got thighs. Her boobs look natural,’” Kostek continued. “That always stuck with me. When I finished school in 2015, I started going to open calls in New York. But I was getting the same response every time: ‘Get your measurements down.’ ’Take X inches off your thighs and hips.’”
But the former Patriots cheerleader marched on despite being told to first lose weight and then gain some more just to land gigs. And her efforts paid off.
“When the cover was announced, I called my mom,” said Kostek. “I didn’t call an agency to say thank you for getting me here. I thanked her. Throughout the entire process, my body never really changed. My relationship with myself, my colleagues, my boyfriend… everything got better.”
These days, Kostek is determined to be a role model for others struggling to accept their bodies, no matter their size.
“I feel like it’s my duty to share my experience with self-acceptance,” Kostek told the outlet. “I don’t want to bore people and talk about myself, but the biggest struggle for me was my body. I’m an advocate for self-acceptance and I want to what I’ve found and what might help others. I started with women’s panels and extended to universities. I want to reach out to everyone. Men, women, the LGBTQ community.”
But with all the success Kostek achieved, she’s thankful to have retired tight end Rob Gronkowski as a supportive boyfriend.
Kostek previously shared she was introduced to Gronkowski after she quit the squad in March 2015. For months, the pair denied having a romantic relationship, though they started posting loving photos of one another on Instagram.
By fall 2015, the pair were celebrating birthdays together, attending red carpet events arm in arm and publicly supporting each other’s endeavors. Kostek was frequently spotted in the stands among New England fans – even sporting Gronkowski’s jersey – in 2016, according to E! News.
In February 2017, a TMZ report claimed the duo had split and Gronkowski had “moved on.” But Kostek contradicted the news by posting photos of herself sporting his jersey. They also attended a wedding together three months later, per E! News.
“We both admire each other,” said Kostek. “I always get asked what it’s like dating an NFL player, and for as much as I love watching him play football, and that’s what he’s best known for, I see what goes on behind the scenes – going back to his hometown and getting to know his family and being by his side through injuries and everything else. I’m a firm believer of ‘work in silence, let your success speak.’ And he does the same thing.”
In August of this year, Kostek admitted to Fox News it’s not always easy being in the spotlight.
“It’s easy to get spiraled into our phones, the computer screens and read these comments about yourself in the comment sections of photos or articles,” she said at the time. “And definitely in the modeling world, it’s heightened. The trolls come through even more. It can be super hard. You could have 900 people telling you that you look incredible, that you’re an inspiration. But you could have two people telling you something negative about your body or personality and that will bother you.”
“I just think that as much as we say sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me — words do hurt,” continued the 27-year-old. “Hurtful words hurt people… [But] people who don’t know you also don’t define you. We already understand what like and what we don’t like about our bodies. We are already hard on ourselves. We don’t need people to try to tell us who we are.”
Kostek insisted that like anyone else, she has her own insecurities. But rather than responding to negative comments, she prefers to use her social media for a good cause, in hopes it will uplift someone who could use some much-needed encouragement.
“I always seek the time to talk to people who are reaching out for help because sometimes you just need that one person to tell you everything is going to be OK,” said Kostek. “And I like to share some of the things that I deal with… to remind people that I hear them too.”