Blonde ambition

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THERE ARE THOSE WHO FEEL THAT CALLING TORI PRAVER A “TRIPLE THREAT” would be an undermining of her assets. Sure, the recent 24-year-old earned the title “supermodel” mere months after graduating from Maui’s Lahainaluna High School (when she appeared in three consecutive Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues). She’s proven her ilk as a budding swimwear designer. And her humanitarian efforts are more than admirable. Yet, while it would be easy to construct an article around all three of these attributes, Praver’s depth of character-revealed throughout the course of our nine-hour interview and photo shoot-reveals that her capabilities are still hovering on the horizon. We found our cover model is not only a globetrotter with a penchant for fashion, but she oozes an unwavering aloha spirit as well as a zeal for new experiences.

Did we mention she’s j-j-jaw droppingly g-g-gorgeous? (I swear; I never used to stutter.)

But don’t take it from me. If you can make it past this array of stunning photos, you’ll enjoy the read.

Tori Praver is flitting gracefully between locations here at Kathy Ireland’s Hawai’i pied-a-terre, as our crew tries to suppress the excitement. First off, the obvious irony: Praver, an on-the-rise model, with stints as the face of Guess? as well as covers and fashion spreads in Vogue, Glamour and Elle, having posed for iconic shooters Bruce Weber and Patrick Demarchelier… is shooting here-at the home of Sports Illustrated‘s darling cover girl, Kathy Ireland. To take things to the next level, Ireland has gone on to create a multi-billion dollar empire for herself in the home, apparel and jewelry retail arena, while Praver is a mere three years in to an already-successful run as an up-and-coming swimwear designer.

Yet, what I am stewing on-having interviewed both Praver and Ireland in the past (it’s a tough job, fellas)-is how did both of these ladies get to be so damn grounded? What happened to the eating-disordered, drug-abusing image of cell phone-hurling catwalk beauties we’ve all come to read about? Is there a new breed of model brewing?

Praver, it seems, couldn’t care less. She has enough going on within her own (rather productive) realm that not only did a few of my celeb name-drops fall short (“Wait, who?”), but they came between calls from her distribution house needing word on the delivery of her new cruise line samples, the sales figures from a T-shirt campaign she spearheaded in order to raise money for the family of dear friend (and fallen pro surfer) Sion Milosky, and making dinner plans with her boyfriend. For tomorrow night. In Manhattan.

These days, the challenges are many, she shares. Praver admits she’s only slightly out of her element, residing in New York City’s uber-hip Lower East Side with said boyfriend, surfer (and part-time model/lucky bastard) Danny Fuller.

“Danny gets out to the beaches there, Rockaway and out on Long Island. But I’ve had a hard time with the disconnect from the ocean,” she says, staring at the nearby gentle surf as we drive to our location.

Luckily for her, a jaunt to the sea is never too far ’round the bend. A week after our photo shoot and inter- view here on O’ahu, Praver flies to Panama for a four-day swimwear gig “for some Spanish designer.” Such is life for a 5-foot-11 blonde born in San Diego, and raised on the brown sugar shores of Napili, Maui.

Haters will cringe when hearing that instead of employing a team of recent Parson School of Design graduates, Praver hand-draws all her own suits.

“I’ve been really blessed. I get to hire a bunch of my friends (from Maui) who do fulfillment and order taking for the line. Which is great,” Praver says, adding that her mom, Lori, oversees the accounting and bookkeeping for Tori Praver Swimwear.

Practically raised in a bikini, Praver still draws influ- ence from realms that far exceed her lifetime; she touts flipping through old S.I.‘s, as well as a vintage swimsuit collection belonging to friend (and stylist) Lisa Cooper, as great influences on her pieces.

“I really gravitate to the vintage stuff. For me, it’s really all about the materials,” she says, rifling through a duffel bag that contains almost the entirety of her third full collection. “In the past, I really loved using images and prints I’d seen in places like Bali, or small towns throughout Europe. But this year I really went with earth tones-army greens, browns. I wanted an organic feel.”

After a few looks-shot on the beach, on the rooftop and in an alcove designed for Ireland’s close friend, Eliza- beth Taylor, Praver expounds on some future plans.

“Everyone is so supportive in Hawai’i. I’d love to open a shop here. Someday,” she adds, her eyes telling in a glance that there’s too much happening elsewhere at the moment. “In fact, a friend of mine from growing up, Naomi (Newirth), started her own line called Acacia that has done really well. We talk about opening some- thing, like a boutique-slash-café, like they have in Bali. You can sit and eat baked goods on one side, and there’s a boutique for swimwear on the other side. I love it. It would be ideal in Paia.”

Indeed, she spends quite a bit of time in Bali, chasing waves (she longboards herself and, yes, keeps one in her NYC apartment) alongside Kaua’i-raised Fuller, with whom she’s been with for five years.

Next on the list for the pair will ideally be a jaunt to Africa, says Praver, who is eager to participate in a volunteer program there. A few years ago, Praver began sponsoring three kids through Save the Children, a global organization that aids youths in need. And while it’s fairly easy for someone earning upward of $5,000 per day to cut a check, Praver is far more involved.

“I write letters with all three of them, send them things, photos of my family, hair clips, that sort of thing,” she says of her three pen pals, who reside in Nepal, Bangladesh and Kentucky, respectively. “The first letter I got was in full-on Sanskrit. I was just so shocked when I opened it. Clearly, it had to be translated. But I still have it. It was amazing-like a piece of art.” (Art that led to her first tattoo: a Sanskrit saying that translates to “If not now, when?”)

As her swimwear line begins to break in to the Euro- pean market, it’s possible that Praver is drawn even further east than Manhattan-further from her roots. However, her focus is keen.

When asked about the few remaining hot spots in her New York neighborhood that I could recall from my time spent there (albeit 10 years ago), Praver shrugs, admitting she and Fuller “don’t go out much.” Balancing a surfboard in front of our photographer here at Ireland’s picturesque pad, it’s very clear where the majority of Praver’s energy is focused: Within the click of every frame.

On location at Oceanfront Oasis | For more information, call estate executive Justin Panoke 497-2749.

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