Gabrielle “Gabby” Reece began her calling as a women’s beach volleyball star and sports fashion model more than 25 years ago. And, with a height of 6’3,” natural beauty and powerhouse athletic abilities it allowed her to have a thriving career in both professions. Today, the former volleyball champ, fitness guru, adoring wife and passionate mother is a staunch advocate for health and wellness and regularly provides fitness and nutritional guidance. She’s also a homeschooling mom who splits her time between the beautiful beach city of Malibu, California, and the Hawaiian island of Kauai, with her family – daughters, Reece, 11, and Brody, 7, and stepdaughter, Izabella, 19, along with her husband, big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton.
Long before Reece ascended to superstar status she was a regular girl, who reached six feet at 12-years-old, but even with height on her side she didn’t earnestly pursue sports until high school. “I moved to Florida when I was 15 and that’s when I got plugged into being in an organized situation, so I picked up volleyball at that time,” Reece tells Tinseltown Mom. “Then I went on a scholarship to Florida State at 17, after high school, and played four years there.”
At 22 Reece moved to California and that’s when she turned pro, while at the same time enjoying a flourishing modeling career. “After my freshman year of college I moved to New York and I was fortunate enough where I started working (as a model) pretty quickly. It was a great opportunity for me and that’s how I looked at it. But, I was pretty clear that even at 18 it was a job… My passion was really to play volleyball…”
Although Reece didn’t have a rigorous relationship with volleyball until she was older, she understands that things are more competitive these days. “…Kids are getting single-sport focused much earlier. In my day every girl that I played volleyball with played basketball, softball, track and field. We all did every sport. They don’t do that so much now. I understand, however, I think there’s something to be said for switching seasons, and learning different things and not being so specialized until later… 1% of kids that play sports in high school will play in college. And I think it’s 1% of those college athletes will play professionally. So I often laugh at these parents on the sidelines with their 6 and 7-year-olds. I’m like relax. The chances of your kid really playing at that high level, if you want to get down into it, is pretty slim. Ultimately what we should be encouraging is the fun; the movement; the idea of learning something new and improving; having a team and having fun with your team; and having people you don’t like on your team, but you still have a common goal, all these things that’s what it’s really about.”
Reece is also a keen businesswoman and she and her husband work with and are owners in several endeavors, including her new exercise venture, HIGHX, which is being released worldwide this month. “…It’s going to be where you can go to a 24 Hour Fitness and take the class. It’s group fitness but it has an element of personal training to it and you’re on a team…What I like about it is it kind of reminds me of when I was playing volleyball, which is we’re all in it together. You’ll show up because of accountability; there’s no talking; the music’s very loud; there’s no stopping, it’s continuous motion and it’s different all the time; people don’t get bored, and they will still continue to get results. It’s sort of an answer to women who say, ‘I have no time; I can’t afford it; I get bored, I don’t know what to do and I don’t have room…’”
Reece is a role model to many women around the world so her advice to moms trying to incorporate a healthier lifestyle into their families’ routine is worth a listen. “For starters, I always say, there’s a certain amount of healthy selfishness that has to go on to be a good mom and a good partner. We do and we will take care of everybody else first. That’s our nature… Having said that I think we do that to a flaw, so I say first and foremost figure out a way, because we have the time, we do, to selfishly get it done for ourselves, because we’re asking of ourselves to be all these things for everybody else how can we possibly do that if we don’t take care of ourselves? So it’s kind of in the mindset… First, it’s that. Then it’s the expectation. Is it going to be perfect? No, it’s not. So, let’s not worry about it being perfect.”
The fit model also shares tips on ways to eat healthier. “It’s simple things, if you don’t want to eat it don’t have it in the house. And sugar, if it’s not burnt it becomes stored calories and weight… I don’t even have a microwave in my Malibu house. And, I know it’s super convenient, the problem is that the nutritional value of what we’re getting, it’s just not worth it… Get the minerals, get the enzymes, get the stuff that makes us healthy… Is it more work and more orchestration to cook it for real? Yes, it is… I never cook with too many ingredients. I don’t do recipes that take too long to cook… I do believe even one-pot cooking, if necessary on certain days, is a great alternative. You can get all your vegetables in there. …if you want to have a potato the sweet potato is better than the white potato, or if you’re having baked potatoes do we need the whole thing? Probably not. Just cut the thing in half and serve it that way… If we’re dealing with weight, it’s about portions; and it’s about trying to eat early. So, then if you’re going out and you’re going to a great restaurant, your favorite, and they make homemade pasta and they have the best you’ve ever had, great, eat it. Enjoy it. I’m not about that. And I think alcohol has its place. If you could drink wine over harder alcohol, better; if you could drink red over white, better; if you could drink Pinot noir, less sulfur, better, if you could save it for Friday or Saturday, better…”
And for all those sleep-deprived moms take note. “Our waistline is connected to the amount of sleep and recovery that we get. Women are up late making sure everything is buttoned up, and then we’re up early trying to get certain things done before everybody wakes up, and I think we don’t realize how important it is. I’m not a great sleeper. I have to really force myself,” Reece admits.
Most of us can agree that moms are worthy of a well-deserved treat every once in a while, and Reece acknowledges that she does indulge, although in a healthier, yet satisfying, way. “I’m committed to good chocolate… I have a friend down the road who makes chocolate. It’s real chocolate, made with MacNut Oil and real honey from the area. It’s sweet; it’s creamy; it’s satisfying; it has fat. That’s another thing, healthy fat. We will overeat if we don’t have enough healthy fat because our brain will say, ‘I’m hungry, I’m hungry, I’m hungry.’ We cannot be freaked out by good fat.”
Another area of her life that Reece strives to keep healthy is her marriage of almost 18 years to Laird Hamilton. She does admit that early on in the relationship they went through some very challenging times, but she’s learned some valuable lessons and even birthed a book out of it: My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper: A Guide to the Less Than Perfect Life. “I think one of the number one things my husband and I both agree on is, I’m not looking for him to make me happy and he’s not looking for me to make him happy. Both of us independently take responsibility for finding, living and doing things that can individually make us happy first… And, I always say short memory, a lot of forgiveness. I also try to be a good partner and through that I think that motivates him to be a good partner… The great news is my partner and I are on the same page. We’re both very strong people so we try to avoid hassling with each other because what’s the point?”
Throughout the years, Reece has inspired and encouraged many people to live their best and she continues to promote her message. “I’m very passionate about the gift of health and healthy living and I got that through playing sports … So now the message is extended because my life is extended… What women provide to culture and to society is really, really important and so we have to be strong so that we can eject that influence onto our children and into our society and on our partners… I think men and women are both pivotal to the success of our world but certainly the feminine voice, for me, it’s very important. …I sort of look at femininity a little bit like Mother Nature, which is there is nothing more generous and more beautiful but there is certainly nothing more brutal… When I went out and promoted my book a lot of people misunderstood where I was coming from, which is, this is our strength and our gift, to be nurturing and to be kind and to be all those things and to be the toughest person in the house, for sure. Are we equal? Oh yes, we are. But are we different? One hundred percent… “
It’s pretty apparent that Reece leads a wholesome life, and she has a lot to offer society, but she’s the first to admit that things are not always rosy, and family life is no exception. “I am brought to my knees every single day by my children, and so many times I’m at a loss for what to do… I’m trying to get it done and I’m doing okay… My goal is not to portray or promote this idea of something perfect and shiny. I don’t actually think that’s what family is…”