Gabby Reece is a model, legendary volleyball player, mother-of-three and creator of the honeyline. The 40-year-old model mom sat down with Celebrity Baby Scoop for a candid look into her family life, her tips on blending families, her hopes to make a difference in physical education and how she and professional big-wave surfer husband, Laird Hamilton, foster self esteem in all three of their girls: “I’ve always told my husband that he’s the girls’ first boyfriend.”
Gabby also weighed in on a few hot topics such as the obesity epidemic in our culture, home-schooling and her thoughts on the Tiger Woods scandal.
CBS: What have you been up to since we last talked?
GR: “We’ve been in Hawaii for the winter. It’s been great: not rainy and a lot of surf. I was back for a few days in California.
I shot for The Biggest Loser. It was great! I can’t give away too much since it airs in April. I took the contestants through a beach workout and I give them a lot of credit – it was a really hard workout! They didn’t stop even once.
It was amazing the amount of weight that people had lost by the time I saw them.
I have to be honest and say I haven’t been following the show since I don’t watch much TV. I try to catch 60 Minutes and The Daily Show. I just don’t have the time.
But while on The Biggest Loser, I was so inspired by their commitment to make a lifestyle choice. They don’t see their families and they’re lucky if they get a phone call. And when I saw them at 14 weeks, people were losing over 120 pounds. It really shows you how the body wants to get rid of the weight.
And Laird and I have been doing some meetings on some digital video ideas. I’d say something non-scripted, but I wouldn’t say it will be a reality show. We’re talking about doing some adventures, going to different places, it would have a give-back component. Maybe the kids would be coming along. We’d also do some shoots where he does his workouts and I do mine. We’d also do some together.”
CBS: Back to your appearance on The Biggest Loser, you are so fit. Why do you think there is an obesity epidemic in North America?
GR “It’s as simple of an equation as it is a complex one. It starts with our kids. While genetics does play a role in it, lifestyle habits also play a huge part.
Not only is it the kinds of foods you eat, it’s also about the amount of activities you are or are not doing.
I think it starts when you’re really young. And not to mention, everything that is inexpensive, comforting, tastes really good, and fast is usually not that great for you. So I can see how it happens, especially in these hard economic times. Eating healthier takes more effort, it’s more costly, and not as quick-fix-enjoyable.
And I really think it goes back to lifestyle habits. Physical activity has decreased in schooling in recent years. There are so many other forms of entertainment for kids these days: computer, TV, video games. Everything comes at and to our kids. When you are involved in physical activity, you actually have to put forward some effort.
We’ve become addicted to this culture. We are constantly moving – people don’t want to stop and prepare and enjoy their meals. We’re over-scheduled. I think there are so many factors that play into this formula that I can completely understand how we got here.
And while I feel that people have to take responsibility for it, I feel they have become victims of this culture and these lifestyle habits as well.
Some people use food to deal with stress and emotional issues. Then if you become mildly depressed, you don’t have the energy and the motivation to move your body. It’s such an interesting conundrum that our society has gotten into and for those with lower income and education levels, it will affect them even greater.
The other thing is that we’re in a time when people are just trying to survive. So making the time for exercise and making healthy food has almost become a luxury instead of the basics. I think it’s really hard to go out there and tell people to live healthy lifestyles when a lot of people are just trying to pay their bills and get from one day to the next.”
CBS: Even though you are a wealthy celebrity, you haven’t lost a sense of reality. How do you keep such a great perspective?
GR: “My husband and I have been together for 14 years. He grew up here in Hawaii on the North Shore, with nothing, and I grew up in the Caribbean. I think as a rule in our home and why we are successful in our home is our value system. And part of that value system is to keep connected. It means living in a way that feels real to us. So for example I go to my grocery store and I interact with people in our community.
Yesterday, I was helping girls who play volleyball in our local school. My husband is the same way. This is just what feels comfortable to us.
And it doesn’t mean there aren’t certainly luxuries available that I don’t use. The thing is, I’m aware that they’re luxuries. So for instance, I have someone clean the house and I have someone who helps with the kids when I work. Like last week I took the 2-year-old I left the 6-year-old with my husband. So I don’t want to set the illusion that I’m doing everything, but we are still pretty involved with it all.
If my husband is going surfing and doing things, he has his jet skis and he’s fueling up and he’s digging holes on the land. For us, it’s just the way it feels comfortable for us.”
CBS: Do you think this it’s rare for celebrities to maintain a healthy perspective and have a hard work ethic?
GR: “Remember that we’re not actors so it’s easier for us to be walking around in our shorts and ponytails. People aren’t attacking us. And we’re both 6’ 3” and that makes a huge difference. We have a natural protection. People aren’t hassling us.
But for very well-known actors and actresses, these people are working very hard. They’re flying all over, they’re shooting, they have long days. But in order to do that, they have to create an infrastructure: cooks, trainers, managers and so on to keep it all moving. So that does create a bit of an isolated world. They are working hard, it’s just that their infrastructure makes it seems like it’s effortless. It’s a different kind of work and you’re sacrificing something else. Maybe it appears glamorous, but they’re dealing with other things.
I always joke when I see people that are really well-known for doing nothing. But people don’t realize how much work that is! If I had to get ready and look that great all the time and show up for all those events – because that really is their job – for me I would rather not! I always joke with my friends about how much work that takes. You could even ask these stars, ‘what exactly are you famous for’ and they’d answer, ‘I’m here and I look great.’ That’s their job! That’s work!
I said to a very famous athlete of mine, ‘if you changed your life in certain ways, you’d have a normal life’ and he replied ‘I don’t want a normal life.’ That gave me a new perspective on things and made me realize that Laird and I really want a sense of normalcy. It feels more in agreement with who we are.”
CBS: Being a famous athlete, were you surprised that the world was so surprised about Tiger Woods’ infidelities?
GR: “I have known Tiger since he was 18. I feel that if you want to have many girlfriends, don’t get married. I feel this about many of the male athletes – do whatever you want to do, but why be married?
But I will say, I think that Tiger was married to the game of golf his whole life and maybe he was a bit of a golf nerd in high school. I feel like navigating that, along with his level of fame, is difficult.
With that level of fame, nobody says ‘no’ to you. I think that no matter how good of a person you are – you could have great morals and intentions in life – fame affects you. I think very few of us deal with fame well. I think it’s easy for a lot of people to judge and not fully understand the level of temptation. I like to say ‘walk in someone’s shoes for a couple years and see how you would handle it.’
I think we have to realize that while he is a golf genius, he is also a human like all of us. He’s not a moral compass and I’m not raising my kids based on something he’s putting out there. He’s a great golfer – that I can say for sure.”
CBS: Tell us about your daughters: Reece, 6, Brody, 2, and stepdaughter Bela, who turns 15 this summer.
GR: “I joke that short of me being in menopause, we’ve got it all covered in our house! They’re all really great and really funny! We don’t get Bela as often as we’d like because she’s in high school and spending a lot more time at home in Maui. She goes to a really good school there. She’s doing really well.
Reece has started her home schooling in the first grade. I have a teacher – it’s not me teaching her! Could you imagine?!
We decided to go with home schooling since we live in two places (California and Hawaii). And I just feel the life experiences would benefit her more. At her age, she can get all of her work done in two hours. So she has the rest of the day to take a music lesson, or go to Jujutsu, or tennis or go to the beach or in the boat with her dad and just ‘be’ 6.
I’m sure there will come a time when she wants to pursue a certain sport or something different and I’m totally open to that. For now, we’re giving her the great foundation for learning through home schooling.
And again, I’m fully aware this is a luxury. This is what I mean when I say we have access to certain luxuries. These are the kinds of things that feel important to me.
And she gets so much socializing with her various activities. She’s so social! She’s very independent and wants to be where the fun is. She’s very loud and vocal. She’s great! I think all kids that are high-voltage of any kind show incredible perseverance. Right now, it seems a bit relentless and she debates me on everything. I think that children like her can be challenging to parent, but she has such a gift.”
CBS: Tell us about Brody.
GR: “Brody is really funny! She just turned 2 on January 1st. I’ll be in the kitchen and ask her ‘would you like some more oatmeal?’ and she’ll answer ‘no, I’m OK mom.’ Her verbal skills are off the charts. She is more easy-going than Reece, but she’s a lot more stubborn. So for example, Reece will debate you on everything and is very loud and has a lot of action around her all the time, but she can be persuaded. Brody, you cannot persuade her at all. Reece is a lot more like Laird where they seem really tough and strong, but they’re actually really soft inside. And Brody is more like me – and we’re both the same sign – we’re more easy-going, but we’re stubborn.
She knows if Reece is being condescending toward her in any way. Brody picks up on it and will go right after her. She’ll grab her hair and just go after her!”
CBS: Is it tough disciplining 3 girls that span 15 years in age?
GR: “We don’t let the younger two hit each other and if they do, they will both get in trouble. I was an only child so it’s fascinating for me to watch the sibling dynamics.
And of course the 6-year-old feels one way and then when Bela comes, there’s a completely different set of rules. She doesn’t live with us all the time and she’s older. So it can appear that Bela gets away with a lot more. And then Reece who lives with us all the time – and is the most rowdy – feels like she’s always being disciplined. The 2-year-old doesn’t require the same kind of disciplining that a 6-year-old does.
I tell Reece all the time ‘I know it seems unfair, but my expectations of you as a 6-year-old are much different from Brody who is only 2.’ It is tricky! If Brody does something naughty, I try to put her in a time-out for Reece to see her little sister getting a ‘version’ of her kind of discipline too.
And with Bela, I feel I’d be a lot harder on her if I saw her more often. In a way, I don’t feel like I have that right since she doesn’t live with us full time.”
CBS: Was it always easy for you to blend your families?
GR: “Bela was 4-months-old when I met Laird. It’s funny, in a lot of ways she and I have so many similarities in our personalities – even more so than I do with my own girls. Her mom has always been pretty considerate over the years.
There were some hard times especially when she was little. But I have to say that overall it’s been pretty mild for us.”
CBS: Do you have any tips for parents that are blending their families?
GR: “Yes! I was only 25 in the beginning and I had to learn this: it is not about what you feel, it’s about what is the right thing. When you’re dealing with an innocent child, you have to let go of your ego. When you’re dealing with an ex, your ego is instantly triggered. And sometimes that can bleed into what’s best for the child. I can remember realizing that I had to take my emotion out of it and that I had to focus on – and only on – what is the right thing for Bela. It’s not about her mom or that her mom was with my husband and all these weird things you focus on. If you do the right thing, most kids will ‘smell it’ and come around. And if you do things with your ego, they’ll smell that too.
I think it’s key to have open communication and to take responsibility for things, like having an open forum and not always trying to justify. It’s important to be appropriately honest with the kids because they’re really smart. I think respecting the other parent or the other family – even if you have conflict with the other household – is key. No matter what, you have to respect that that is their parent and you never say anything derogatory about them, even if you’re feeling it.
We always felt that it was critical and imperative that Laird, never once, said anything bad about her mom…because it’s her mom! You have to be the grown up! It’s not always going to be easy and perfect. Sometimes everyone has to sit down and talk about what is working and what is not working, instead of trying to guess.
We also feel that since we’re not raising her every single day, we have to forgo certain rights. We haven’t earned those rights.”
CBS: With so many young starlets getting plastic surgery, do you also feel the pressure to go under the knife?
GR: “I’m 40 and part of my business is the way that I look. I’m not there yet where I’m tripping out. I always joke why I don’t wear a lot of makeup –even on shoots – is because I want to have some place to go to. You know, like another level.
My questions is, where are these girls going to go? If they’re doing this in their early 20s, where do they go from there?
If you wanted to get one thing done like your nose, fine. But I think if you got a complete overhaul, you would find the next series of things that would be bothersome. I think it’s inevitable.
I have a dermatologist in Beverly Hills that I’ve gone to forever. As soon as I start to talk about getting my eyes done or this and that, he says ‘you can’t start because then you start chasing your face.’ If you do one thing, then you have to do another to match it and so on. People really think it’s going to fix everything but I don’t know that it does.
And I have daughters so I worry about this stuff. I think all of those things are like a quick fix.”
CBS: How do you and Laird encourage self esteem in your girls?
GR: “I’ve always told my husband that he’s the girls’ first boyfriend. I always tell them how smart they are. I try not to focus on their physical appearance. I feel like maybe others will focus on that. I definitely tell them that they look pretty, but I don’t like to focus on that.
I’ve really stressed with Laird how important his role is with them. He’s super affectionate and loving and they have a nice, healthy intimacy. I just think that when they’re older and some boy says to them, ‘oh you’re really special and smart’ they will say ‘I know because I’ve had someone my whole life telling me that.’
I tell Reece, a dress isn’t what makes you pretty, it’s how you act and your manners. The dress is the fun stuff, but how you conduct yourself is ugly or pretty.”
CBS: How are things at the Honeyline.
GR: “We’ve been doing well and we’re going to be partnering up this summer with some larger groups and doing reporting for them. We’re still doing the pieces for Rachael Ray. And more now than ever, I feel that people need support of any kind. I never wanted the site to be just for moms because I think that is only one part of every woman.”
CBS: Although you and Laird are summer athletes, will you be tuning into the Winter Olympics in Vancouver?
GR: “Absolutely! Some of the stuff that they do is so amazing. There’s something about these events that is so inspiring. These people are the best at what they do. That’s what I love about sports! It’s people who have dedicated themselves and they’re putting it out there. It’s monumental, so to be able to be a spectator is great.
The female snowboarders are so amazing! I love for my girls to see everything that is possible and what people do with hard work.”
CBS: Tell us about the cameo you and Laird did on Gary Unmarried.
GR: “It was so fun! The director is James Burrows! I said to Laird when we got there, ‘by the way, just so you know, as good as you are at what you do, Jimmy Burrows is that good at directing.’ He was one of the co-creators of Cheers. He directed Friends episodes, Mary Tyler Moore Show. The list goes on and on. And he’s so lovely and so sweet and so funny. And Jay Mohr was so funny! The whole thing was so fun.”
CBS: Do you and Laird work with any charities?
GR: “Laird is always supporting autism and cystic fibrosis. He has quite a few friends who have children or grandchildren with autism.
And he was drawn to supports cystic fibrosis because studies were showing that when people with cystic fibrosis were surfing in the ocean, they were living longer. With cystic fibrosis, the lungs can’t clear and the salt water helps clear the lungs and the children were ultimately living longer.
And for me, I’m really hoping to make a difference in physical education. I’ve been attempting to work in the school system for quite some time now but have always come across too much red tape. I’m hoping to continue pursuing this in the future and make a big difference for our kids.”