Kathy Ireland, mom to three and former Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover girl (13 times), is now head of a design business that grossed over a billion dollars last year. Kathy is married to Dr. Greg Olsen and they live in Santa Barbara, California, with their three children: Erik, 14, Lily, 9, and Chloe, 5. Kathy acts as a spokeswoman for the Annual Youth Assembly of the United Nations and ‘IGNITE,’ a national mentoring program for disadvantaged single teen mothers. The supermodel also recently appeared on the FOX show, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader, playing for charity. She recently sat down with Parade to discuss her latest projects.
On her thoughts regarding how we should react to Sarah Palin’s teen daughter who is pregnant given her work with teen moms: “First of all, that’s their family issue that they’re going through right now. And every family has their challenges and their struggles. We all have them. I applaud them for how they’re dealing with this. The work that I’m a part of really supports young women who are making the courageous decision to have their children. And it’s not under ideal circumstances. We work to give them tools to accomplish their dreams. Oftentimes, women will give up. They think, ‘Well, this circumstance happened. And so now my dreams are dashed.’ But doesn’t have to be.”
On why teenage pregnancy is on the rise despite all of our frank talk about sexuality and birth control: “Well, that’s a huge conversation. There are many elements that go into that. But life is not perfect. And in an ideal world, that wouldn’t happen. But we’ve got to live in reality. Life is messy. Life is filled with challenges. But we can take a bad situation, and we can either go down with that or we can say, ‘Look, this was not ideal, but I am going to take it. And I am going to make the most of it.’ It’s important to take that knowledge and move forward.”
On how she chooses to address issues about the VP candidate’s daughter: “Well, they’re teenagers. I don’t know that they’re going to be focused on the candidate for the vice president or her daughter. They’ve got their own stuff going on right now. These girls don’t have a loving and supportive family like Palin’s daughter has. They don’t have that kind of support. So I applaud that family for standing beside their daughter and for not humiliating her — but for loving her.”
On if she thinks we’re glamorizing teen pregnancy: “We need to be mindful not to glamorize it or glorify it because it’s not ideal. I’m married and older and have three children. And it’s tough. All moms work, whether they get paid or not. I can’t think of anything more challenging, difficult or important than raising children. And I have that support, and it’s tough. So imagine the single mom or the teenager, it’s not an easy path. I think that needs to be communicated. Stuff happens. Look, we can condemn somebody or we can say, ‘Hey, you know what? I make mistakes too.’ We’ve got to make a choice. Let’s make this the best situation that it can possibly be. There’s another human being in the picture here.”
On her words of advice to the governor’s daughter: “Governor Palin’s daughter has a choice to make. She could either wallow in it and think, ‘This is terrible’ or ‘We’re learning from this. I’m going to make the most of this situation.’ We all have to take our eyes off of ourselves and on to others. We have to get over the idea of comfort zones. That’s when we can truly be of great service.”
On how great childrens’ memories can be in regards to her recent appearance on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader: “Yes. Kids are so bright. And in preparation for this show, I crammed. I met as many fifth graders as humanly possible to just try to learn as much as I could from them. Our children were doing flash cards for me. I was staying up late at night with a flashlight and the almanac and the atlas. I had tutors, our kids’ tutors. I really crammed. And it’s hard. It’s amazing what kids know today. It’s wonderful.”
On the biggest challenge she faced being on the show: “Gosh. When you’re up there, you kind of second-guess what you think you know. It’s intimidating. It really is. I spoke last month at the United Nations to a group of young people, a little older than these fifth graders, 16 to early 20’s, kids from all over the world, primarily developing countries, who were just doing great things to change the world, addressing hunger issues and education. And you know what? It gives me great hope. We’ve got a generation coming up that’s doing things. That’s exciting.”