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The Elizabeth Pipko of Instagram is different from the woman you meet in real life. She gets that a lot.
Her more than 130,000 Instagram followers see a gorgeous bombshell brunette (which she is). What they don’t see is her studying math or religion for her Harvard classes, or practicing jumps at the rink for her figure skating coach, or writing poetry for her second book.
“You can’t help what people say about you,” Pipko says.
The Boca native, who splits her time between South Florida and New York City, considers “model” to be just one of her jobs. She even left a well-known modeling agency because it was restricting her other passions. Yet she’s still managed to be featured on websites like SI.com and Maxim.com. She wants to be everything that she’s dreamed of—an Olympic figure skater, a Harvard-educated college graduate and a two-time published author—and not much is standing in her way.
We spoke with the 21-year-old on the phone from her Manhattan apartment about everything from bullying to her love of Israel.
How did you first get into modeling?
It was super random. My mom found a [sick] dog on the street behind Boca High School. She saved his life. It was a teacup Pomeranian. She brought him to New York, and we were walking him in Central Park. Some photographer came up and said, “Our Pomeranian canceled. Can we borrow yours for the shoot?” To repay my mom, the photographer offered to do a photo shoot with me. I was 16. I was wearing a tank top and jean shorts. I sent [the photos] to Wilhelmina and they signed me.
Did you always want to be a model?
I thought about it like every girl does, but nothing serious. I was severely bullied in middle school, so I never thought about it like that. I was 4 feet 2 inches and had buckteeth and a crazy blond Afro. I was captain of the math team. There was definitely a bit of bullying, and no one wanted to date me.
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You’re passionate about so many things—not just modeling. Where does that drive come from?
Skating was the most random thing that happened. I consider it a gift from God. The work ethic would come from my parents. My dad is a lawyer. He got into two Ivy League schools (Columbia and Yale). I was going to go to Columbia, but I didn’t want people thinking that I got in because of my dad. That’s how I decided on Harvard.
How did you start figure skating?
We were in Florida. I was 10. My parents had a fight. I wanted to try ice skating. So my dad, to piss off my mom, took us to the rink. My dad recognized a skater there—the Ukrainian national champion. I had one lesson with her. It was hard, but I appreciated the challenge. That summer we went back to Florida and we started working with her and her husband (Nataliya Ivannikova and Sasha Romanenko are still her favorite coaches). Most people didn’t believe in me, but when I said I want to go to the Olympics, for some reason they believed in me.
Wow. The Olympics?
That’s been my goal. I was insanely injured. I fractured my foot again in January. It’s one of the hardest things that you could imagine. The goal is to compete by next year to make the 2018 Winter Olympics. I’m trying to represent Israel. I didn’t tell anyone, but I applied for Israeli citizenship when I turned 18.
I’m pretty religious. I’m Jewish. When I tore my ankle at 14, my parents brought me to a competition to cheer me up, and I watched this girl on the ice for five minutes. She was really good. She was representing Israel and skating to the Israeli national anthem. I said, “If I can get back to skating, I will compete for Israel.”
Today, there’s an ongoing discussion about women’s bodies—from being overtly sexual to hiding our sexuality. I’m curious if you have a take on that.
I grew up in a family that was so conservative. When I started modeling, I wasn’t sure how my family would react to it. My dad and brother are close with me. But my dad told me that he was super proud of me. This is a job and you’re getting paid to wear those clothes. It has no relation to who you are as a person. I don’t have a problem with it myself. I never become that sexual person. I’m still my goofy self.
Of all of your accomplishments, what are you most proud of so far?
The skating. When I hurt my foot, everyone thought I would quit. When I started modeling and going to school, everyone thought I would quit. I get up every day at 5:30 a.m. and pop Advils, and I skate until there are tears. I don’t feel like giving up on myself.