Gabrielle Reece: Living the Ohana Life

By Anna Griffin, Editor in Chief

In a time of global instability and uncertainty, the opportunity to interview a woman like Gabrielle Reece is a gift. Beyond her phenomenal and ever-evolving career accomplishments such as supermodel, professional volleyball player, New York Times best-selling author of My Foot’s Too Big For the Glass Slipper, business woman, television personality and actress, she’s also in rock solid marriage with legendary, big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton, and a dedicated mother to their three daughters. But bigger than all of that is Gabby’s character. She’s a powerhouse, not only for her career and personal achievements, but also as a strong woman who is incredibly down to earth and has a built-in desire within her DNA to give back. Gabby credits growing up in Saint Thomas in the US Virgin Islands (while Laird was raised in Kauai), which has influenced them in their partnership to live in Ohana, which extends into all of their daily choices.


With this Ohana mindset, Gabby and her family naturally situate themselves in a position where they can help others, and live in a constant state of giving. But what is Ohana? Gabby explains, “Most indigenous cultures, native cultures - in this case it's Polynesian - Ohana is family, which doesn't have to be in the literal sense. It's our Ohana, so you know here we are, you and I, we're in Ohana at this moment. They're very generous of spirit and it's always working in that collective.” She continues, “Whether I know you or not, we're all connected and your well-being is of interest to me and your victories - even though I don't know you - are my victories, because we all are connected. It just feels it's even more important now that if you can do something for somebody, do it and again it's in no way a Pollyanna thing . . . But it's being of service to your community whenever you can, without the expectation of something in return.”



While a philanthropic drive is always a laudable human trait, what makes Gabby different is her authentic and unique approach to being of service. Whether on a offering someone a personal workout, coaching XPT - hers and Laird’s intense, underwater pool training that they offer to those who can benefit, or Laird Superfood, their sustainably grown, responsibly sourced, plant-based, all-natural, whole food company, Gabby is committed to elevating people’s wellness. She is quick to point out that they each remember their backgrounds and growing up blue-collar in the islands, which influences their focus on making good health and nutritious food accessible to everyone. Mentioning that in giving she receives and citing the author, Anthony De Mello, Gabby believes that being of service ultimately makes us feel good. “In a way we're never really doing anything for anybody else, and the only time we are is when we don't know it,” she says.

When discussing Laird Superfood, Gabby shares that the brand was born organically out of her husband’s natural habit of wanting to perform better, utilizing optimum foods in his diet. From there, their quest was to find the best quality ingredients; plant-based, delicious and accessible to all. She tells us, “We all know that maybe Laird might choke down something that's good for you every day if it doesn't taste good, but I'm probably not going to. The other part of that thing that's actually significantly important to both of us - because we both were raised and came from nothing - is how do we make it affordable, you know, within reason? I can never probably make it as cheap as soda, but the whole idea of anything exclusive actually doesn't excite us. What excites us is if we could sort of figure out a way to get it, so understand that we grew into that. It wasn't like, “Let's whiteboard it,” you know what I mean? And hopefully your values show up. I'd love to say it was that strategic, but we find ourselves here so let's ask ourselves the hard questions, and what are the answers to that?”



With accessibility at the heart of their brand, Gabby says, “We’ve been in the space of self-care for 20 years, and what you start to realize is all the triathletes and all those, you know, high performance people they have it figured out, they don't really need us and so you start to go, “Health shouldn't be an exclusive proposition. It's like, even what we're going through now, people should be able to have access to education and water and so for us, both of us - I always joke that yes, both of us separately, and certainly Laird to a higher level - are all about high performance. However, we're kind of very blue-collar people. That's just how we were raised and that's who we are, and the other part of that goes back to that. I don't know that either one of us has the audacity not to recognize that we're really fortunate, and that is not about humility; that's just about being smart.”


Discussing her attitude of “not having the balls to disrespect the Universe,” Gabby says, “I'm not an idiot . . . I don't even care if you're Jeff Bezos, and some people know this better than others: We're all susceptible to the laws of the Universe or God or Karma, or whatever things that people call this “force,” and this is not about humility.” She continues, “I am trying to be self-governed and be in check, so I don't want to be reminded of a lot of the hard lessons - I don't want to have to use that as the only way to learn. It's going to show up, but I don't need to participate in inviting that by my ego, greed or control, or whatever things that I could be vulnerable to. I don't need to rock that surefire ball of fate. I'm clear with the rules, you know?”



Throughout her career, she seems to have approached all of her opportunities humbly and with a deep sense of gratitude, even experiencing a period of guilt in her 20’s for what she felt she didn’t necessarily deserve. “I really beat myself up about guilt and undeserving, and I watched my husband go through it differently, but similarly where you're just, “I don't deserve this. Why do I get these opportunities or what have you?” So then instead of doing that say, “Okay, well if I'm really going to say I’m grateful - everyone throws that word around - just do your job.” Do your job. Show up and do your job. If you have that opportunity, do it, go for it, be responsive, bust your ass.” Gabby continues, “So that's how I look at it. It's, “Oh man, the portal opened. The door opened, go through it,” and that makes me be able to deal and manage with me not understanding why I get to do certain things that I really want to do, and maybe other people in other places at this time don't have that opportunity, because I don't understand it,” she says.


As open in sharing her failures as her wins, Gabby tells us, “Listen, I've had plenty of times where it's been pretty flat liney, and you just keep your head down and keep working. I do believe that then the next thing reveals itself, even when you're not sure. Don't be afraid if you fall on your face and you look silly, or you fail or you don't get it that one time. It's like our businesses – Laird Superfood is thriving, but we've had many businesses that haven't been successful. I think that's really important for people to remember that for three successes there's 17 failures, and that is part of the story so let's not be afraid of those either.”



Words that resonate with Gabby are growth and peace, but how does she find balance in a busy life full of marriage, family and work projects? “I read a business book once and it talked about a flywheel approach, so instead of thinking of things of balance, think of things as a flywheel. So if I'm feeding my health and self-care, and then I'm nurturing my relationship and trying to grow and evolve with my children, and then get dinner on the table, and then work on my business, that for me was an easier thing than all the buckets are across and they all have eight chips in them.” She continues, “One thing I really try not to neglect is my relationship, because it feels like an anchor to so much of this stuff to be honest, and then before that it's my self-care practice, so really what I'm always hyper diligent about (even if I only have minutes), is self-care and making sure Laird and I are square. It doesn't mean we're perfect. We have weeks where it's, ooh we're kind of one inch away from being on each other's nerves all day, and some days we have so much flow that it's no problem, it’s normal, but then work in the flywheel and that helped me a lot thinking that everything had to be balanced.”


She adds, “It's also remembering this is my choice - this has been really helpful - this has been my choice. These work projects, this relationship, having these children. This has all been my choice, so I'm here because I have chosen this.”



While managing her busy life, how does she practice self-care? “You know, I defend my real estate really well. I don't let all of my chosen responsibilities and roles press in on me to the point that I can't find my form again, and so maybe there's a part of me that's a lot more selfish than is being communicated here.”


“I'm well aware that part of my job is to take care of myself, so I think simultaneously I'm always well aware I'm doing something for myself and then somehow it gets justified as my work, and so maybe I've looked at the whole thing, “Oh I got to play volleyball for a living when I was much younger. I got to be in fashion.” These have all been things for me and I work in businesses that I want to work in, so when I really look at it, this is for me,” Gabby says. “I haven't forgotten that I can look at the ocean and I look at nature, and that's self-care. I mean that's the freaking highest level of self-care!”



When asked for tips to help us live our best lives, she offers, “First, what I would say to anyone is know who you are. You don't have to be someone else . . . And just to encourage you to find your own voice and make your life, your lover, everybody, be as reflective of you and a place you want to be, as you can.”


Photography by Jennifer Cawley

Makeup by Emily Perez

Styling by Deborah Linquist:

Wardrobe credits - Deborah Lindquist, Pattern Village, Onzie & Good Heart Studio

Filming by Brian Perry

Shot in Malibu, CA

Watch Anna's conversation with Gabrielle Reece below:


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