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Gabrielle Reece

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At 6’3″, Reece is a classic case of height makes might. One of modeling’s top stars, she commands as much as $10,000 a day. But she spends nearly all her spare time refining the volleyball skills that made her a standout at Florida State University. Reece, now 23, was only a sophomore at FSU when Elle magazine named her “one of the five most beautiful women in the world” in 1989, the same year her coach said, “She likes to hit the ball hard and put it back in somebody’s face.” The lure of the smash is still with her; Reece is currently playing on the Women’s Professional Volleyball Association’s circuit.

California born, Gabby took up her sport as a 10th grader. She won an athletic scholarship to FSU and in 1988 began modeling. Reece’s athleticism (her size 11s can generate a 22-inch vertical leap) distinguishes her from most models, but those 75 sinuous inches are occasionally a bother, like in movie theaters. “The minute I sit in my seat,” she concedes, “I crouch down so the people behind me don’t freak out.” But they also give her a good fix on the opposite sex. “I can tell right away what’s up by the way a man responds to my size,” she says. “If he treats me like a normal person, then I know he’s pretty secure. But if he acts funny, then generally that’s a person I’d like to avoid anyway.”

Some things are unavoidable. At FSU, Reece once failed to dodge an opponent’s spike; her nose was so bloodied that the ref whistled her off the floor. Why risk the meal ticket for paltry prize money? “With modeling, your whole identity is measured by how many magazines you’re in,” she says. “I don’t want anything to do with that.” Besides, she adds, playing beach volleyball, “you get your butt in the sand, and you tend to lose weight.”