Leonardo DiCaprio's girlfriend says landing on the famous issue's cover "was my dream"

By Kristen Mascia
February 10, 2009 08:30 AM
Raphael Mazzucco

Sports Illustrated‘s famous swimsuit edition is one of the most coveted covers in the modeling world – and this year the honor goes to sizzling Israeli beauty Bar Refaeli.

Before sharing the news with her friends, family – or even her boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio – Refaeli, 23, chatted with PEOPLE’s Kristen Mascia on Monday about the cover, her grandma, and her modeling role model, Heidi Klum.

Refaeli: Thank you, thank you! I am so happy, I am ecstatic! I’m in heaven right now.

When did you find out?
Refaeli: About 20 minutes ago.

Have you shared the news with anyone yet?
Refaeli: No! They’re not letting me tell anyone until tonight. Tonight I’m going to call 30 people – all my friends in Israel, all my friends in L.A., my grandma and my grandpa.

What will your grandparents say about your sexy photo spread?
Refaeli: They are so proud! My grandma says she walks down the street and people ask her, ‘Are you Bar Refaeli’s grandmother?’ I’m like, dude – I mean, you’re very beautiful, but we don’t really look alike! We have 60 years between us. She’s so proud. She keeps every single article on me.

Was getting this cover a goal of yours?
Refaeli: It was my dream. When I was 15 and started modeling, my agent came to my house with Sports Illustrated magazines and taught me to look at the girls and the way they communicated with the camera. I learned from them.

Which other swimsuit edition covers have you most admired?
Refaeli: They’ve all been well-deserved, but definitely Tyra Banks‘s, and Heidi Klum’s.

What do you admire about Heidi?
Refaeli: The values she has. You can see she’s totally into her family, so into motherhood, and she doesn’t take herself too seriously. That’s inspiring. That would be something I’d love – to be able to have a family alongside an incredible career. I wish I could have that someday.

Do you think Leo will like the cover?
Refaeli: I don’t know. I really, really love it. I’m sure people will, too.

Are you two happy together?
Refaeli: I am very happy!

So how will you celebrate?
Refaeli: I am having champagne as we speak!