Victoria Silvstedt has come a long way since her Playmate of the Year days. Now a successful day trader and investor in start-ups, Victoria has hung up her modelling and acting heels to live a more balanced lifestyle.
In an interview with Monaco Life, the successful business woman talks about everything from her former housemate Melania Trump and the Playboy mansion, to feeding the homeless and taking control of her finances.
Monaco Life: Can you tell us about your early years?
Victoria Silvstedt: I grew up in a small village in northern Sweden and I was in the junior Swedish skiing team from five years of age. When I was 16, I suffered a serious accident during a downhill race and my mum said I was never racing again. Of course, my dad wasn’t happy because he wanted me to go all the way to the Olympics, but my mum sent a photo of me to a beauty pageant – Miss Hawaiian Tropics – where I came first runner up. There was a model scout there and I ended up getting a contract with the biggest modelling agency in Stockholm. Then my sister sent a photo of me to the Miss Sweden pageant when I was almost 18, and I came runner up in that, so I went on to became Miss Sweden for the Miss World competition. Once I finished school, I left Sweden and headed to Paris, telling my mum I would be back after the summer. I never came back.
Is Paris where it all began for you?
I was actually struggling as a model in Paris. I was this tall, blonde muscular young woman which wasn’t really what the Parisian fashion houses wanted at all. They told me to cut my hair, lose weight, tone down. I was in shock – I thought that modelling would be easy for me, but Paris was like a cold shower. I was doing around 12 castings a day and I wasn’t fitting in anywhere.
Eventually, one job led to another, I changed modelling agencies, and I moved in to a nice house with my roommate Melania Knauss, now known as Melania Trump, and we lived together for a year. We were with different modelling agencies, but we would always get together at night and talk about the day’s castings, which were never the same because she was more editorial and I was more commercial.
I was in Palm Springs when a model who had just been on the cover of Playboy, Jennifer Driver, said to me: “You will be perfect for Playboy!” She ended up speaking to Hugh Hefner, showed him my picture and told him I could be the new Anna Nicole Smith. So, he flew me out to Los Angeles and … I never went back to Paris. It was the American dream. I signed with Elite Models in New York, they got me a Guess jeans contract and I started working in tv and movies. So many opportunities presented themselves and I made the most out of each one. I think I had a lot of luck; it could have gone another way. To have all this success very quickly, and to be on my own, but I always went with my gut feeling. I think a lot of it comes from the strength and discipline I had from training as an athlete which helped me survive out there.
But you didn’t stay in the US?
No, after working in the US for a while I went back to Europe and got a contract for a tv show in Italy, and had to learn Italian very fast. Then I got all these Italian film roles and had a huge career in Italy. At the same time, I ran into a tv host in Paris at a restaurant who was doing a pilot of the French version of the Wheel of Fortune and he wanted me to be a part of it, even though I didn’t speak French. So, I said “ok”, and that ended up being a huge success with around seven million viewers every night. It was the highest rating game show in France.
On top of that, I did a reality tv show for E! called Victoria Silvstedt: My Perfect Life. But having five cameras follow me around every day was exhausting, and they wanted to create drama because that is what reality tv is all about. So, after one season I said I never want to do that again.
Then, because I was working so much in Europe, I gave back my US Green Card – it didn’t make any sense to earn euros and pay taxes in America. In 2011 I decided to become a resident in Monaco. I still keep an apartment in New York and Miami, because I love it there, but I adore being in Monaco and Europe, especially going home to Sweden.
What reaction do you get from Sweden?
At the beginning it was a big scandal; it was all over the news that I was the first Swedish Playmate of the Year. I remember my mum asking me why I was in Los Angeles for so long and I would say I was just doing a shoot. Finally, she asked for a phone number to reach me on, and when she called and heard “Playboy mansion” she was confused and hung up. When she called again and asked for me and they said “oh yeah, she is right here!” she was shocked. So, eventually I was able to explain that this experience had led to so many other doors of opportunity opening up for me, and she was proud of me.
And your father?
Well I think I never spoke to him about it, I mean what was I going to say? (laughing)
So, when did you go from model and actress to financial trader and business woman?
Since 2008, I have been an active investor in the financial market. I lost a lot of money in the market crash so I took everything into my own hands. I started investing my own money and I am my own day trader. I do a lot of equities and bonds, and in Monaco you don’t declare taxes from your investments so I am in the perfect place. I also go to a lot of hedge fund meetings and do financial trade talk shows in Sweden.
Meanwhile, I invested in a Swedish cosmetics company Base of Sweden. It is all-female driven, so I really have a connection to this company and I love the products. We are now in Holland, Czech Republic and Sweden of course, and we are working on expanding to more countries in Europe.
And I was Associate Producer of the documentary ‘The Dalai Lama – Scientist’, which made its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival and has since won 12 film festival awards including six Best Documentary awards.
You recently released a prosecco in your name, can you tell us about that?
Well, we all love bubbles! And this is actually from a Swedish company that approached me and asked if I was interested in doing a prosecco in my name. They could see that I have a strong connection to Italy. So, my prosecco is called Victoria Prosecco La Dolce Vita, and it ties in nicely with Princess Victoria of Sweden also.
Funnily enough on Saturday, 14th December, the theme of the Bal de Noël is La Dolce Vita, and they asked if I would like to have my prosecco at the event. This will be the first big event to feature my prosecco. It will also be sold at Monaco restaurants and the Blue Gin bar at Monte Carlo Bay.
We see you hosting and supporting many events and charities in Monaco. How do you decide who to lend your name and time to?
The Princess Charlene Foundation is particularly important to me, as her brother Gareth and his wife Roisin are very close friends of mine. And I think her foundation does wonderful things helping children locally and internationally with learning to swim and water safety.
The Bal de Noël on Saturday night is organised by my good friend Sandrine Garbagnati Knoell. I have so many amazing friends and we are in this beautiful place, the least we can do is give back to charities and do what we can. That is why I am also the ambassador of the Guardian Angels of Monaco, a charity that feeds the homeless in Nice from the food we collect in Monaco. It is not perhaps the largest and most talked about charity, but it is amazing because this goes directly to the people, and I have been there many times myself on the streets feeding the homeless and handing out sleeping bags. Every time we have a food station set up, we have 400 to 500 people, including kids, and even more in the winter. It is a nice little charity to be involved in.
Victoria Silvstedt has become a brand, so how important is branding nowadays in terms of marketing, especially with regards to social media?
Thanks to social media, you can start or revive your brand or name. I am not on tv everyday so Instagram is a platform that is particularly helpful for me and I use it to promote what I have and what I do. Social media these days is everything.
What is the story you portray on Instagram?
Lifestyle, travel, wellbeing. I like to show that it is good to stay active and be healthy but it is also great to go out and have fun. It is important to find the balance.
How do you look after yourself?
Well, since I like to have a lot of fun, I need to find that balance. So, I keep a healthy fitness regime, I powerwalk and do yoga and pilates once in a while, I take my vitamins, drink water and try to sleep at least eight hours. Every morning I have celery juice and hot water and lemon. I have oatmeal for breakfast and I don’t eat much meat. I try not to eat processed food, fried foods or milk products. And for me that works. We are all trying to find the fountain of youth so I keep looking for it every day. But I swear by the celery juice. I got the idea from my health guru on Instagram, Medical Medium. Let’s see if it works and I live to be 120!