Ruven Afanador

From Monument Valley to Zanzibar, the third-time SI Swim model loves where the issue takes her. 

Corina Quinn
February 16, 2016

Model Chanel Iman is used to being on the road, but she still gets excited for certain trips—such as joining the Sports Illustrated team to shoot another Swimsuit Issue. “I love traveling, and SI is known for picking great locations,” she said. “It’s so cool just to get the phone call from them about doing the issue, but the locations—you know you’re going to look forward to where you’re going.”

This year, the magazine sent her to Zanzibar to shoot SI Swimsuit 2016 (on sale now), her third consecutive year doing the special issue. “Honestly, I always have the best time with SI,” she said of the experience. “I've been so blessed to go to some great locations with them so far.”

For her first trip with SI, which happened to be Swimsuit’s 50th anniversary, she went to Madagascar. “I’ve always wanted to shoot in Africa, and I got to shoot with these little lemurs,” she said. “We had the best shoot days: The weather was perfect, the skies were clear, the sand was super-soft. We got to stay in these huts made of sticks and leaves. It is a memory I will never forget—and one of the coolest shoots I’ve ever done.”

The next year, for SI Swimsuit 2015, the magazine brought her to Monument Valley, Utah. “It was totally different from Madagascar,” she said of the red sand desert, famous for providing the backdrop to Western movies like Stagecoach and Easy Rider. “I felt like Pocahontas. There are these tall buttes rising over everything, and it’s a classic place to shoot in America. It’s got a very cowboy and cowgirl kind of vibe, and it’s very Native American.”

That time, she and the crew stayed in a Native American museum—a departure from the hotels where she’s often booked for work. No matter what her quarters, though, “I try to make myself at home wherever I travel,” she said. She took a few minutes between her latest trips to talk to T+L about her packing tips and favorite things about traveling.

Packing strategy

“I always bring socks for the plane because my feet get cold,” she said. “Also, I have a ‘simple black’ section in my suitcase for just in case. It always has a simple black bikini, a simple black dress, a black leather jacket, black jeans, black boots, and black strappy sandals. Those go with me everywhere.”

Products she can’t travel without

“I usually use a moisturizer and I’ve started to use a primer before I do make-up; I don’t travel without one of those in tow,” she said. “My Anastasia eyebrow kit is everything to me. I have a makeup palette I take with me everywhere, and Dior ‘Diorshow’ mascara. I usually use a MAC liner for underneath the eye. My brushes are important to me, too—a good brush set can make a major difference in how you look.”

Jet lag tips

“I sleep well on the plane, so when I land, I can adjust to the time better. You have to—my schedule is so busy that I have to adjust quickly.”

Favorite getaways

“I’m an island girl—I love the small, remote islands,” she said. “I enjoy the Caribbean on my off time, and I’ve been kind of all over there: St. Barths, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Puerto Rico. I just love it. And I love Kauai—I just went there with my best friend.”

Favorite memory from SI Swim this year

"I loved the photographer that I worked with—Ruven Afanador. I feel like the pictures he shot of me are going to be timeless, and he really captured me. I’m just really proud to be an SI girl and to be in this year’s issue—it’s an incredible issue and I had a lot fun."

Corina Quinn is the digital travel editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

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