erin heatherton 300x400 Victoria’s Secret Angel Erin Heatherton Didn’t Mean to Become a Model
Courtesy Victoria’s Secret

Growing up in suburban Chicago, Erin Heatherton was more into sports and science than style. “I didn’t even know who Kate Moss was,” she admits to PEOPLE. “I didn’t know much about fashion.”

But by the time she turned 16, all that had changed; Heatherton was scouted in Miami, moved to New York and signed with an agency in a matter of weeks. “It was a big surprise,” she admits. “Going to Miami, it was my first college campus visit, my first time on a plane. I was planning to go to college — I wasn’t planning on modeling or traveling much more in my life.”

Alone in Manhattan, Heatherton moved into a “model apartment” — and never looked back. “I loved it, I loved leaving home,” she says.

Though she paid her dues with numerous runway shows and fashion editorials — “You’d be out in a river in a weird outfit for some low-end magazine in Europe,” she recalls — the work paid off: four years ago, Heatherton became a Victoria’s Secret Angel.

“It’s amazing what this has done for me,” Heatherton, who’s rumored to be dating Leonardo DiCaprio, shares. “It’s allowed me to get out and meet new people, and it’s been a special experience.”

The Victoria’s Secret team — from the models and makeup artists to photographers and producers — feels like a second family to the starlet, too. “Thank god I like everybody,” she jokes. “But it does feel like summer camp when we’re all together, like a big family reunion. Everyone knows your story, your family, what’s going on in your life.”

Currently, Heatherton is in the midst of the “Very Sexy” tour, traveling the country with fellow Angel Candice Swanepoel to promote the brand’s new bras and fragrance. “The colors of the collection are really bright and fun,” she gushes. “It’s a great way to freshen up your spring wardrobe, with lingerie; it makes you feel good, like you’re getting ready for the summer months.”

Her favorite piece? “I love the Deep-V Plunge Push-Up,” she reveals. “It’s something new, really sexy — and makes your cleavage look better, even more sultry.”

Catch the Victoria’s Secret Angels in a “Very Sexy” livestream airing Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET on victoriassecret.com. Tell us: How are you freshening up your spring wardrobe?

–Kate Hogan

LAUREN CONRAD ON GOOD GIRL VS. BAD GIRL STYLE

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