When I arrive to meet Alicia Rountree, I find her dressed in all black, sat on the balcony of the South Kensington Club, chatting on the phone. As I sit down, she quickly hangs up; she was speaking with her mother, she tells me. As we greet each other, I can’t help but notice her natural glow and be reminded of the research I prepared before our interview. Rountree is a contributing writer to the beauty site, Byrdie, in addition to having been interviewed in a variety of magazines, including Women’s Health, about her wellness routine—her authority on wellness and beauty is apparent by her complexion.
Conversation is effortless with Rountree, particularly when touching upon anything Mauritius or food related.
“Growing up in Mauritius, a little island girl, there was nothing fashion,” says the blue-eyed model. She laughs as she recounts all the times she would subject her parents and their friends to her fashion shows, over lunch on their sugar plantation farm. “I used to have all these books, and I would tear them up and keep all the pictures. When I was growing up, it was all the ‘90s supermodels; it was Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Uma Thurman, and Naomi Campbell—and now I have met them!”
A young Rountree’s modelling career was set in motion when she moved to London after school. She was scouted at Vogue’s It’s Fashion party with family friend Nicky Haslam, but it was not until she followed her former boyfriend, Nicolas Dutko, to New York, that things really kicked off. Here, she signed with IMG Models and soon after began modeling for the likes of Victoria’s Secret.
What came next for the in-demand model would be the start of Rountree’s foray into business. In 2010, she co-founded Tartinery with Dutko and began her career as a restauranteur with a place in NOLITA, specializing in tartines. While the whole carb component of serving up open-faced sandwiches on artisan bread is not quite what one would expect of a model-owned restaurant, Rountree is just too well-rounded and interesting to be predictable.
A Jack-of-all-trades, Rountree decided to give acting in Los Angeles a go and swapped coasts last February, while still keeping an eye on Tartinery—now boasting 3 locations in NYC.
For the time-being the jet-setting model is in London, where Tartinery hopes to open next. Not long after relocating to L.A., Rountree was forced to stay in London for three months as she awaited her US Visa renewal; after that, circumstance swayed her to stay in the city. “I kind of fell in love with London again… and my [current] boyfriend. Now my whole L.A. plan has changed because I don’t want to be there anymore,” she shares. “I guess I better open some Tartinerys quickly, so I have more reason to stay here.”
Rountree is passionate; and, gauging from the success of her flourishing career in business, she puts as much passion into her work, as she does living life. A spirited entrepreneur, Rountree has her hand in more than a couple cookie jars.
Courting wellness guru status, the model has already established herself as an expert, with health columns and a fitness app (it’s called the Supermodel Ballet Body and it’s inspired by the model’s former dance training) under her belt. Next on her to-do list is: pen a wellness book and then another on her native home, oh and maybe launch a wellness resort in Mauritius too. With plans like Rountree’s, it helps to have the support of a strong mother. “My mom always said, ‘drop by drop.’ You start with an idea and you work on it; and often things don’t happen straight away, so never to give up… just keep going and you will eventually get there.”
Below, Rountree dishes on everything from her love of Mauritius to her thoughts on McDonald’s, as we talk life, work and wellness with the business savvy model.
To start, tell me more about your childhood growing up in Mauritius? What was it like?
I had the most amazing childhood growing up in Mauritius. When I want to have kids, I want the same [for them]. I grew up on a sugar plantation… we were free to roam around. The energy there is so amazing, there are so many different cultures and religions, so growing up, I learned so much about everything. It’s a special place.
Do you go back often?
I wish I went back more often, but I am usually in New York or L.A. I am [in London] a lot more now, but it is a two-day flight from the States.
When did you first come to London?
After school I came [to London]. I was here maybe a year and a half, and then I moved to New York. I went to visit my boyfriend [Nicolas Dutko], who was studying there at the time. Then I just stayed. I signed with IMG models and started modeling.
On the subject of New York, let’s talk Tatrtinery. Any plans to open a location in London?
We have an investor coming in, so we’re going to open three more in New York. Then go to the West Coast and then come to London. It’s all about timing and finding the right spot, it’s all about location. I feel like London has so many different areas… it’s like, where do you start? Shoreditch could work or around [South Kensingston].
I understand you moved to Los Angeles last February to pursue acting. How did that come about?
Acting has always been in the back of my mind. When I came to London I studied at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art; then in Paris I did courses [at Cours Florent]. Then, I moved to New York. I was modeling and taking classes at night, I got really busy modeling, so I put it aside. A couple years ago I was like, “I want to get back into acting,” so I started taking classes again… but it has always been something I am so terrified of.
Really? What are you scared of exactly?
Fear is good… you should go towards things that scare you, but it’s always been something where I am like, ‘I am going to do it’ and then I am like, “Ahhhhh!” But I do push myself, I moved to LA and was like, “I am really going for it now.” I was super serious about all my classes and I got stressed out. You go so inside yourself, and every day I was drained… and then I got a sty. I had to get injections in my eyes and it came [back] like eight times. I was run down. When I came to London, I was like, “now I need a different path…”
Have you found it?
Last year I got my diploma [in Nutrition], and I got super passionate about that. When I started off the course, it was just for myself, then I finished the course, and I had all this information in my head, I wanted to be able to share it. So, now I have started writing two columns for this beauty website that is called Byrdie, and also The Observer has approached me to do a wellness column with them. I have also been approached to do a book on wellness.
Wellness seems like something you’re very passionate about. Can you tell me about the app you helped launched called Supermodel Ballet Body with Robert Brace. What inspired the fitness app?
I did that because me and my trainer were ex-ballet dancers, and we incorporate ballet moves into our workout routines. I am constantly traveling, so [need] to be able to have these exercises to do in a hotel room or even just at home. I need to have someone to tell me what to do… it’s either a class, a trainer or an app.
You are also a part of the Skinny Bitch Collective, another fitness related project. I watched your video for it… it must have been cold filming it in the mountains!
That was the most physically challenging weekend of my life. I didn’t realize that working out up in the altitude was so much harder. You cannot breathe. You do a few things and you’re out of breath because your oxygen levels are not used to it. Then doing it in the snow… I am like sliding here, slipping there. [Laughing.]
What does it take to become a part of the SBC and what does it all entail?
It’s basically word of mouth; my friend Millie Mackintosh was like, “come train with my trainer.” First of all, I was laughing the whole way through the class cause it’s basically me jumping up on her and doing squats… and then running after her and trying to touch her butt. [Laughing.] It’s so intense, especially in the class with all the girls. It’s like no other workout I have ever done.
It’s different for sure, in the best way! You practiced ballet growing up. Why did you take the modeling route over ballet?
I did ballet the whole time in Mauritius, and then I went to boarding school… you kind of grow up a bit [there], and I was less interested in ballet. It would be nice to be on a stage, but it is more like fantasy. I love to go to ballets.
What about modeling, was that also a bit of a fantasy growing up?
I had always dreamt about it, too. Now that I am in it [though], it’s very different to what I thought.
Modeling is not that glamorous and it’s tiring—a lot of time in a plane, really. You don’t get to see your family and friends. I mean, I love it, I get to meet so many new people every day, but it gets tiring, on your body, as well. That’s why I feel it’s important to have a healthy lifestyle. Eating well is important… it’s hard to eat well when you’re traveling.
Any tips on how to conquer that hurdle?
Whenever I go on a plane, I always have my little snacks. I am so bored on the plane, I want to be eating the whole time, so I prepare my little things, [like] my nuts. As I am vegetarian, there is not that much good choice, unless I get McDonald’s French fries at the airport, which I don’t really want… but sometimes I do. [Laughing.]
Ha, I know what you mean about the McDonald’s! Besides snacks, what’s in your carry on—must-haves to survive stale plane air?
My beauty products. I have this amazing brand called Sarah Chapman, they have this oil that I put on on the plane, and it just moisturizes. It’s called [Morning] Facial and [Overnight] Facial, and then you wake up and your skin [looks] like you have had a facial. Then, I use some LaMer products, which are so moisturizing and great… and coconut oil. I always use coconut oil, eat coconut and drink coconut water.
Leftover habit from island life, perhaps?
Whenever I am home, I eat five coconuts a day. [Laughing.] It’s such a healthy lifestyle there. We grow a lot of our own vegetables, so we never need to leave the house.
The food there must be delicious!
Mauritian food is so good. A lot of it is vegetarian, so they have these things made out of dhal like a chickpea savoury pancake, and then you put all these sauces inside; it melts in your mouth. So yummy! I have dreams about it. In Mauritius, there is a lot of life and culture, it’s not just a touristy place.
I read that you were interested in opening a hotel back home?
Yes, eventually we want to do something.
You could combine your love for everything there!
All the wellness! You know where we are, in the South, it’s not like everywhere in Mauritius. It’s much more wild, there are cliffs and crashing waves. It’s not like you’re going to go there for the beach! If we did do a hotel, it would have to be about wellness and [based] around health and walks up to the cliff. It would need to be more of a retreat.
Much more interesting than the beach! Is wellness a focus, career-wise, now? What’s next for you?
I really want to concentrate on all this wellness stuff. We actually have a book meeting about it later, and even with modeling, I have been talking to my agent, and I want to do more shoots around wellness. I am also working on another book on Mauritus.