If Alicia Rountree has always looked especially at ease modeling barely there getups for Victoria’s Secret, perhaps it’s because she grew up in a swimsuit. Raised just outside Rivière des Anguilles, a town on the southern coast of Mauritius, she still calls the island home. She says:
When I’m in Mauritius I don’t need anything—just a bikini and T-shirt. It’s nice to have nice things, but it’s just about knowing you don’t need them.
Upon embarking on a modeling career in London as a teenager, Rountree, 30, soon realized that her childhood on the island nation, off the shores of East Africa, was far from typical. The youngest of five siblings, she nostalgically recalls such exoticisms as swimming in the rough seas of the Indian Ocean during a cyclone and having a pet lemur named Ringo.
My parents created a beautiful little haven for all of us.
Nestled at the end of a long allée of coconut trees, the Rountree property includes a family office, the main 19th-century colonial manor, a wildlife reserve, and a private beach studded with magnificent volcanic black rocks. When she’s there, “I see no one but my family,” she says. “It’s my time to recharge my batteries.”
Her design-obsessed mother continually refreshes the main house’s interior following jaunts to flea markets from England to India. But decor aside, Rountree is grateful to find, when she returns every Christmas, that not much has changed. Thanks to her parents’ upkeep, the house’s idiosyncrasies—from the scalloped trim on the roof of the marble-floored patio to the glow-in-the- dark stars she stuck to her bedroom ceiling as a child—remain as untouched as the lush natural landscape that surrounds it.
Rountree, who is also a cofounder of the Manhattan restaurant chain Tartinery, attributes her professional success and sunny outlook to her island origins:
Growing up being outdoors all the time—it was such a healthy lifestyle.
She plans to move back to Mauritius one day; as she says, given its cultural diversity and organic beauty, “it would be stupid not to.”
Until then, despite her best efforts, it’s not always easy to maintain the habits she was raised with when she’s away from the island.
At home we eat fresh coconuts every day for breakfast. I miss that so much. I buy them in New York, but it’s not quite the same.