Chico’s model An Hayward is more than just a pretty face. A truly gracious person, she’s dedicated to bettering the lives of children in her adopted home, the Gulf Coast of Florida. She explains how she got involved in building a massive new Children’s Hospital, plus gives her thoughts on aging with style (feeling great about yourself is key.)
Tell us your story.
I’m An Hayward. I am 45 years old. I’m a full-time mom, I’m a wife, I’m a fashion model, and I’m also the First Lady of Pensacola, FL. (My husband is the mayor!) I was born in Antwerp, Belgium, and I’ve been in the States 23 years. And I became an American citizen almost three years ago. Before I started modeling, I was a professional ballet dancer.
Q: How did you get involved with Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital?
About three years ago, I was asked to be on the advisory board for the adult hospital in Pensacola. I met lots of great people who knew I was very passionate about the Children’s Hospital. The reason why it’s so important to me is that my son was born there, prematurely. He was in the NICU for a long time.
Q: What are your goals for the hospital?
We are trying to raise $60 million to build a new facility that will cater to children along the whole Gulf Coast: from Panama City all the way through Alabama. At the moment we are trying to raise a lot of money and finding sponsors, people, and large corporations to help. There are many kids born prematurely that need a lot of help, and this facility will give us all that.
You also act as a parent liaison at the Children’s Hospital. What does that entail?
Once a month a group of us—staff, parents, doctors—get together to figure out what we can do better right now. We are trying to create a new environment where people can come and feel at ease. Parents spend a lot of time with their children in the hospital, sometimes for a long time. We want to make sure everything they need or want is there for them—that they are being welcomed as a family.
Q: Where do you draw your style inspiration from?
My mom. She definitely has had a huge influence on my style. And I think I’ve passed it on to my son now too. The one thing that my mom has always taught me is to be yourself. And I think it’s important throughout life that you stick to where you came from, what your roots are, and wherever you’re going, to be who you are. Be authentic. I always tell my son: be a leader, not a follower. You know, and it’s okay to be different. Stand out in a crowd.
Q: How has your style evolved?
I’ve come into my own. I’m comfortable where I’m at in life. So I just um, you know, I… I look back in my 20s, and I thought that I looked so fabulous. But I look back at pictures and I think, “What in the world were you thinking!?” I’m more sophisticated, but I also like jeans and a t-shirt. Um, you know, throw a little jacket on there. A little Chico’s jacket. So, I think it has evolved quite a bit. I look back now and wish I could have looked this way through my 20s and my 30s.
Q: Why is style ageless?
To me, style is ageless because I think you can really look good at any age. There shouldn’t be a set number that only at 25 or 30 you are fabulous. I’m 45 and I look, I feel, the best that I’ve ever looked. So I think age is just a number. It doesn’t mean you can’t look fabulous. You know, my mother just turned 69, and she looks amazing. My grandma is going to be 90, and she looks amazing. I want women to know that whether you are 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, it doesn’t matter. Style is for everybody.
Q: What makes a woman beautiful?
I think what makes a woman beautiful is her inner beauty. I think that’s the first thing that comes out. And you can be 20 and be kind, you can be 30 and be kind, but I think the kindness and the generosity of women is the first thing that shines out. You can be a beautiful person, but if you don’t have a great personality, you know, it changes everything about that person.
Q: What are you celebrating right now?
I’m celebrating a lot of things. I think I just celebrate being in a good place in my life. I’ve really embraced my age. I think once I turned 40, I was very excited about it. I thought that was like the best thing ever happening… suddenly, I’m 45 and I’m like, “Wait, I’m halfway almost to ninety!” But I’ve enjoyed aging. I’ve come into my own. I’m very comfortable where I am.
Q: How are you celebrating Mother’s Day?
My mother, my grandmother, my mother-in-law, myself, and all the sisters-in-law celebrate together. We go to church, have a nice brunch, and exchange gifts. Each mom gets a gift and flowers. Just being together with family is the best.
For more An, follow her on instagram, and watch our interview with her below.