Candice Swanepoel speaks in exclusive to The Sun U.S.

I was teased for my weight and felt awkward about my body – motherhood made see it’s ‘beauty’, model Candice Swanepoel.

VICTORIA’S Secret promoted a very specific type of ‘ideal body’ for years, leaving many women feeling they couldn’t live up to the standard.

But one of the lingerie brand’s most famous models admits she had similar insecurities to the rest of us – and struggled to love her body.

Candice Swanepoel, who hails from South Africa and lives in New York, starred in the world-famous catwalk show from 2007 to 2018.

Now a philanthropist and business owner, the 34-year-old model reveals she was actually teased for her body in school – but motherhood helped her feel “more beautiful”.

Speaking exclusively to The U.S. Sun, as a new ambassador for Anne Klein, she says: “In my teens I was extremely thin, and got teased for it, which is the case for many models.

“At that time it was the formula for finding new girls that were awkward in their teens but by the time they hit 20 had grown into their bodies, and had a few years of experience in the industry.

“Many people believe we have a certain confidence in our genetics but most of us still sometimes feel like that awkward teen.

“It’s a job at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what I think of my body on that specific day, as long as my client is happy, I’m happy.

“I’m there to deliver and play a role and that’s also how I coped with shyness in the very beginning.”

Today, Candice is mother to sons Ariel, four, and Anaca, six, her children with fellow model and ex-fiance.

Asked whether she feels more or less confident modelling in a bikini since becoming a mom, Candice says: “Not really.

“I am normal so we all have good days and bad days, but my body has made two little miracles, carried me around the world and enabled me to experience life so intensely that I’m grateful.

“Instead of picking myself apart on bad angles or changes here and there, I prefer to remember how much my body has endured over the years and the gifts that are my children.”

In total, Candice walked in 11 VS shows, only missing the 2016 year because she was pregnant.

Months after giving birth, she was back posing in the 2017 show.

Likewise Miranda Kerr, Lily Aldridge, Adriana Lima, Heidi Klum, and Doutzen Kroes all returned to the catwalk after giving birth.

Of her return to the catwalk post-baby, Candice says: “It’s definitely a process, whether you’re a model or not.

“I think perhaps we are used to putting ourselves out there, no matter what the opinion of others is.

“Once you become a mother, your priorities completely change.

“I loved all the different phases of my body after birth and during my pregnancies. I think I felt more beautiful, actually.

“I was lucky to work with people I’d known since my twenties, so it was a safe space and I also became more selective with my time and energy.

“The hardest part for me was having to travel away from them (my children), so for a time I chose not to take jobs where I had to travel.”

These days, Candice‘s focus is on her swimwear brand Tropic of C.

She says: “After five years of the brand, I’ve learned a lot – I was not a businesswoman five years ago, but today I can tell you I am.”

Asked what are the biggest lessons she’s learned, Candice says: “Never compromise on your vision, there can be many distractions and difficulties but where there is a will there is a way.

“Never be bullied into anything – in the beginning I would sit in meetings and take advice from the wrong people because I felt insecure about my knowledge of business.

“But the only way to really learn is by doing and making those types of mistakes – there is no formula to success.

“I believe in my company and I am passionate about what I do, and that’s the most important ingredient.”

Candice says Tropic of C is a “pioneering company for swimwear in the sustainable space”.

“I’m proud of the community we have built, seeing and hearing great reviews is always gratifying.

“The amount of returning customers is always a good gauge on the quality of your products,” she says.

“The consumer is now more conscious. And hopefully my influence through my brand aided in that awareness.”

When she’s not running her business, Candice is passionate about philanthropic causes – particularly her work with Africa based Mothers2Mothers.

She says: “They raise funds for social support and medication for pregnant women with HIV, getting them the medication that stops the transfer of the virus from mother to child.

“They also train women who have been through the same situation to work as mentors, helping these women emotionally and how to deal with it socially.

“It really is a wonderful cause and became especially close to my heart after my own pregnancies.”

After many years in the public eye, Candice still very much has her youthful glow.

She says: “The secret is maintenance.

“Since I was a teen, in the years when all my peers would have been out all night partying, I already understood the importance of a good diet, a skin routine, a good amount of sleep.

“Unfortunately society doesn’t like to see models or actresses or musicians age, and I think this is something that is changing, not everything needs to be ‘fixed’.

“I find it beautiful to see a bit of life on someone’s face, in their expressions, laugh lines.. aging gracefully is the secret.”

Candice was recently announced as an ambassador for Anne Klein, which is celebrating 55 years in business.

She says: “Anne Klein has been a huge influence on women’s fashion since the 70’s.

“When I think of the brand, I think iconic, classic, and chic.

Anne Klein the designer was a trailblazer in women’s fashion and as a businesswoman.

“So as a founder of my own brand, it is a huge inspiration to see what Anne Klein represents today.

“I’m just happy to work with likeminded companies whose values intertwine with my own.”