Meet GABRIELLA BONGIOVANNI the Australian-born former tennis ace turned coach and model who also works as a systems analyst while teaching microcomputing. Warning: major career goals envy ahead…
Welcome to MAXIM, Gabriella. How did you get into tennis?
My father is a tennis coach, so I’ve been playing since I was old enough to hold a racquet. My entire childhood I remember hanging out at the tennis club after school, training with whoever was around.
When did you become a pro?
As a teen I would play a pro circuit event here and there, but I really went for it when I graduated from college. Playing at the collegiate level really gave me the experience and maturity I needed to make the transition from amateur to professional. I love every minute I spend on the court and the feeling of achievement after a big win. There are also many lows and you travel alone most of the time, so it definitely builds character as well.
You retired two years ago. Why?
Yes, I retired from professional tennis two years ago due to a persistent shoulder injury. I still train to keep active and since retirement, and have taken up tennis coaching. I currently coach players of all ages and levels.
You were born in Melbourne and your heritage is Italian, but you represented Italy on the pro circuit — why not choose Australia?
You know, I never really put much thought into it — it just happened. I took a gap year after I finished high school and spent several months in Italy training and playing tournaments. I registered as a pro whilst I was there, used my Italian passport as a form of ID, and that was it. I was registered with the International Tennis Federation as an Italian. I don’t think it makes me any less Australian, as I feel proud of both nationalities.
When and why did you decide to leave Australia to live in America?
During my gap year after high school I looked into different options. I knew I wanted to get an education and earn a degree, but I still wanted to pursue my passion for tennis. I was offered a scholarship to play tennis for a university in Miami. I accepted the offer and have never looked back.
What do you miss about Australia?
There are so many things I miss about Australia, but mostly I miss my family, obviously. I just miss being in my neighbourhood – Carlton in Victoria – and having a coffee on Lygon Street. I also miss the hot summers, spending time with family friends at the beach, surfing and then going for fish and chips and 7-Eleven Slurpees! Most of my family is still in Melbourne, including my parents and brothers, and I travel home at least once a year. I usually try to go during Christmas time, because white Christmases are overrated.
When you’re not playing tennis or modelling for MAXIM what else can we find you dong?
I’m usually busy with other work. I have a Masters in Data Science and I work for an IT company as a systems analyst. I also work as an adjunct professor at a university teaching microcomputing. When I’m not busy working or modelling, I like to be outdoors hanging out with friends. I love going for runs on the beach, spending time on the water, boating, paddle boarding, jet skiing and going out to eat!
You’ve modelled around the world and also appeared in music videos for artists such as Drake and Liam Payne. How did you make the transition from tennis court to catwalk and music clips?
I actually started modelling during college. My roommate would model on weekends and one day they needed an extra girl so she asked me if I could help out. I agreed and had a great time on the set. I started accepting jobs here and there and networking. When I started to slow down with tennis, I started accepting more and more gigs, and now here I am in MAXIM Australia!
What else can you tell us about your career so far?
I have definitely achieved more than I could imagine. In February I walked in New York Fashion Week, which was a dream of mine. I look forward to the future and work hard every single day to be the best I can possibly be. I am learning that finding some “me time” and taking time to relax is also very important and really is essential in developing in any part of life.
What do you love most about this MAXIM feature shoot?
I had such a great time during this MAXIM shoot. The team were great to work with and the location was incredible — it was my first time visiting Laguna Beach in California and I was not disappointed.
Are you a fan of snorkelling?
Although I do not do it as often as I’d like, I really enjoy snorkelling. My favourite snorkelling experience was venturing over the Great Barrier Reef. It was definitely an unforgettable experience and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Australia.
Well, you look beautiful. When do you feel you are at your sexiest?
Thank you! I feel sexy when I am chilling out at home in a bra and undies, just being my natural self. We all need to love the skin we are in and embrace every curve and stretch mark.
Amen to that! Now, what do you find sexy about men?
A charming smile. A smile really says a thousand words. Men don’t have to look tough all the time.
How does a man win his way to Gabrielle Bongiovanni’s heart?
If a guy can make me laugh, it’s game over. I am a sucker for humour.
What’s one thing a guy should always remember about women?
We. Know. Everything. Always be honest, because we will always find out the truth!
Finish this sentence: Public nudity is…
Ballsy. Pun intended.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
Time is precious. Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy lives and forget about the important things. This was a reminder that I should always make time for loved ones.
In five years where would you like to be?
Making some positive changes in the world. ■
NAME: Gabriella Bongiovanni
BORN: Melbourne, Australia
HOMETOWN: Carlton, Victoria
LIVES: Miami, Florida USA
FIVE-WORD SELFDESCRIPTION: “Energetic, loud, funny, sincere, hungry.”
HOBBIES: “Sports, dancing, travelling, TikToking.”
GO-TO DRINK: “Aperol Spritz.”
HANGOVER CURE: “Sleep.”
LIFE MOTTO: “Why be normal?”
Photographed by RYAN DWYER @letshoot
Produced by LUIS RODRIGUEZ @MAINSTREETPRODUCTIONS
Hair & make-up by BRIDGET MARTINEZ