Reece, Gabrielle

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Gabrielle Reece


American volleyball player

Gabrielle Reece is not only known for her physical prowess, but also for her beauty. She has made a name for herself in the world of sports by merely being herself, and she has graced the world with her beauty by modeling to make a living while doing what she truly loves, which is playing volleyball. Reece has made great strides in challenging the world's perception of femininity and size, being 6'3" and weighing 160-170 pounds. She has never been ashamed to tell people her weight,

and it is obvious why, as she is quite fit. Reece's goal in life is to change people's perceptions of what it is to be a woman and an athlete. She is not one to mince words and her straightforward communication is refreshing. Reece continues to intrigue the world, with her latest pursuit being golf. It is clear she is a woman of many talents and is always up for the challenge.

Around the World in 15 Years

"Sometimes I think the only reason my mother was put on earth was to give birth to me," says Reece in her book Big Girl in the Middle. It was clear to her early in life that if things were going to get done, it would have to be by herself, as she found her mother to be unreliable. After being born in California and spending the first two years of her life in Trinidad, she was abandoned by her mom in Long Island at the age of three. Reece's mother left her with friends who were reliable, but unfortunately at the age of seven, her mother requested she come live with her and her new husband. This was devastating for Reece. From there she lived in Puerto Rico then on to St. Thomas in the Caribbean. All of this turmoil caused Reece to act out with frustration. Her mother had the insight to realize her daughter was going nowhere good living in St. Thomas, so they uprooted and moved to Florida.

That was the best move she could have made, because that is where Reece finally found an outlet for all her tension through sports. At the Catholic high school she attended in St. Petersburg, Florida, she was recruited for basketball and volleyball simply due to her height. Reece eventually realized she really enjoyed playing and had found her niche in the world.

Florida is also where Reece was led into the modeling scene. A friend of the family encouraged her to get some portraits done and take some modeling classes. That same friend sent Reece's photos to an agent who was ready to fly her off to Paris, France immediately. Her mother put the breaks on that, as at seventeen she felt her daughter was too young. Looking back, Reece concurs with her mother's decision, as she was not ready for that kind of life. Staying in Florida allowed her to really develop her skills in volleyball and learn some self-discipline. After Reece was in college the agent called on her again, and that is when she took off as a model. She had an agreement with the volleyball coach at Florida State that when she was playing volleyball, that should be the focus, but the off-season was her choice. This caused some problems with the other players who would train during the off-season, but obviously this did not phase Reece.


1970Born January 6, 1970 in La Jolla, California
1972Divorce of Reece's mother and father
1972Mother leaves Reece in Long Island with friends to go off and pursue a job training dolphins in Mexico City
1975Reece's father is killed in a plane crash
1977Mother sends for Reece to be sent to Puerto Rico to live with her and her new husband
1978Moves to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands
1983Diagnosed with an ulcer
1984Divorce of mother and stepfather
1986Moves to Florida where she begins participating in sports at a Christian high school
1986Offered opportunity to model in Europe, which she declines due to her mother's disapproval
1988Offered volleyball scholarship by Cecile Reynaud with Florida State University
1988Begins modeling half the year in New York, going to college the other half
1991Earns Bachelor of Arts from Florida State
1992Begins playing beach volleyball professionally
1993Works on MTV Sports and MTV's show The Extremists
1994Begins playing for team Nike
1997Co-authors book Big Girl in the Middle
1997Marries long-time boyfriend, Laird Hamilton on November 30
1997Ends four-person volleyball career
1999Begins two-person volleyball career
2000Begins training with Gravity Golf
2001Begins working on golf with Butch Harmon School of Golf
2001Files for divorce from Hamilton on January 20
2002Appears in Discovery Channel's 15th edition of Shark Week
2002Reconciles with husband Hamilton

Once Reece's college career had ended, she was at a loss for what to do with her life. She did some modeling, but she knew that was not where her passion was. In an interview with the Daily Paragraph, Reece stated, "modeling was a vehicle for me and I never viewed it as anything else but that. Sport felt instinctively like the right place to go." A friend intervened and suggested she try beach volleyball. She went professional in 1992 and left modeling behind for good. She became quite accomplished in the four-person beach volleyball circuit, earning many awards. During this time she became known for her risk-taking personality. This won her a few hosting positions for MTV. She hosted a show called The Extremists and MTV Sports. She took time off from volleyball from 1997 until 1999, during which she wrote a book and married husband Laird Hamilton. In 1999 she went back to the beach to play two-player volleyball. Two-player volleyball was a lot more work, and she discovered she was not as well suited for it.

Developed Passion for Golf

Reece was approached by David Lee, a former PGA Tour journeyman, about a "nontraditional teaching method" for golf according to Alan Shipnuck with TL Golf. Lee proposed that she agree to work on this method for a year and a half. Reece states in the article "my greatest strength in all of this, besides my discipline, is my curiosity." It is this curiosity and discipline that helped her realize she liked the challenge of golf, but was not satisfied with the training techniques of the Gravity Golf program. In January 2001 she began working with the Butch Harmon Golf School. Butch Harmon's school takes a much more traditional, yet high-tech approach to training golf. They examine your strokes through computer models to see where improvements needs to be made. Reece has been working with them for the past couple years and intends to train for the LPGA Qualifying School in 2004.

Unfortunately when Reece quit volleyball, her life became askew. Her new passion for golf invaded her life and took over every facet. That left no space for her husband Laird. Reece filed for divorce in January of 2001. Fortunately time heals all wounds. After nearly a year apart, the couple reconciled and have been together ever since. She feels the same way about her pursuit of golf. "I've never quit anything in my life. I started this, and I need to finish it. Even if I'm a bust, I have to finish this journey," she stated to Shipnuck.

Reece was interviewed for the cable channel Life-time's program Intimate Portrait, where she was able to share in her own words the story of her life. Lifetime named her as "one of the 20 most influential women in sports" and "a new female idol." The program outlined Reece's amazing attitude and how she is able to accomplish anything she puts her mind to. She shares how her early life was quite turbulent. Reece was able to express how participating in sports turned her life around and gave her focus. She also explains how she survived the tumultuous years and admitted that it made her a better person because she had to learn to rely upon herself. Reece feels that everything she has is due to her hard work and love and relationships she has encountered along the way are the perks.

Through all of these journeys, Reece has remained true to herself and who she is. She concedes to the issues she addresses saying, "The thing I don't like about this fear of being big is that it feeds into this general female thing of wanting to be less less powerful, less assertive, less demanding, less opinionated, less present, less big," Reece wants to make it clear that it is okay to show all sides of yourself. She encourages people to be whom they truly are to make a better life for themselves, rather than living up to what everyone else is expecting. Barbara Harris with Shape states, "She is leading us in a direction not only of someone with a healthier body image, but of also being your own person." In an article about her book for Newsday, Reece expressed, "I'm hoping the book is motivating for younger girls, to give them a wake up call." She shares that she regrets not getting involved in sports earlier than age 15. Reece wants to give that chance to other girls. She is obviously making some sort of impact, as she was ranked the ultimate fitness role model by Shape readers two years in a row.


Address: Gabrielle Reece, c/o Crown, 201 East 50th St., New York, NY 10022.

Awards and Accomplishments

1992Named Most Valuable Player, 4-woman Pro Beach Volleyball Tour
1994-95Awarded Offensive Player of the Year, 4-Woman Pro Beach Volleyball Tour


(With Karen Karbo) Big Girl in The Middle. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1997.



"Gabrielle Reece." The Complete Marquis Who's Who. Marquis Who's Who, 2001.

"Gabrielle Reece." Sports Stars. Series 1-4.UXL, 1994-98.


Blauvelt, Harry. "Spikes Now on Feet Volleyball Star Reece Shoots for LPGA tour." USA Today, (April 26, 2001): 01C.

Coats, Bill. "Ruling at the Net Gabrielle Reece Makes Her Point in Beach Volleyball." St. Louis Dispatch, (June 30, 1996): 01F.

Davies, Gareth. "Sport: Modeling Took Second Place to Sport." Daily Telegraph, (February 2, 1998).

"The 50 Most Beautiful People in the World 1992: Gabrielle Reece." People, (May 4, 1992): 74.

Fish, Mike. "Women in Sports: Growing Pains: Selling of Female Athletes: Sponsors Struck with Reece's Looks, Not Skills." Atlanta Constitution, (September 25, 1998): D01.

Reed, Susan and Meg Grant. "Lookout: Volleyball, Anyone? Model Gabrielle Reece's Favorite Spikes are Not on Her Heels." People, (October 16, 1989): 97.

Silver, Michael. "Big Girl in the Middle." Scorecard Book Reviews. Sports Illustrated, (August 25, 1997): 20.

Skotnicki, Monique. "When You Fish Upon a Star." Newsday, (August 9, 2002): 03.

"Super Power: Super Strong, Superfit: Adrienne Shoom Gets a Look at the Body According to Pro Beach Volleyball Superstar Gabrielle Reece." Flare, (May 1, 1998): 118-23.


"Gabby scores (again)." Shape. 15, 2002).

"Gabrielle Reece." Lifetime Intimate Portrait. (January 2, 2003).

"Gabrielle Reece." (December 15, 2002).

"Gabrielle Reece Dove 80 Feet in Search of the Rare Shovel-Nose Shark." Discovery Channel. (1/2/2003).

"Model Gabrielle Reece seeks divorce." AP Online. (March 9, 2001).

Shipnuck, Alan. "The Glorious Quest of Gabrielle Reece: Can a World-Class Cover Girl and Superstar Athlete Find Success and Happiness on the LPGA Tour? This One is Determined to Try." TLGolf. (December 15, 2002).

Sketch by Barbra J Smerz