Christen Harper and Jared Goff found love in a not-so-hopeless place.
The Sports Illustrated swimsuit model and Detroit Lions quarterback met on Raya, a celebrity-favorite dating app. The couple was first linked in 2019. They announced their engagement in June 2022.
“… I swore he texted me first,” Harper told Fox News Digital. “But when we went and looked back, I actually sent the first message.”
“So all you ladies better send the first message because you never know,” she chuckled. “You have to shoot your shot. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t make.”
Harper said that she and the NFL star quickly became inseparable after they met offline.
“It’s so funny to think that we met on a dating app, but I feel like it’s so common these days,” the pinup said. “And it’s really like how you meet people. Who knows if I ever met him? So I’m so happy I used that dating app five years ago… It’s so fun to see how we’ve grown. It’s been a journey great fun, and it all started online.”
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While Harper quickly scored a touchdown with her boyfriend, the star admitted that she wasn’t as well-versed in football while they were dating.
“We started dating right before the football season started, I think in 2018,” she explained. “So it was crazy to be thrown into it. And I didn’t know much about football. My brother played hockey growing up. He knew about the Super Bowl, but I didn’t watch football on TV all the time. So now I feel like I know too much”.
Harper noted that being a support partner, it was important for her to learn the ins and outs of the sport.
“It was an interesting dynamic just to see how much work they put in and see how busy they really are,” he said. “I mean, these guys are working so hard and seeing the other side of this is amazing. We had to balance our schedules to make it work. And I think at first it was good because we were both busy.” And now we really have to find ways to give and take. And usually the off-season is more the time I get to [focus on my projects]. And during the season he’s focused on his stuff, so it actually works out pretty well. But we found a way to make it work.”
Goff has been Harper’s biggest cheerleader of late. The Southern California native was a co-winner in the 2021 Swim Search. She was named co-rookie of the year with Katie Austin following her appearance in the 2022 issue. She is now featured in the current issue on newsstands.
Harper said it was Goff who encouraged her to give the magazine’s annual casting call a try.
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“He’s just been the best entertainer on the road,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun because I get to cheer him on in his football season. But he’s the number one supporter, the number one person that’s on my court. When I initially went to apply for Swim Search, he was one of the people [who] it was like, ‘Do it. Who cares if you don’t get it? Get out there. You have to do it. And I’m so happy that he pushed me to do it. It has been such a fun process. And it’s fun to have something so exciting that also involves the world of sports. He can celebrate and be a part of it too.”
Harper said it was SI Swimsuit cover girl Kate Upton who inspired her to throw her hat into the ring. Growing up, Ella Harper struggled with her body image.
“I grew up in California. I never went to a pool party or went to the beach with my friends because I was so insecure with my body for no reason,” she explained. “When I look back, I wish I had put on the bikini, the one-piece, anything, gone and turned up instead of waiting until dark or keeping my cover on. This is your life. You only have one life. Nobody more is looking at how you look in a bikini. I promise you, you just have to go there. You have to wear it. You have to be confident and have fun because no one else is thinking about it.”
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“Life is too short not to wear a bikini,” she added.
Harper originally got into modeling to help pay for her college education. However, she was often told by agents and clients to lose weight. Today, she talks about body positivity and leads self-esteem workshops at the Detroit Lions Academy in partnership with the Pure Heart Foundation.
“… I realized… that I can show up on set and be exactly myself,” she said, not fitting in with the size of the fashion show. “Who cares if I don’t fit into the jeans and they have to send me home? It was a little embarrassing, but I’ll be okay because I know who I am… It’s brands like Sports Illustrated that have paved the way for women to sit good with themselves, whatever shape and size they are, it doesn’t matter. We’re all here to represent everyone and to make everyone feel included and safe.”
To prepare for this year’s photo shoot in Dominica, Harper said she didn’t feel the urge to expand her exercise routine. She said the magazine encourages her models to present themselves to their photo shoots exactly as they are.
The original swimsuit issue was published in 1964. It has been a launching pad for models like Upton, Kathy Ireland, Christie Brinkley, Elle Macpherson, and Ashley Graham.
Over the years, the issue has featured models in painted-on bikinis, plus-size models, raw photos, skimpy swimsuits, amputee models, older models, and the addition of professional athletes and celebrities in relationships.
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“I made a point of not doing anything different for the session,” he explained. “Growing up, I saw these women, and they were so stunning and amazing, but I felt like I didn’t look exactly like the women I saw in the media. So, I want to appear as I appear in the real world. I don’t want to appear as a version of special thing about myself that only comes out once a year. I live an active lifestyle. I exercise a lot. I love Pilates, I love walking with friends and going on coffee walks, but I didn’t do anything very particular for this because I just I wanted to show myself as myself.”
“I think it’s a good message to get across, especially to the younger girls,” she continued. “…And this is a full circle moment. I’m finally the girl I once looked up to. I’m here and I feel so safe… It’s so much more than a picture. It’s everything. It’s my story, my past, and my future”.
Associated Press contributed to this report.
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