From the street, Bianca Balti's California home has the American dream written all over it—even without the white picket fence. From her yard, the heady smell of the freshly cut lawn and the blush-pink rose bushes that line the fence trigger a strong sense of nostalgia, and it sweeps over all of us as we head up the concrete driveway. The major difference here is the colour: It's the only house on the block that's painted a bright Mediterranean Sea blue—as in all over, front and back. "It's my California dream" she says animatedly in her sweet accent, smiling. And it certainly suits the Italian model's sunny disposition. In fact, Balti's warm and welcoming energy would make anyone feel at home instantly.
As soon as I step into the kitchen, her face lights up, and she greets me with a big smile, her arms outstretched pulling me in for a hug as though I'm family—it's the Italian way after all. I'm overwhelmed with the warm-and-fuzzies. I look down to see her 2-year-old daughter, Mia, running barefoot in pigtails playing a friendly game of catch with her older sister, Matilde, who's 9. Despite being thousands of miles away from Italy, her home country, she loves being here, and it's easy to see why.
This is Balti's sanctuary—her very private oasis away from the glare of the paparazzi flash that's become second nature thanks to her successful career as a supermodel and Dolce & Gabbana's leading lady. But when the Orange County sun isn't kissing her cheeks, Balti, 33, is still in high demand. A L'Oréal contract keeps her busy both here and internationally, with frequent flights across the globe and the U.S. Add to that being a mum to two young girls, and it's safe to say Balti is very familiar with the work/life juggle.
"I've always been a working mum," she tells me. "I got pregnant with my first daughter 18 months after I started modelling, and I was doing everything: Victoria's Secret, Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, and others," she explained. "It surely slowed me down a lot." So it seems fitting that we kick off our new series, Her Domaine—a space which celebrates all mums—with this modern superwoman. Because as you'll soon learn, behind closed doors, Balti is a multitasking mum juggling life's many balls in the air, just like us.
Returning to the workforce for any new mum after having a baby can be incredibly daunting. You feel out of touch, oftentimes a little nervous at getting back in the game, and you're unsure at how to balance it all. But Balti happily accepted this challenge. In fact, it empowered her. "As women, I really believe we're able to multitask and achieve everything in life," she says. "Being a good mother has always been the most important goal in my life, but I've never felt that it was an obstacle that stood in the way of anything else. I just took it one day at the time and made it work while working toward all of my other achievements."
Balti admits the transition to motherhood is "certainly hard work," but there are so many other benefits that outweigh any negatives. "It's been so empowering to see that I can do whatever I set my mind on," she says. "I try to be both the best mum I can and the best businesswoman I can every day of my life."
If anything, becoming a mum has made Balti appreciate her job so much more because she has the opportunity to give her daughters a better life. "Whenever I feel guilty about not being with my daughters because I’m travelling across the world, I reassure myself that it's very important to show them a strong work ethic," she says. "I really want them to get the notion that they don't have to rely on anybody else to take care of them."
She concedes that perfecting the juggle is definitely an art (something she's still perfecting), but one of the most surprising things she's learned since becoming a mum is that she can do it. "Every day I surprise myself by being able to take care of those two beautiful girls in every aspect of their lives," she says. "I think to myself Gosh their whole life depends completely on me." But she doesn't take it too seriously either and truly believes in taking time out for yourself, too. The self-care ritual she swears by (and says every working mum should try too) is trying to stick to one date night a week. "He usually feels guilty by leaving the girls home, but I don't," she laughs. "It's very important to take some time with your man!"
These date nights are vital, not only to keep their relationship fresh and the passion alive, but so they can "have a dinner without baby talk and food spilled all over," she laughs. "It's important to playfully tease each other in moments of the day that wouldn't seem appropriate for that: a comment while I'm cooking or while he's in the garage building something… every moment is good for laughs."
While Balti is frequently overseas or on set shooting another cover or campaign, she's able to keep her work/life balance in check by "doing a job that I love." She explains: "I don't feel like work is taking away from my life, but it actually enriches it. I also make sure not to be away from my family for too long so things remain a little bit more consistent in all of our lives. It's really challenging, but we make it work." But despite the demands and the constant juggle, Balti can't wait to go from two to three and maybe even four kids. "It just made everything even better," she says about life after baby number two. "Kids keep you on your toes and are so amazing."
Of course, she's aware that having a supportive husband nearby also makes everything easier. "As a divorced woman, you get a bit nervous about finding a partner who will take on the role as a dad, but my husband is amazing and we work as a team with both girls," she says. "He gives me the strength to want more kids, and I couldn't do it without him. So my suggestion is to find yourself a great partner."
Running a successful business and being a mum takes its toll, especially when you throw travel into the mix, but Balti has unlocked a secret weapon: meal prep. "When I leave for work, I try to meal prep and put everything in individual containers in the fridge so they're ready to heat up and eat," she says. "My husband is great, but not really the best chef, so I don't want her (Mia) to end up eating quesadillas all the time."
Thanks to her Italian upbringing, Balti believes the secret to eating healthy is eating fresh and avoiding processed food, so she always loves to cook her own meals. "The day starts with avocado toast and milk or cereals," she explains. "We eat a lot of pasta with broccoli or minestrone for dinner. The snacks are mostly fruit and most importantly we try to only drink water. I learned that the worst enemies for health are sauces and sodas. So I only use virgin olive oil and I don't keep soda in the house to avoid any temptation."
So how does she get her girls to eat their veggies? "I put them in a soup or mixed in with a pasta dish," she says, smiling. "Then I cover them with parmesan cheese and olive oil. Everything tastes so yummy covered in parmesan cheese." Indeed. But on top of eating well, she also believes in leading an active life. "We try to ride bikes and play outdoors as much as possible, which is why I love being in California so much," she says. "It allows my family to do that every day of the year."
While from the outside looking in, Balti's life is all glamor and red carpets, on the inside, it's a very different story. It's early mornings and super early nights. "Oh, I need my coffee first thing in the morning," she says without hesitation. "I’m a total early bird. I just can't sleep in as much because I love to go to bed early. We would have dinner around 6 p.m. and I’ll be in bed with my daughter (yes, my little one sleeps with me) no later than 8 p.m. Then I would watch some Netflix in bed. I get hooked on different series and right now I'm obsessed with Sons of Anarchy." See, it's all very normal around the Balti household.
In fact, taking care of herself and being comfortable at home (and in her own skin) is one of the biggest life lessons she's learned in her career and as a mum. "I have to take care of myself first in order to take care of everything else," she points out. And she puts herself first now too. "I used to be such a people pleaser as I lacked confidence, but learning to love myself freed me from that and now I only allow what’s beneficial for my mental health," she said defiantly. "I cannot please everybody, I am who I am and if someone doesn't fit in my life I don't have to feel sorry for that."
Of course, this takes confidence but as Balti points out, just "do the best that you can. You can’t do more than that so it's useless to punish yourself. Embrace it." And that also means abandoning perfection. "All the mums that seem to have it all together are doing just that: the best that they can. And there is no wrong and right. We're all different. If you do the best that you can and stay serene, it’s the best gift you can give to your kids."
There's no denying it; travelling with kids isn't easy, but with a home in Italy and Orange County, Balti is frequently flying between them both, often with the girls in tow. "I travelled with my kids a lot," she says. "Mia came with me on all my work trips for her first 18 months because I was breastfeeding. It’s hard but you can do it. Don't let motherhood be an obstacle to anything you want to do. I've travelled on a plane with both my kids alone, so if I can do it, anybody can."
The secret? "Just stay calm and don't panic," she stresses. "And use a carrier for the babies. Not all airports allow strollers, and you need your hands to be free to handle passports and all kinds of stuff. So my best practical tip is to use a carrier. Mia is 2, and she still fits in it."
With so many things on the go at any given time, Balti has to get more done in less time to squeeze everything in. It goes without saying that she has become a pro at multitasking. "While I do phone calls, I respond to emails," she says. "While my daughters have breakfast, I catch up with Europe. The time difference between California and Europe is terrible, and when I wake up they're about to close, so the girls have breakfast on the couch watching Sesame Street while I'm working. That might not be the best way to do breakfast for them, but that's what I meant earlier about being the best mum you can. I need that time, and that's the solution I found that works for me."
While Italy will always be home, Balti loves being able to raise her girls in Orange County and says it actually feels much easier. "The weather is great, so they spend a lot of time playing outside," she says. "Our neighbourhood is very safe, so the kids all play together and there is a very strong sense of community."
With such a busy schedule both at home and at work, Balti doesn't stop, but she's quick to point out that her life is anything but the one posted on Instagram. "Whatever your idea is about the life of a supermodel, it doesn't apply to me," she quips. "I live simply, and I’m really adamant about keeping my professional life separated from my personal one."