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How the Tampa Bay Times scored a photo shoot with Camille Kostek at Raymond James Stadium

The model, Instagram queen and girlfriend to Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski was a joy to work with.
Model Camille Kostek in the stands at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Jan. 4, 2021.
Model Camille Kostek in the stands at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Jan. 4, 2021. [ Brian James, brianjamesgallery.com ]
Published Feb. 3
Updated Feb. 3

It was mid-November when I got a call from Bay magazine editor Kathy Saunders. Our next issue comes out on Super Bowl Sunday, she said. Did I think we could rent Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, host of the big game, for our fashion shoot?

Bay is a high-end fashion and lifestyles magazine that goes out to 60,000 Tampa Bay Times subscribers eight times a year. For each issue, we hire a model, our fashion stylist selects clothes and accessories and photographer Brian James makes beautiful photos on location. Times are tight in the newspaper business, so we often pick locations that are free.

Related: Clicking on the Bay cover here lets you flip through the Feb. 7 magazine

But Kathy had a point: How cool would it be to feature the stadium as the backdrop for fashion on game day in Tampa?

Bay’s stylist, Tina Jackson, is married to former Buccaneer Dexter Jackson. Tina gave Kathy a contact high up in the organization. She haggled and got us a deal on the rental and we got it approved. Next step was to find a model. We joked about asking Gisele Bündchen, supermodel wife of Bucs quarterback Tom Brady.

The next brilliant idea was to reach out to Camille Kostek — you know, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover model and longtime bae of Rob Gronkowski. Camille is huge on Instagram, so we reached out through our verified Tampa Bay Times account to see if she’d be interested.

Related: See the Camille Kostek photo shoot here

To our huge surprise, she said yes, absolutely, her manager would be in touch. Camille told us later that it was a fluke that she saw the direct message — she almost never checks them. She was going to be in Tampa for the Bucs game on Jan. 3 and our shoot was Jan. 4. She was good with our usual modeling fee. It was all just...perfect.

At Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 4

Our team arrived for the photo shoot on the same day the NFL took over Raymond James Stadium to prepare for Super Bowl 55. That’s why the NFL now has my name, age and blood type on file, because that’s how easy it was to get in.

To reduce coronavirus risk, the team was small. There that day were me, Kathy, Brian and his photo assistant and videographer Ashley Lamb, stylist Tina and her daughter/assistant, hair and makeup artist Monique McLaughlin and, of course, Camille.

Photographer Brian James and hair and makeup artist Monique McLaughlin work on the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Jan. 4, 2021.
Photographer Brian James and hair and makeup artist Monique McLaughlin work on the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Jan. 4, 2021. [ ELLEN E. CLARKE | Tampa Bay Times ]

I’m not sure what I expected from a supermodel and Instagram influencer, but Camille was immediately a delight. She knows what looks natural and what seems forced. She was interested in the outfits, the process and, well, us. She looked at pictures of our dogs, telling us how she and Rob really want one but feel like they aren’t home enough.

Kathy brought homemade chocolate chip cookies along. Camille ate the cookies. (In fact, she took them home to share and let us know that Gronk loved them, too.)

I was there as the boss and the timekeeper, but I’m always game to get involved. So I was holding props for the cover shoot and got to gently blast Camille with a cordless leaf blower for another look.

Tampa Bay Times deputy editor for life & culture Ellen Clarke helps with lighting while model Camille Kostek poses at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 4.
Tampa Bay Times deputy editor for life & culture Ellen Clarke helps with lighting while model Camille Kostek poses at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 4. [ KATHY SAUNDERS | Tampa Bay Times ]

My favorite story from the day came at the end. Kathy and I were headed back to the makeshift dressing room with Camille, who was wearing a formal gown with a train. We’re headed up on the escalator and the background was so stark and linear compared to her in this stunning dress.

Model Camille Kostek smiles back at Ellen Clarke and Kathy Saunders. Seconds later, she raised her hand to give a peace sign and a ring flew off her finger.
Model Camille Kostek smiles back at Ellen Clarke and Kathy Saunders. Seconds later, she raised her hand to give a peace sign and a ring flew off her finger. [ ELLEN E. CLARKE | Tampa Bay Times ]

I pulled out my phone to take a photo and Camille turned back to throw me a smile and a peace sign. As she did that, the ring chosen by the stylist to go with the dress flew off of her finger in an arc. We all gasped, waiting to hear it hit and get stuck in the grinding escalator. Instead, Kathy looked up and said, “I think that just landed in my pocket.” She reached in and pulled it out of her jacket pocket. No harm done.

Ready for Super Bowl 55 in Tampa

Model Camille Kostek in the tunnel at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Jan. 4, 2021. This look was aided by a handheld leaf blower operated by editor Ellen Clarke.
Model Camille Kostek in the tunnel at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Jan. 4, 2021. This look was aided by a handheld leaf blower operated by editor Ellen Clarke. [ Brian James, brianjamesgallery.com ]

Camille stayed in touch with our team, checking out the photos we selected to run. After the Bucs beat the Packers in the NFC Championship, Kathy texted her that we were even more excited that Camille would grace the Bay cover on Super Bowl Sunday. Camille immediately texted back that she’d just said the same to her friend and was excited to get back to Tampa and see them make history as the first team to play in the Super Bowl on their home field. She said the images would be iconic now.

We couldn’t agree more!

• • •

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