America’s Next Top Model—the reality competition series produced by Tyra Banks—is pulling out the big guns this season, with a panel of judges that includes fashion editor André Leon Talley and guest spots by designers like Diane von Furstenberg, Patricia Field, and Zac Posen. Last night, supermodel Karolina Kurkova stopped by the model mansion to share some healthy eating tips and life lessons she’s learned being on the catwalking front lines for ten years (after a brief hiatus, KK was back on the runway this season with turns at shows like Michael Kors, Roberto Cavalli, Jean Paul Gaultier, Elle Saab, and Hermès). Here, the 26-year-old Czech beauty chats with us about organic living, being a model mom, and why even a size zero can’t live on lettuce and water alone.

—Kari Molvar

So how did you become involved with the show?

Tyra asked me to come on and talk about my experiences, and I decided it would be a good opportunity to share what I’ve learned. But I also wanted to inspire these girls and talk to them as their peer. So the filming was casual—I went to the model mansion without my heels on and hung out with them for three hours. We sat around in a circle and they asked me questions.

Was focusing on the topic of healthy eating something they brought up or is that more of a personal soapbox?

A lot of these girls don’t know how to take care of themselves. They have misconceptions that to be a size zero, you can’t eat or you can only have things that are really plain and boring. I definitely can’t live on lettuce and water! I’m very organic; I like to eat natural foods and exercise. You really have to take care of yourself from within. This was an important message for me to get across, especially when I heard that the girls were eating fried Oreos—and they wondered why their skin was so bad! When you eat well, you feel good, and that shows.

Is cooking a passion of yours, then?

When I’m home, I try to cook as much as I can. I like to prepare healthy meals with quinoa and brown rice, and I snack on fresh nut milk made from scratch. I also love this green fruit smoothie, which I made on the episode. It’s hard to win over girls who are used to eating chips, but they liked it. When I left, I actually gave them the blender and basket of fruit and vegetables as a gift. I’m trying to show them that good food can be tasty. I’ve also been getting into different cookbooks, and I actually just came back from We Care in Palm Spring, where I did a juice cleanse.

Did you have a mentor when you were a young model coming up the ranks?

I didn’t really have anyone. I always had great agents, but there wasn’t always a shoulder to cry on. I had to rely on myself. Thank God I had a good upbringing, and I was independent with street smarts. But I can appreciate the sad or difficult moments I had now and I can be compassionate and really understand what these models are going through.

As a working model who recently gave birth, do you think the media places too much attention on models’ bodies post-baby?

For me, being a model and a mom is pretty cool. I never viewed having a baby as an excuse not to work out. Afterward, I was ready to get back to the gym. Also, it’s good to show the newer models who are like 16 or 17 that you can have a family and still be successful, like Gisele and Miranda Kerr. Of course, I miss my baby every second I’m working, but it’s important to have that balance in my life.

The cast has to perform some pretty crazy stunts to prove their mettle, like walking in heels on a conveyer belt runway. What’s the most insane shoot you’ve ever done?

I had to do a shoot under the water in the ocean while breathing through an oxygen tube and, you know, still look good in the pictures. That was pretty out there. I also had to stand on the edge of a tall building and hold an American flag for a shoot with Vogue. I’m scared of heights, so that was challenging. Another time I had to go skiing through the mountains while wearing basically nothing. I’ve gone to crazy places and been in amazing situations, but it makes work fun.

Give it to us straight: Do you think being on a reality show can actually make you a supermodel?

It really has to do with the girls, with their looks, and whether they’re right for what’s happening in fashion. We’re in the stage where it’s not just about being beautiful or size zero. It’s about being kind and professional, and having a personality. If there is a girl who has that oomph and light, it doesn’t matter where she comes from; she will get noticed.