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Brooklyn Decker: It's good to have a piece of humble pie

Although her 2010 Sports Illustrated cover may be the first thing people think of, model-turned-actress Brooklyn Decker says that's not what she's most proud of in her career.

Decker got her start when she was scouted in a mall at 14 years old. She told CNBC that she initially saw her modeling career as a way to pay for school. Decker soon spent most of her school breaks in New York and became successful enough to put off college.

"The cover of Sports Illustrated is the pinnacle of everything you would want in that profession and specifically at the time that I got it," said the now 29-year-old actress, but her success in the fashion industry wasn't fulfilling. Decker explained that she felt modeling had reduced her to an image on a page.

The former model explained that social media, which she feels empowers models to have their own voice, was less prevalent when she was still active in the industry.

"At the time, Sports Illustrated was the only magazine that published your name, your hometown, that had a biography about you," she said, adding that the magazine is like family.

"They wanted the girls to have personality and that personality to come out, whereas most publications at the time just wanted the model to wear the clothes and take pictures and that was it," Decker explained.

"Now that we as entertainers have been given a voice, we're not just playing a character or just an image. It's an incredibly powerful tool," Decker said.

"I tweet and Instagram very embarrassing things — sometimes I question why I do that myself — but you know, some people are drawn to that and relate to that and other people think it's strange, and that's OK because it feels authentic to who I am," she explained.

Brooklyn Decker
Maarten de Boer | Getty Images
Brooklyn Decker

Decker said she walked away from the fashion industry the year after she got her Sports Illustrated cover to pursue acting, but her pivot to Hollywood wasn't exactly smooth.

"I had a couple of projects come out and not do very well, and that could have been the end of my career for me. I walked away from modeling and that was lucrative for me at the time," Decker said.

"I could've easily gone back and to what was comfortable and what was a sure thing and what I knew would make me an income, and I didn't. I chose to be kind of unemployed for a while," she explained.

"That was one of the things that I was most proud of, is having a piece of humble pie and staying the course."

"Don't do anything for immediate gratification. Delayed gratification is your friend in this business." -Brooklyn Decker, actress

Even with her difficulties early in her acting career, Decker was still thrust into the spotlight quickly.

"I wish I had taken more time. I wish I would've studied more. I wish I would've taken more time before auditioning. I wish I would've really laid the groundwork out before I jumped into this side of things," she said.

Decker's advice to people looking to get started in Hollywood is to commit to the craft.

"I would say be willing to just be foolish and throw yourself in fully and study and work and have the long play in mind," she said. "Don't do anything for immediate gratification. Delayed gratification is your friend in this business."