She may now be a superstar, but Chrissy Teigen is still the same refreshingly honest and disarmingly funny woman who shared hilarious tales and mouth-watering recipes via her food blog, So Delushious, so many years ago.
As candid about her imperfections and insecurities as she is about the highs and lows of fame, parenting and everything in between, Teigen — who’s grown her Cravings business into a mini empire over the last few years — is more than deserving to grace the cover of this year’s The Beautiful Issue.
A hands-on mom to daughter Luna, 4, and son Miles, 2, with husband John Legend, 42, the cookbook author, 35, is now teaching her kids to be exactly who they are.
Watch the full episode of The Beautiful Issue Cover Story: Chrissy Teigen streaming now on PeopleTV.com or on the People TV app.
“I’m an open, free spirit and I love kids to be kids. For us, kindness is such a big thing. When you meet our kids, they’re very warm and friendly,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “You instill those things in them, but for the most part let them be creative and wondrous and spirited and curious beings.”
Born in Utah and raised in Snohomish, Washington, and Huntington Beach, California, Teigen says her Thai mom, Vilailuck “Pepper” Teigen, also encouraged her to discover life for herself.
“My mom was never once like, ‘You probably shouldn’t use Sharpie on your eyebrows,’ ” she says, laughing. “She just let me do it — and I learned! With kids, you let them figure out what they love. John and I are both very relaxed and willing to learn together.”
While working as a model in her late teens and early 20s, Teigen — who was discovered by a photographer at a surf shop while she was working retail — says she often counted calories and stuck to various diets.
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But now, “it’s more important for me to enjoy things as they come. I put my mind and spirit over body. If it’s going to make me happy and make me feel good, then I indulge in it,” says the Safely co-founder. “I’ve spent too many years counting calories and scheduling way too many workouts and trying to figure out what my term for wellness was for myself. Now I know it’s on the ground playing with my kids or going to a park or an aquarium.”
With her business rapidly growing (and a restaurant on the way!), Teigen is feeling more fulfilled than ever in her career.
“I always knew I wanted to be a mom and a wife, but work-wise I never knew exactly where I fit in or what I could do,” she says. “I’m very proud for bringing together all these talented people, and the amount of love and feedback [we’ve gotten] with Cravings makes me so happy.”
After meeting on the set of Legend’s 2006 “Stereo” music video, Teigen quickly fell for her future husband. The couple tied the knot in a fairytale wedding in Lake Como seven years later and have been through life’s most joyful — and devastating — moments together.
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“I thought I knew everything about John, and then [we] had children. Seeing him take care of them is beautiful,” she says. “Seeing my partner be a father is really wonderful.”
Last year the couple faced the unimaginable when they lost their son, Jack, at 20 weeks of pregnancy. Sharing their heartbreak publicly, the stars helped others struggling with similar loss feel less alone.
“I’ve learned how strong physically and mentally a body can be. I’ve learned how strong I am. This year has been a roller coaster for everybody in the world, including our little family,” she says.
“Seeing people rally around us has been really beautiful. There have been things in the past year that I never thought John would have to see, but it’s also been so wonderful that we have prevailed and still see each other with so much more love than we could have ever, ever imagined ever in our lives,” adds Teigen. “Whatever love we put out into the world 10 years ago, we’re getting it back tenfold. I feel every piece of love from everybody around the world.”
Looking ahead to her future, Teigen says she can’t wait to grow old with Legend — and be surrounded by loved ones for the rest of their lives together.
“I can’t wait to see salt-and-pepper John and me next to him with my silver hair. I really look forward to our children being hopefully the type of kids that come over every weekend for Sunday dinner,” she says. “That would be incredibly meaningful to me. I will be so happy seeing my family all around the same table.”
For more of our exclusive interview with Teigen, pick up this week’s The Beautiful Issue on newsstands Friday and check out all of our coverage on PEOPLE.com.
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