12/10/2014 05:29 pm ET Updated Dec 10, 2014

Petra Němcová Had To 'Sacrifice' Sexy Modeling Work To Be Taken Seriously As A Philanthropist

Petra Němcová's Happy Hearts Fund has built 96 schools in natural disaster zones across the globe since its inception in 2005, but she couldn't be taken seriously as a philanthropist until she toned down her sexy image.

Despite Němcová's deep personal connection to her cause -- she was caught in the 2004 tsunami in Thailand, and her boyfriend was killed -- people assumed that because she is a supermodel, she would "disappear" after a year or two of work. The only way to remedy that was to "sacrifice" certain types of modeling, she told HuffPost Live on Wednesday.

"I stopped actually doing lots of Sports Illustrated work or anything sexy, and I stopped doing it for many, many years, just to show that I'm really committed and serious about what I'm doing with philanthropy," Němcová said.

She stopped short of explicitly agreeing with host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani's assessment that a man wouldn't have to change his image to be a philanthropist, but she made it clear her beautiful body was an obstacle for the Happy Hearts Fund.

"If I speak at the United Nations and the same day somebody sees me in a bathing suit, people don't take you very seriously," she said. "So I wanted to show my commitment and took certain steps to do it, such as not doing sexy types of work. And then once we had results ... then I had something to prove, 'OK, I am serious, because together we have built X amount of schools.'"

Her efforts have certainly paid off. Happy Hearts Fund is set to open its 100th school by the end of 2014, and the organization even launched an official partnership with Sports Illustrated earlier this year.

Watch Petra Němcová's full HuffPost Live conversation here.

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