Growing up in Winder, Georgia, population 15,000, actress and model Jena Sims followed the path of countless small-town girls with big ambitions. At 18, she lit out for the city—first Atlanta, then Nashville, and finally, Los Angeles—as she steadily advanced her career. The chances of landing in Jupiter were slim to none, until she was introduced to the area by her fiancé, champion golfer and West Palm Beach native Brooks Koepka.
“I remember after our plane landed, we drove up I-95 to the Jupiter exit,” recalls Sims. “As we crossed over the bridge on Indiantown Road, Brooks turned to me and said, ‘Welcome home.’ I thought that was really sweet, and three months later, I moved here.” That was back in 2017, the year they officially became a couple. Four years later, she is so enamored with the Jupiter way of life that she has decided to settle here permanently. It doesn’t hurt that her younger sister, Hannah, lives here too. “She works for Lola Dré, and I do modeling for them on occasion, so it’s nice to see our worlds collide,” says Sims. “It’s also the first time I’ve lived close to family since I moved out of my mom’s house after high school.”
Relaxing by the pool in the home she shares with Koepka, in a quiet neighborhood along the banks of the Loxahatchee River, Sims recounts the many reasons she loves Jupiter, including the variety of great restaurants, the beach, and the mix of people. “I like the slower pace, especially after living in L.A. for almost nine years,” she says. “It feels like a vacation here.” She and Koepka are in the process of building a new home, not far from their current location, where they plan to eventually raise a family.
Sims and Koepka met in the modern way—online. She sent him a message through Instagram and, to her surprise, he responded. They eventually exchanged phone numbers but didn’t meet in person until the Masters Tournament at Augusta National that year. According to Sims, Koepka says he clearly remembers spotting her among the spectators between the seventh and eighth holes and can even recall what she was wearing. When they later met, she remembers they hugged and then went to dinner that night with his family. Although she says she knew then that he was “the one,” the two went their separate ways in 2016—but reconnected a year later. This past March, they became engaged after Koepka proposed on the beach in Jupiter. They plan to wed this coming June.
Long before Koepka was a part of her life, Sims, 32, had already charted a well-planned road toward her goal of becoming a model and actress, beginning with winning the title of Miss Georgia Teen USA in 2007. While still in high school, she founded her own charitable organization, HBBQ (Has-Been Beauty Queens). Marshaling a close-knit group of former contest winners, she began staging pageants under Pageant of Hope, for children with mental and physical challenges. “I lost both of my grandfathers to cancer at an early age, and I was raising money for Relay for Life with my grandmother to benefit the American Cancer Society,” says Sims. “Through that organization, I got to work directly with childhood cancer patients and even do hospital visits in Atlanta. I was inspired by that and wanted to spend more time with these amazing kids, some of whom were my age at the time.”
“I was in many, many pageants before becoming Miss Georgia Teen,” she continues. “I remember what it felt like to finally win, and I wanted to pass that feeling along.” The goal of Pageant of Hope is to teach inner beauty and confidence, with every participant leaving a winner. “All of them get a title [like ‘best smile’ or ‘best hair’], a sash, and a crown,” says Sims.
To date, Pageant of Hope has been held in 16 states and 6 international locations, including Cuba, South Africa, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. Despite being derailed by the COVID pandemic for a year, Sims has the next pageant in the works (in Raleigh, North Carolina) and is hoping to stage one here in Jupiter. Luckily, she has a surplus of potential volunteers to help.
“All of my friends are dying to get involved,” she says. “The thing is, they go in thinking they’re helping—and they are. But what they don’t realize is how much they’ll get out of it. It’s so humbling and the best feeling in the world. I get messages from these kids after every pageant, saying things like, ‘I wore my crown to school’ or ‘I’m teaching my friends the pageant walk.’ One girl who had cancer was in a pageant in my hometown, and she just lit up during the contest. When she passed away, she was buried in her sash, and her mom told me that the pageant was her last great memory.”
The charity has always been a constant in Sims’ life, even as her career moved upward. She began modeling as a natural extension of winning Miss Georgia Teen and has never stopped. Since moving to Florida and joining a Miami agency, she estimates she has already filmed around 75 commercials. Acting has led to roles in films such as The Last Movie Star with Burt Reynolds, Attack of the 50-Foot Cheerleader, and Sharknado 5. Her most recent film was Apocalypse Love Story (2020), and there is another new movie in the works, she says.
Acting, modeling, and philanthropy allow Sims to spread her wings creatively and fulfill her need for variety and spontaneity. “I like unpredictability, and I like the hustle,” she says. “I’m a Capricorn, and we like to lead with how busy we are. Everything I do is creative.” She recently launched an internet domain for a new venture called Fairway Runway, which showcases golf and tournament fashion. “People are always asking me what they should wear to tournaments, and I thought I could show them what I wear,” she says of what sparked the idea. “Plus, I need something of my own to keep me busy when I’m on the road with Brooks and am not able to work in modeling or acting.” She is leaving the door open to creating her own fashion line someday, possibly in swimsuits or leisure wear.
“I’m happiest when I have a hundred things on my list,” says Sims. “Brooks is driven on the golf course, and our work drives both of us. But off the course, I would call him more relaxed. We both love giving back. Brooks has a foundation of his own, and we have some similar causes—kids with challenges and animals.”
She certainly has a lot on her plate right now—planning a wedding, building a home, supporting Koepka on the PGA Tour, and managing her busy career and philanthropy—but Sims is brimming with joyous optimism, looking toward a future filled with new possibilities in her adopted hometown. “I think people here know me as Brooks Koepka’s fiancée, but I’d like to bring more of my passions here,” she says. “I still have so many dreams, and I foresee us living in Jupiter forever.” @jenasims (Instagram)
Local organizations interested in being involved in a Jupiter Pageant of Hope can contact Sims at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mini golf, manicures, and margaritas… Sims shares how she spends her downtime
With a busy schedule on the road, Sims and Koepka spend much of their time in Jupiter relaxing and catching up on tasks in between tours. “This afternoon, I’m getting my nails and hair done, visiting my sister, and packing for the Ryder Cup,” says Sims (at the time of this interview in September). When they actually find time to unwind, they’re often outside cruising the river on Koepka’s powerboat for sunset cocktail tours, playing mini golf at Lighthouse Cove Adventure Golf, or walking the beach with their beloved 4-year-old black Labrador, Cove.
Favorite restaurants tend to be nearby, with Sims joking that they stay in a “bubble” encompassing Jupiter and Tequesta. “We are never in Jupiter very long without at least one visit to U-Tiki,” she says. Another beloved eatery is PapiChulo for the margaritas. “I’m a spicy margarita girl, and I’ve tried them at every restaurant. Papi makes the best.” Sims and Koepka are also regulars at Josco Bar and Oven for the live music and Square Grouper for the laid-back atmosphere that feels like a mini-vacation. Sims says she also sends out the “bat signal” to her friends, meeting up with whomever is in town for lunch or drinks and dancing. “I have a strong group of friends, and I’m so grateful for that.”
Cocooning at home, the couple kicks back with “black couch days” to watch reality TV, Sims says, referring to the massive black sectional in the family room. “That couch was in Brooks’ first home, it’s in this house, and it’s coming with us to the next house,” she says with a laugh. “Home is what you make of it and the people you’re with. Just clicking on the remote and seeing the message ‘Would you like to pick up where you left off on Bachelor in Paradise?,’ I’m like, ‘Yes, please!’ That’s home for me.”