It’s been three years since Marisa Miller singed the pages of Malibu Magazine with her honey-blonde tresses, killer bod and sexy, soul-searching stare. A lot has changed for the veteran Sports Illustrated and Victoria Secret supermodel. She got married, took up boxing and designed a line of sneakers for Vans, Inc. She also became a generous and involved supporter of the Young Survival Coalition, an international nonprofit network of breast cancer survivors and supporters dedicated to the concerns and issues that are unique to young women with the disease.
Some things about Miller haven’t changed. Yes, she still likes to do the laundry (that’s the truth), she still loves to surf and, despite her wildly successful year, is still a super-down-to-earth human being. She really is that nice. Welcome back, Marisa.
Did you always want to be a model? Were you shocked when photographer Mario Testino discovered you on that fateful day in Manhattan Beach?
No and yes. As you know I’m from Santa Cruz, a really small town in Northern California. There is really very little awareness of the entertainment industry or tabloids or US Weekly up there. Even to be aware of celebrity is rare. Everybody pretty much surfs or skates, and it’s a very simple existence. S0, modeling wasn’t something I even knew was an occupation. Even when I was 16 years old putting pictures and posters on my wall, I never had the thought, “Oh, the people in these pictures are models and this is what they do for a living.” It was just my sisters and I messing up our room, just ripping out pages in magazines and sticking them on the wall. That was the extent of me reading fashion magazines. I didn’t really have a big clue about any of it. I was aware of it, but nothing like this is what I want to do some day.
What was it like to see yourself for the first time on a cover of a magazine?
It’s still weird. I was in the airport the other day looking through magazines and the (Sports Illustrated) was just sitting there. I wear a hat when I’m in the airport. I’m not comfortable with it to be honest. It’s not something I’ve embraced all the way. I think it’s cool, but I don’t get off on being a model. I’m not like, “Hey, look at me!” It’s bizarre that this is my job because I think I’m more the girl who likes to watch than the one that everybody’s watching.
What is your best feature?
My freckles — which is strange because my sisters also have freckles and we all used to hate them growing up.
What is your greatest flaw?
Being a swimsuit model, you really have to learn to embrace everything. Whatever hang-ups you have, you have to get over them. To be honest I’ve come to terms with everything. When I first started in the business, a real androgynous look was in. It would say on my casting papers they didn’t want to see girls with more than a B cup. So, for a while I thought I was too short and too curvy. Now, I’ve found the clients that love that about me. That’s when I learned I couldn’t love and hate things about myself just because of what the business dictates. I learned a long time a go that I’ve got a body and I’ve got to love it – all of it.
Three years ago you graced the cover of Malibu Magazine. What have been the biggest changes you’ve gone through?
As far as being a model, obviously I’m more comfortable. I’m more of a businesswoman now. I’ve learned to be that way. Coming into the modeling business, I was pretty naive and trusting. I don’t think I put any real value on my career. I definitely have more of awareness now and an appreciation for it. It has been a huge gift being able to do this at a young age and having seen the world and to have the experiences I have had. There are people I know back in Santa Cruz who have never left home, which isn’t a bad thing, but I definitely have a lot more life experience now than I did when I started.
With all your experience traveling what sticks out in your mind as something that has shifted your perception of the world?
That’s hard to say because there have been a lot experiences that have changed me from the girl who grew up in Santa Cruz to the woman who deals with what’s going on now. Personally, one of the most positive things has been meeting Griffin — not that I was cynical before, but when you’re a girl, well, I’ve seen a lot and I’ve had a lot of interaction with some not-so-nice people. I don’t think I was very optimistic. I was a little hard from traveling for 10 years by myself — not that it was depressing. I just think it wasn’t as happy as it is now. It’s hard to describe, but I feel that before I met Griffin it was like I was seeing everything in black-and-white, and now it’s in color. I’m embracing life a little more, and not just getting on a plane every day.
So you’re on a plane every day?
I was, yeah. Some days I was home three days a month, living out of my suitcase, going from job to job to job. And the hard thing, too, is that you’re never anywhere for more than two days, so it’s not like you settle into a place for five days and get over your jetlag. I remember one time getting my itinerary and it was about 18 planes until I was on the one that took me home.
Is there any place in the world where, if you had some down time, you’d say, “I am going back there?”
Fiji, for sure. That was definitely the coolest place I’ve ever been. First, the waves are amazing, and the people are really friendly.
What’s your definition of success?
What’s your idea of happiness?
Since I travel so much, I really value the time I get to spend with my friends and family. Some sort of gathering with them at the beach would be my ideal of happiness.
Can you say a little something about nudity?
Privately, I’m very comfortable with my body, but publicly you don’t want to be that comfortable because you know it can be taken from, “Oh, it’s so beautiful” to not being so beautiful. It depends on the photographer and what you’re doing. There have been times when I’ve shot with a photographer nude, covering all my bits and pieces and feeling totally comfortable, and then there have been times were I’ve been wearing a t-shirt and jeans and felt extremely uncomfortable because of what the photographer was saying and doing. I’m very lucky working with the clients I work with because it’s very rare to come across someone who’s unprofessional. When you’re at that level, you’re dealing with the most talented people in the business and they didn’t get there by being assholes.
What is the Young Survival Coalition and how are you involved?
Young Survival Coalition is an organization I make donations to on a regular basis. For me, there is a personal aspect to it. I was already an ambassador for the American Cancer Society, and then somebody told me about this organization that educates women younger than 40 about breast cancer. I had no idea, my friends had no idea and my sisters had no idea that you can get breast cancer when you’re 25. It was crazy to talk to women who had had double mastectomies at 24. What I didn’t know was that oftentimes, when you get cancer at a younger age, it’s more aggressive. I was talking to girls who had no history of cancer in their family, who were very healthy and then had double mastectomies.
Hearing these stories made me want to spread awareness to younger women — not that you have to be afraid of breast cancer, but that you have to be aware of it because the main thing with cancer is to catch it early.
Younger women need to be doing, at the very least, self-examinations. The problem is that mammograms are really expensive and a lot of insurance companies don’t cover them. I think that’s bullshit because breast cancer is treatable, and the first line of defense is getting mammograms to catch it early. I just think it’s crap that guys can get their prostates checked and colonoscopies covered, and mammograms aren’t covered. That kind of stuff pisses me off.
If you had only one day to live how would you spend it?
In Santa Cruz surfing and eating in all of my favorite restaurants.