Marisa Miller Breaks the Mold
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Plucked From Obscurity By Mario Testino
A decade ago Marisa Miller was traveling the West Coast with her family, following the beach volleyball circuit because her dad was a big fan of the sport. While she was surfing with some friends, a man with a camera approached and asked Miller if he could snap a few shots, telling her, “This is going to change your life.” That man was legendary fashion photographer Mario Testino.
“I had no idea who he was, no clue what he was talking about,” she laughs. The photos made the rounds of Testino’s industry connections, and it wasn’t long before Miller was set up with a modeling agency in New York. “I was so fortunate to start with someone like him,” she says, “because the doors just got opened by association.”
Only a year later, in 2002, Miller made her first appearance in Sports Illustrated’s celebrated Swimsuit Edition. “I didn’t have an awareness of the fashion industry or the high-fashion magazines,” she says. “But Sports Illustrated had been in my house growing up—I definitely had an awareness of what it was and how iconic the women in those issues were.”
Miller appeared in the Swimsuit Edition for each of the following six years, scoring a solo cover in 2008. “When I was in Italian Vogue, I had to tell my parents what a big deal that was,” Miller says. “But to be in Sports Illustrated, I didn’t have to say anything—they knew how big that was.”
Miller clearly has a knack for landing high-profile, fiercely competitive gigs—she next garnered a spot as a Victoria’s Secret Angel in 2008. “Working for those two companies [Sports Illustrated and Victoria’s Secret], that’s how you become a household name, which is always the leap you’re trying to make as a model—for people to be able to put a name to your face,” she says. With two of the most coveted jobs in the industry on her résumé, there’s no doubt that Miller has more than reached that point.
That’s not to say that living as an international sex symbol came easy to her. “It’s not really in my personality to be the center of attention, so that’s something I’ve had to learn to grow comfortable with,” she admits. Unexpected words from a supermodel, but then again, Miller doesn’t exude fame and fortune. “Any of my friends from home would tell you that I’m the same person they knew growing up,” she insists. “It’s really important to surround yourself with people who bring you down to earth and who are genuine and real.”
Miller is quick to recall her laid-back childhood in Santa Cruz, on the central coast of California, where she says she was “pretty removed from the entertainment industry.” Always athletic, she has been surfing for decades and never planned to stray far from the area (she currently lives in Los Angeles). But when her career took off, she was excited to see the world, if only temporarily. “In the beginning,” she says, “the best part was traveling and seeing other cultures and different ways of life.” Now married, in her early 30s and well-established as a model, Miller enjoys projects she can get genuinely excited about, tapping into different things she loves. “Being able to show my athletic side within the job is really fun.”
Poster (and Commercial) Child
Recent collaborations have allowed her to do just that. Last fall, Miller signed on as Captain Morgan’s First Mate, a spokesmodel role for which she filmed an energetic, actionpacked video complete with dramatic sword fighting (visit marisamiller.com to view). She has also been working with Harley Davidson on its ad campaigns and military appreciation month each November—and it involves more than sitting pretty. Miller got her motorcycle license about two years ago, when she was initially signing on to work with the company, and she has been riding one ever since. “I think the term ‘biker chick’ comes with some stereotypes,” she laughs, “but that’s one of the things I really like about working with Harley—we are breaking down stereotypes of what and who a biker is.”
Photographs by Warwick Saint; Styling by Kemal Harris at The Wall Group; Hair by Marcelino using Moroccanoil at L’Atelier NYC; Makeup by Robert Greene at See Management for MAC Pro; Manicure by Myrdith Leon-McCormack using M2mdamorejon at Factory Downtown