Looking back on the history of Import Tuner, it's just amazing that we've gone from a quarterly niche publication to what we are now, a monthly magazine that appeals to the masses. I remember when we first started; we didn't even make it to the fourth quarter of that year. First was the fall issue, then winter and spring, and then we tried going monthly...and the rest is history. As Import Tuner has grown larger than life, so have many of the models who appeared on our covers. In this particular issue, big number 50, we decided to have a reunion with the one of those ladies-Winter's cover girl, Francine Dee.
It was around noon and I was at Francine's house, about to knock on the door. Just before my knuckles came in contact with the wood, I heard a pack of dogs barking away on the other side. I love dogs, but the pitch of some of these barks was indicative of a couple ankle-biters, as well as some kind of larger, I'm-gonna-rip-your-balls-off canine. Just then, I heard a high-pitched scream getting closer to the door: "Mantha get in the other room!" The door opened and a familiar face popped out, smiling above a blue Fubu Sports long sleeve. "Remember this outfit?" she said, and laughed. So began the reunion of one of the industry's most noted models and the first import magazine in the States.
2NR: When did your modeling career begin?FD: I think it was 1998, with calendars first, and it just snowballed from there. I went from doing magazine covers to attending car shows, and I still love doing it. It keeps me really busy, which is a great thing. I get really good feedback from this industry so I love it.
2NR: When you look back, what are some of the things you did that really got your foot in the door?FD: When I first started, the import scene and I grew pretty much grew together. I mean, the scene wasn't very big and neither was I at the time, so I think we helped each other a lot to become what we are today. There were no girls modeling for stuff at the time, and now there's a lot. It's been a very successful run for both of us, but I've had to take the good with the bad.
I guess you could say representing the industry was a big thing for me and opened doors for others, but my doing nude photo shoots also made big controversies with many companies. There was a lot of criticism, but there was also a lot of support, and honestly, the import industry is where my fan base grew, so I can't complain. There was more good than bad. But the one thing that came out really bad was my family's response. Oh man, that was bad!
2NR: What was that response?FD: My parents are really conservative, and I mean really conservative! I went to Catholic school my whole life; I was their only child and they spent money on me. I've always been headstrong and did what I wanted to do, and although I'm not a bad person, my parents still frown on the fact that I'm making money off of looks and not intelligence-they think it's not right.
2NR: So you don't talk to you family at all?FD: Oh, I talk to my mother every day! As a matter of fact, she's only one block away from me. She doesn't agree with what I do, but we still get along. When friends of the family ask about me she usually won't go into detail about what I do; she'll just tell them that I model and that's it. She's very proud of the fact that I'm financially stable, but not proud of the fact of how I do it.
2NR: She sounds like the Filipino side in the family.FD: Yup, that's right! My father, who passed away, once sat me down for a lecture and said, "Posing nude for your boyfriend is perfectly fine, but posing nude for the world is something else." My mom, though; I love her so much and I appreciate that she looks out for me and understands that I'm old enough to make my own decisions.
2NR: Any false rumors about Francine Dee?FD: WHY, WHAT ARE THE RUMORS GARY!? (Laughs) I don't drink, don't do drugs, and despite everyone claiming they've seen me in porn, I've never done porn and will never do it. I do know people that do them, though. One of the true rumors is that I can be a bitch! (Laughs) I'm not going to lie; I can be very demanding. I have a hot head and sometimes I can blow up. I don't know if you've heard that one, but it's true.
2NR: What about the one that you work at a nudie bar?FD: Yeah, I used to dance. I never learned how to do a pole trick, though. I use to talk nonstop about what guys would want to hear. You hear about guys telling stories about backrooms where you get more than just a dance; I don't think they're true. Our backroom was the dressing room where the girls got together and talked.
2NR: Your fan base has grown over the years. What do you have to say about your fans in general? FD: I love all my fans and I wouldn't be here if it weren't for them. If I could kiss every one of them I would. (Laughs) I love them all! Sometimes they're very demanding, but I love that.
2NR: I know you must travel a lot, but what are some of the most memorable places you've been?FD: L.A. is the best. Hawaii is second; I have great memories and souvenirs from there. I wouldn't mind being stuck in Hawaii; I had a great time there last year! I'll be out there again on June 8 in Oahu. L.A. is the greatest, though. I could talk a lot of shit about the people, but I still love it. I also recall getting stuck in Italy with someone else's credit card. I wouldn't mind doing that again, I love shopping over there.
2NR: What are some of the hassles you've had to deal with going to shows or even dealing with overanxious fans?FD: I love doing shows, but the biggest hassle is just getting ready. As far as overanxious fans, I love them, too.
2NR: You never had a fan that just hung out at your booth for just a little too long, or anything weird like that?FD: I once met a guy that had tattooed my name on himself. As a matter of fact, I just got five tattoos in the span of one month and all I have to say is they hurt! Especially because they're in private places, but back to what I was saying. Honestly, any girl that complains about fans get riled up about seeing her shouldn't be in the industry. I think this goes for a lot of models, but most of the overzealous fans are just so happy to see you they just kinda stick around. To me, it's those people who make you feel good about yourself, and if a girl complains about that she shouldn't be modeling.
2NR: What's in store for Francine Dee?FD: I'm hosting car shows, I have my lap-dance contest. I hate just standing around signing stuff, so I'm very active and I want to do things instead of just stand there. I have two DVDs coming out, "Hip-Hop Honeys" and an official Francine Dee DVD.
2NR: Model DVDs are very big in Japan. It's cool to see it trickle over here. So, explain this zoo in your house. FD: I have three dogs: Chase and Cody are Malteses, and Samantha is a Pitbull/Shepherd mix I rescued two days before she was going to be put down. Believe it or not, I'm allergic to cats but I have three of them. Thank God I take Allegra! Their names are Duchess, D'Artagnan and Jesse James. I could never be with someone that doesn't love animals.
2NR: Man, you are an animal freak. Last question. How much has Import Tuner contributed to your modeling career?FD: A lot! We grew up together. I was originally supposed to be in on the first issue, but we got stuck in negotiations and I ended up missing the first and doing the second. I'm so glad to be a part of Tuner from the beginning, and proud to be a Tuner cover model. I was really skeptical to do it at first because the scene was so small at the time, but I'm so glad I did it.
2NR: Well, it was nice catching up with you and we wish good things for you in the future.FD: Thank you guys for everything!