Michelle may be the most difficult model to track down for an interview. To follow up our four days of missed calls, her phone goes down for a week. She does, however, get my voicemail - the one where I leave my Instant Messenger screen name. We miss each other on AIM for the next week or so but just last night (at around 11 p.m., 2 a.m. her time) she hits me up and we go at it for the next hour or so. Talking to her on the phone would have been way better, but getting the IMs was just as exciting.
Michelle Zen: *I'm around here somewhere. Just leave a message and I'llrespond when I get back.*
(10 mins later)
2Nr: WHOA! Can this be?
MZ: WOW. It's actually happening! Haha.
2Nr: Frikkin imposible. IMPOSSIBLE! Ok. When do you go to bed? The answeris "When I'm done with you."
2Nr: Wanna do this?
MZ: Let's do it.
2Nr: Thought you'd never agree.
2Nr: Where were you born?
MZ: Oklahoma City, OK
2Nr: What is your nationality?
MZ: Nationality: American... Ethnicity: My mom is a mixture of Vietnamese,Chinese, Mongolian and Russian, while my father is German, Cherokee Indianand Irish. I grew up speaking, reading and writing Vietnamese.
2Nr: Smart ass. Hence...Oklahoma.
MZ: Haha! Exactly! Only makes sense, doesn't it?
2Nr: Makes perfect sense. I mean...hey..."let's move from an area surroundedby water to dry, unwanted land."
MZ: Exactly. But I guess my mom and her family had to do whatever they could to survive.
2Nr: How was it growing up in the O.K.?
MZ: Actually, I was born in Oklahoma City, but I didn't stay there for too long. My dad is in the broadcasting industry, and we would move around for his job. I started out in OKC, we went to Madison, Wis., back to OKC, then to Indiana, and now I kind of live in Louisville, Ky. I say "kind of" because it's ridiculous how little time I'm actually in town. I'm actually not sure what year my mom came over. I'm thinking about '75. She met and married my father in '80, and I was born in '82.
2Nr: Do you do anything for fun? Clubs? Bars?
MZ: I do so many different things. It's kind of hard to have free time with school and work.
2Nr: Swimming? Tadpole hunting?
MZ: But to tell you the truth, when I do have a free moment, I'm really not all that wild! Don't get me wrong, I like to go out every once in a while... but for the most part, I really like to enjoy any down time in the comfort of my own home. I love to watch a good movie, sew and cross-stitch. Haha.
2Nr: What kind of guys do you date?
MZ: I like motivated, smart, well-educated guys. People I can talk to. Being cute helps, but if there is no substance, it will never last. And never underestimate a sense of humor!! I love to laugh.
2Nr: What is the part of your body that needs the most improvement?
MZ: Hmm... that's a good question. I'm always trying to improve upon myself in some form or another.
2Nr: So you're perfect for now?
MZ: Haha! Nobody's perfect and I'm not going to pick myself apart. I'm happy and comfortable with myself.
2Nr: I dont know about that... have you seen Beyonc lately???
MZ: Well, she is pretty close, isn't she?
2Nr: Damn near. Except at the end of the Deja vu video when she leans backkind of funny then flicks her hand back.
2Nr: What is it about your body that you'd leave alone for now?
MZ: Like I said, I'm pretty happy with my body for the most part. I don't really likepicking myself apart... I love the fact that I'm a mutt. People are always confusedby it. Haha. Just trying to keep everyone on their toes!
2Nr: Finish this line... "My secret obsession is..."
MZ: Secret obsession? Food. I loooooooooove food. Seafood is my favorite, ohand sushi! Mmmmm.
2Nr: "I once ate...."
MZ: I've eaten some pretty weird things... and I won't go into it all because I don't want to gross anyone out!
MZ: But I have eaten duck feet.
2Nr: How did you get your start in modeling?
MZ: I started out in 1999 locally doing print/commercial/promotional work. I slowly branched out from there, working all over the country. My mother agent is in L.A. Within the past year, I've been doing quite a bit of work. I lived in Hong Kong for two months, stayed in Mainland China for a month, and lived in L.A. this past summer. I have a residence in NYC that I spend a decent amount of time at. I love the traveling involved. The work is awesome. I've met so many amazing people from all over the world.
2Nr: What do you do besides modeling?
MZ: I'm actually a substitute teacher for my local public school system. I go into middle and high schools.
2Nr: Nice... YOU are THAT sub! Do any of your students recognize you from theshows?
MZ: My students never recognize me. I think I would probably be embarrassed ifthey did! I usually try to go in looking as professional and as unattractive aspossible. I have my hair in a bun and glasses on!
2Nr: "The best photoshoot i've ever had was at..."
MZ: I have sooo many shoots that I've enjoyed. I did a shoot once withAbercrombie in the Florida Keys, which was so much fun until it rained. I was onthe Hawaiian Tropic Spring Break Tour in Cancun this past year. Imagine beingin Cancun for a week straight with lots of other hot ladies and an unlimitedamount of alcohol. Let's just say we had a GREAT time!
MZ: My shoot for Harper's Bazaar Hong Kong was also pretty amazing. Thebeach we were on was so beautiful. And the photographer was definitely one ofmy favorites to work with.
2Nr: What makes a photographer "good"?
MZ: A photographer is good when he can make the model feel comfortable andat ease in front of a camera. It's good to have direction from the photographer soyou know how you look, but you also don't want a photographer that can't workwith you and allow you to show your own personality in the photos.
2Nr: "My favorite artist is..."
MZ: My favorite artist is definitely Salvador Dali.
MZ: I think he was a genius. A crazy genius... but a genius nonetheless.
2Nr: What candy wrapper did he design? Tick tock...
MZ: Ok, what was it?
2Nr: Salvador Dali did a candy wrapper for a company that makes the Mexicancandy "Chupa Chups."
MZ: I never knew that. Wow. Learn something new every day.
2Nr: OK, I get it. im a dork
MZ: That's OK. You're cool because you admit to being a dork. Only the coolpeople can admit to it! And if makes you feel any better my dorkiness probablyoutweighs your dorkiness.
2Nr: Let's not whip out calculators on this one.
2Nr: In reality... we may BOTH lose face.
2Nr: Where would you vacation and why, and who, besides me, or (insert boys name here), would you take?
MZ: Goodness... I think if I could choose any place in the entire world to visit, I would choose Vietnam. I've not once had the opportunity to go there, and I thinkit would be awesome to be able to learn more about my mom's culture and to beable to practice the language. And of course, I would take my mom. She has notgone back to her homeland since coming here to the U.S., so I think it would be a great experience for her.
2Nr: Physically, what type of guy turns your head
MZ: I like tall guy, above 6'0. I tend to go for dark hair and dark eyes. I don't like aguy who spends his life in the gym, but I don't like super scrawny guys either. I do have a little bit of a weakness for pretty boys. Hahaha. But like I said, it is a guy's personality that is the most attractive thing to me.
2Nr: Oh geez.
2Nr: Pretty boys
2Nr: The eyebrow pluckers
MZ: And.. eww.... eyebrow pluckers? Hahahahaha that's going too far!! I will say that it is extremely unattractive if a guy is more high maintenance than me-and I'm not high maintenance at all.
2Nr: Shut up.
MZ: Seriously, I'm not.
2Nr: BTW, those guys are the visual equivalent to eating duck feet.
2Nr: How's it feel being an HIN winner? Have you ever won anything like that?
MZ: It feels great! I really didn't expect to be one of their winners. When theyannounced it, I was actually kind of shocked. They're a great company to workwith. Everyone on the staff is so amazingly nice. They really make you feel likeyou're family. I love going on tour with them to the different cities. It's kind of likea big reunion. Only it happens a few different times a month.
MZ: I've been competing in pageants since 2003. I've won quite a few differenttitles from Venus Swimwear competitions to Hawaiian Tropic titles. There's justsomething about competing with lots of beautiful ladies that are aspiring to betheir very best that is inspiring and motivational. I've made so many friendsthrough it and I appreciate and respect them very much.
2Nr: So deep inside, do you feel like saying "Ha! I'm prettier than you!" Will youhave a website where can we see more of you? Would you ever do Playboy,Maxim, FHM? Is there a model you follow or strive to be/pose like?
MZ: I will never pose nude. Ever. I just am not comfortable with the idea of menand women I don't know seeing all of that.. Plus, what about when I have kids? Idon't want to have to explain that to them. But I love and admire women who arecomfortable enough with themselves to do it.
MZ: I would readily pose for Maxim/FHM/etc.
MZ: I think my favorite model is Adriana Lima. She is amazingly beautiful.
2Nr: What types of music do you like?
MZ: I love rock/alternative music. My favorite bands include Smashing Pumpkins,Weezer, Radiohead, Green Day, System of a Down, Queens of the Stone Age,and I'm actually on a big Trance kick right now, so if you have any good trance,send it my way!
2Nr: If I have good trance, I'll be sure to glow stick it to you.
2Nr: Is there something you want to see yourself doing in the near future?
MZ: Near future?
MZ: I plan on graduating with my Bachelor's pretty soon.
MZ: But that's too far ahead to plan.
MZ: I'm the kind of person that likes to take life as it comes.
2Nr: You sound like an exciting person. I mean, when you're planning.
MZ: I like to dream big. It gives you something to aspire to!
2Nr: OK, last question. At what point during this interview did you fall in love withme and when do we fly to Asia?
MZ: Let's go.
2Nr: YEAH! I felt the same way when we were both avoiding each other. It waslike we were "playing hard to get" at the same time. We've soooo bonded.
MZ: I'm on the next flight out. Let's go.
2Nr: Is there anything you want to say to anyone?
MZ: Just wanted to say I love my mom and my dad, my sister and my brother,Wes and everyone out there who supports me. I really appreciate it. You shouldget on myspace and send me a message! Oh. And I LOVE all of my girls. Youknow who you are! :) Yay! We finally got the interview in!
MZ: Add me! myspace.com/michellezen.