"Hello?" I ask, picking up my office line.
"Hi, it's Melanie," replies the voice on the phone.
"Hey! It's been a minute, how've you been?"
"Good! Guess who's finally coming out to L.A.?"
"It's about damn time!"
Two years of begging, pleading, and flirting over the phone (more begging, really) finally paid off. Melanie Tillbrook-former Falken girl turned video vixen-is flying her half-Filipino, half-British, fully fine self out from Miami to Cali for her long overdue feature. After shooting for 2NR in our model search years back, the coastal difference made a full appearance a tad bit difficult. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, in this case, amongst other organs, it made getting Melanie in our studio that much harder.
Featured in Jamie Foxx's "Blame it" music video starring opposite Jake Gyllenhaal and Forest Whitaker, Melanie's a model, singer-songwriter and dancer with an actual-gasp-degree in Marketing. Meaning, unlike other party girls who are fun with loud music and limited conversation, Melanie's the type of girl you'd want to hang out with outside a club. And if her talents, intellect and work history weren't enough of a catch, Melanie's into the tuning scene and digs show and drift cars, giving guys like you and I the slightest of chance. Emphasis on "slight".
Given all that you've done in and out of the tuning scene, I can't believe it took this long to get you on the cover! For the unfamiliar, what were some of the things you've done?
Where do I begin . . . I've toured HIN with Prestigious Models, was on tour with Formula D with Falken Tires, and I've been to NOPI, DUB, D1, American LeMans and a bunch of other different events internationally.
You also shot for 2NR several years back, correct?
[laughs] Yes! I was actually in Import Tuner two times for your model search back in 2004. I even had a one-page interview!
Welcome back to the 2NR family! Other than the half Filipino-ness, what got you into the scene?
I love cars. I love to go fast and I crave adventure and speed, so naturally, I was drawn to modified imports. That interest eventually got me to become more involved in the scene.
From all the car show experience, what was your favorite car?
TWC used to have some very nice cars at HIN that won a ton of shows, and I've always liked Alpine Electronics' crazy concept cars. A recent car that comes to mind is Timbaland's 599 Ferrari-I shot with it a few months ago in Miami for an ad.
Exotic, shm-exotic. What about drift cars?
I used to tour with Formula D and I loved the danger that's involved when drifters speed out of control and nearly crash their cars! I love both the G35 and 350Z since they pretty much share the same suspension-perfect drift cars. I also dig the old-school cars like the AE86 Corolla. If you were to ask, my favorite driver is probably Vaughn Gittin Jr.-he's not afraid to go hard.
All that AE86 Corolla, and G35 and 350Z sharing the suspension talk is so much sexier coming from a girl-you got me all hot and bothered! What cars have you owned and currently own?
For my first car, I picked an import: a Mitsubishi Mirage. Afterward, I upgraded to an Infiniti G35 coupe. Now I drive a BMW 325i, which I love for now.
It's a Bimmer-wait 'till the electrical problems kick in and we'll see where your love is then. What happened to the previous two imports?
Well, the Infiniti I crashed pretty hard and ended up totaling. Actually, the Bimmer just got hit too-it's getting a new bumper as we speak. Miami drivers are scary! I think it's the worst place to drive in America, besides your L.A. traffic, that is.
Maybe it's not the drivers . . . have you ever thought that you might be accident-prone.?
Not really, it's just bad luck. I think. [laughs]
So you think! [laughs] Which was your worst accident?
Definitely the Infiniti. I was heart broken about it. I really loved that fast and cute car. I was lucky I got out of that accident untouched!
Sounds like someone's a hot mess!
No, I'm actually an organized non-hot mess! I'm a firm believer in non-hot-mess living! [laughs]
Despite your accidents, you're a rare model breed. You have a Bachelor's degree . . .
Yes I do! I have a B.A. in Marketing and a minor in Economics from FSU.
Florida State? Aren't they FL's infamous party school?
Oh my god, you have no idea! Everyone thinks they party hard in South Beach or in Hollywood, but some of the craziest and wildest parties I've ever been to were at FSU. There's 40 thousand-plus students who don't have responsibilities and want to enjoy life.
Any good stories?
Wow, there are so many, I can't think of just one. We pretty much had a blast Tuesday through Sunday! But I was ready to move to a bigger city, so I finished up my degree in three years.
Do you have a favorite memory from college?
I was already working in entertainment in school, so one summer I took a ton of classes in the beginning and took a month break afterward. I went on tour as a backup dancer for Snoop Dogg on the Projekt Revolution tour-talk about summer vacation! It was a very interesting experience to say the least. As dancers, we had our own tour bus that used to belong to Aretha Franklin, and we took it from L.A. to Miami. [laughs] I remember our bus hit Lincoln Park's bus and they weren't too happy about it. Anyway, long story short, I went back to school that Fall and a few of my fellow students were like, "Was that you on tour?" I just gave them a little smirk.
It sounds like that movie Almost Famous except instead of journalism duty, you were shaking your booty. Did you have any other extra-curricular activities in college?
I was P.R. for the Filipino Student Association and Asian Student Union. That's right, I had some of the Asian persuasion! I studied dance, took ballet and I sang in FSU's gospel choir as a soprano.
Word? Gospel choir? Like the blonde chick in American Pie?
[laughs] Yes, I was so her!
The whole "bumblebee" warm-up thing, fact or fiction?
Hmmm . . . fiction for us. We were more like the movie Sister Act and did more scaling and harmonies.
Between all the other stuff and school, how did the modeling come about?
I sang at the college talent show and they asked me to be on the cover of the DVD of it. That lead to the cover of the Girls of FSU calendar and I started shooting for the Home Shopping Network. I attended my first HIN with P.M. Girls in Orlando, FL and I ended up in 2NR years back-my first national magazine interview, back in '03 or '04.
Did you move to Miami to pursue modeling?
I wanted to move to Miami for opportunities and I branched out into more fashion, fitness modeling, swimsuit, and commercial print modeling. And then somehow found myself doing commercials and music videos.
What music videos have you been in?
I was in Ja Rule's "Body", Massari and Loon's "Smile for me", Fat Joe's "I Won't Tell", Timbaland's "Scream" and most recently, Jamie Foxx's "Blame it."
Blame it on the alcohol? Story of my life. That music video has some crazy cameos: Forest Whitaker, Samuel Jackson, T-Pain, and then they have Ron Howard and Jake Gyllenhaal which is super random. Where did the white guys come from?
I heard that Jamie asked them to make a cameo during Obama's Inauguration. The coolest part was that I ended up being in the scene with them during filming. Sitting on a couch between Forest and Jake Gyllenhaal-it was surreal filming with Oscar winners. They were all the nicest guys, too. Ron Howard is really down to earth and asked, "So do you do this thing often?" He had me laughing the whole time. It was a unique experience to get to see a director be directed by another director (Hype Williams). Jamie was a great entertainer and knows how to throw a party as well.
Any wild on-set moments during filming?
"Blame it" was the biggest party, ever. It wasn't work at all and we had a blast. Fat Joe's "I Won't Tell" video was two very long 15-hour days. But I had so much fun playing a diva character while driving a Bentley and cruising in a G4 jet. Not a bad day at the office! [laughs] I kept tripping in my small shoes and I almost fell on P. Diddy. As for wild sets, Murder Inc's was just another reason to party with Ja Rule and Irv Gotti. Everyone always brings their entourage and there's always a comedian in the group.
What's your drink when you're in party mode?
It depends on the occasion. I love champagne but my classic is vodka-soda with lime. Or a good shot of Patron Silver.
So what's the worst thing you've done that you had to blame on the alcohol?
Hmmm . . . I have a few of those but I'll plead the Fifth. [laughs]
You mentioned singing; any plans to pursue that?
I definitely plan to. I recorded a demo and am constantly writing new stuff. I really enjoy the writing experience and being creative in a studio.
How would you describe your music?
My music is very much R&B with some hip-hop influence and gospel-style melodies. I also have dance tracks that are very vocal, but those aren't done yet. They are in the works.
Who are some of your musical inspirations?
That's a tough one to answer. I've been inspired by everyone from Mariah Carey, to Michael Jackson (R.I.P.), to Madonna. Even Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz and Whitney Houston!
How about in dating? What in a guy inspires you? Need non-hip-hop moguls apply?
[laughs] I don't mix business with pleasure-a big key to success-so, yes! I love confidence that is inspiring. Also patience, honesty, and intellect is hot, hot, hot! I am also very drawn to motivated go-getters and it's very important to be with someone real, with good morals.
College degree, import scene, music videos, and now the cover of Import Tuner . . . what's next for Ms. Tillbrook?
I have so many things on my plate . . . I want to continue to work in entertainment. I'm honing my hosting skills and acting chops and auditioning for roles here and there. It's fun to get into a new character for a change. And of course, I love to sing, so I'll continue creating music. I've been so blessed to have so many of my dreams come true and I'm excited to follow my career wherever it may take me!
Ethnicity: Filipino, British
Birthday: December 5th
Hometown: Miami Beach, FL
Thanks: My Family, friends, M.M., P.M. Girls, Rock and Robert, the Glam Squad (Val & Diana), Import Tuner, Carter and all the 2NR fans out there-XOXOs!