Playboy: Is it still your dream to work with horses?
Vanessa: Oh, yeah. I'd love to have my own stable, be a trainer, give riding lessons, compete as an Olympic rider.
Playboy: And this dream led to animal rights activism?
Vanessa: Yes. I used to be hard-core vegan. I belonged to an animal rights group. I resigned because I was tired of people arguing. Plus, I was weak and thin. All I ate were raw foods. I like a round body, you know? With meat on the bones.
Playboy: Your mom is Mexican, your dad American. How did they meet?
Vanessa: Dad was visiting Mexico, and he saw my mom sitting on the beach. It was love at first sight. They couldn't speak the same language, but three days after they met he asked her to marry him. They've been married for 25 years.
Playboy: What were you like as a child?
Vanessa: I was a tomboy. I had very short hair and wore a shirt with a horse on it every day.
Playboy: How did the tomboy blossom into a model?
Vanessa: This sounds like another fairy tale, but it's true. I was working in a mall when an agent came in and gave me her number. I was sure she was a scam artist, but I called. She got me my first jobs, one of which was being a Reef girl.
Playboy: One of the girls who model Reef sandals in surf magazines?
Vanessa: Yep. I'm not a very good surfer, though I can stand up. I love long boarding but I had a little accident, so I gave it up.
Playboy: What happened?
Vanessa: I did a pearl dive and the board went under, came back up and hit me in the nose. Blood gushed out, and I had two black eyes. I thought, I can't be doing this if I want to model.
Playboy: You also want to act, right?
Vanessa: I do! First I need some lessons. I was never even in a high school play. I thought those theater people were weirdos. But now I feel like I can be anything I want. My glass is only half full.
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