BLONDE AMBITION. Eighteen-year-old beauty Maika Monroe is a world-class kiteboarder with a budding career as an actress and a role in the new film At Any Price alongside Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron. By Salli Paradisio
The blonde beach girl from Santa Barbara has been in a couple of minor flicks and the TV show Eleventh Hour along with a handful of TV ads.
In 2011, she passed up on her senior yearof high school in California to focus on kiteboarding in the Dominican Republic. Maika has also dabbled in fashion, designing a special collection for AirBound Apparel.
DA MAN: You’ve had small roles and an episode on the TV show Eleventh Hour, as well as a couple of TV ads, how did you first get involved in acting and get those roles?
Maika Monroe: When I was 12, my swing dance teacher told our class about a film that wanted kids to be background line dancers. I was the only one in my class that jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t know how to line dance, but knew practically every other style of dance. On set, it turned out I was the only child that showed up. I was fascinated from the very start at the whole filming process from filming to special effects. The director and producer saw it in my eyes and actually wrote me into the script. I had one line! From there, all sorts of doors opened because I was able to become a member of the Screen Actors Guild because of my speaking role. At 12, I signed with my manager, who helped me get an agent and I have been auditioning nonstop since.
DA MAN: As is well documented, you are world-class kiteboarder, and from other things we’ve read, you intend to pursue both acting and kiteboarding. Do you think you’ll be able to put in the necessary work in both to be successful?
Maika Monroe: Good question. Many times people have tried to give me the ultimatum—’one or the other.’ But I am passionate about both. They balance each other out and keep me grounded. I definitely am not able to put in the time to train that I would like to with kiteboarding. All my competitors spend 12 months training and I try to get as much water time as I can. I had planned on training for six months in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, but then I landed this latest film. So, instead of six months, I had a month and a half of training. So it is tough to compete against these girls that train year-round, but I would never give that up. On the other hand, when I am training I have to send my auditions via video. I Skype with an acting coach and then tape it. I would prefer to be in the room for the auditions, but it is what I have to do. It is difficult to do both, but it just makes me more disciplined.
DA MAN: With all your sports and acting, and having recently finished high school, are there any plans for college?
Maika Monroe: I definitely plan to go to college. I worked hard in high school to get a 4.2 GPA, so I am not going to let that go to waste. I may do my [General Education] classes online and then transfer to a university. My dream has always been to go to NYU and I still plan to do that.
DA: Another thing you’ve been involved in is designing a sporty girls’ line for AirBound Apparel. Is that something you intend to pursue?
Maika Monroe: Yes! I love it so much. I have always been interested in design. I am so fortunate that Airbound Apparel took me onboard. They are such a cool company that really gives back. They sponsor young Dominican riders whose only dream of escaping poverty is to become professional kiteboarders. They also donate proceeds to nonprofits in the D.R. to help with education of the Dominican children.
DA MAN: How serious are you about fashion designing, or was that just a one-off deal?
MM: I will always be involved in fashion designing … I have to be designing, I do it in my sleep. Ever since I was five years old, I have been interested in fashion. I loved thrift stores. To me, clothing is a piece of art, it’s how you express yourself.
DA MAN: You are all set to be in the latest Ramin Bahrani film, how did you get that role?
Maika Monroe: I was living in the Dominican Republic and my agent asked me to send an audition via video. It was hard because the Internet was so sketchy over there and I had to work with an acting coach via Skype. I really loved the role and felt a connection. My mom filmed the audition in our hotel room. I did not hear a thing for about three weeks, so I assumed I didn’t get it. I was on the beach with my kiting coach and my mom came walking up the beach with a huge smile on her face. She told me the director wanted to meet me. Happiest moment of my life. I was on a plane the next morning.
DA MAN: What can you tell us about the film? Does it have a title yet?
Maika Monroe: It’s still untitled as of now. I play Zac Efron’s girlfriend. I like the role because the girl is very strong, independent and not pushed around by anyone. Her parents are not there for her so she is street-smart. All the things I admire in a girl. Great role.
DA MAN: How has it been working with superstars such as Ramin, Zac Efron, etc. on this film? Did you ever feel intimidated?
Maika Monroe: Sure, at first I was intimidated, but once I met everyone all the nerves were gone. Zac is so down to earth and Dennis [Quaid] is hysterical. I love them both. I got to work with a dream cast, and one of the most incredible directors I could ever ask for. Just an amazing experience from start to finish.
DA MAN: Where are you at in the process, still filming? Or post-production?
Maika Monroe: We started filming in the beginning of July  … and finished filming in September. Ramin, the director, told me I couldn’t go in the ocean because he did not want my hair to get too blonde again. They had to darken it for the film because I was supposed to be a Midwestern girl, not a California beach girl. It killed me to not be able to kite in that time.
DA MAN: What experiences have made you a stronger person?
Maika Monroe: Living in a [developing] country, going to countless auditions and not getting the part, training to get my kiting to the next level where I am competitive worldwide.
DA MAN: What regrets do you have?
Maika Monroe: That’s an interesting question, because I think about that daily. I am happy to say that so far I have no regrets. I know if I was forced to choose between acting and kiting I would always wonder, ‘what if?’ I don’t want to live with a ‘what if?’ I want to do it all. And until one is out in front of the other, I will continue to do both.
DA MAN: What has been the key motivation for you to choose to pursue acting?
Maika Monroe: The first time I was on set I fell in love with it. The whole process. I was only 12 and it was a horror film, so most of the filming was at night continuing to the early morning. I was fascinated with the fake blood, the fog machines, everything. They would start filming at 6 p.m. and continue until around 4 a.m. My mom was with me and I begged her to let me stay and watch until they wrapped every day. The director would let me see behind the camera, the special effects guy would let me help him with the fake chopped-off heads. I was hooked, I knew I wanted to work in film.
DA MAN: What quality do you most like in a guy?
Maika Monroe: A good sense of humor; I need a guy to be able to make me laugh and, more importantly, that can laugh at himself.
DA MAN: What quality do you most like in a woman?
Maika Monroe: Confidence.
DA MAN: What do you most value in your friends?
Maika Monroe: I have a handful of close friends. Girls are a funny breed. There is so much competitiveness and jealousy. What I value most in my friends is their genuineness. They aren’t phony and truly appreciate me for who I am and see the work I have put in to being where I am.
Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling: Lindsay Zir
Hair: Caile Noble/Jedroot
Makeup: Sarah Uslan/Jedroot
DA MAN: In early January, you had a fairly serious injury from kiteboarding, are you all recovered from that, and were there any repercussions?
Maika Monroe: I still have nightmares about the accidents. The water was really shallow in New Caledonia where the competition was held. I had no idea there were rocks until I landed on one headfirst. It was scary. I had to get my head stitched up in a medic’s tent on the beach. Kind of seemed barbaric, my mom fainted! Also, the language is French so it complicated things more. I am grateful that the injury was right above my hairline, because the scar is pretty ugly. I have had X-rays here in the U.S. and they have told me there is no permanent damage to my neck. I could not move my neck for a week and my forehead was really swollen. But all is good now and I am happy to be back in the water.
DA MAN: What have you had to say ‘no’ to in order do what you have done in both your sport and acting?
Maika Monroe: Drugs. I don’t think I would be where I am today if I was involved with drugs or alcohol. I am always the designated driver for my friends. As an athlete, I have to be super-disciplined with my workouts and nutrition.
DA MAN: How important is it to you to have lots of social network ‘followers’?
Maika Monroe: It’s crazy how everyone has Twitter now. And it’s starting to matter how many people are following you and it’s annoying [laughs]. People always ask me how many followers I have like it’s this popularity poll. I hate social networking, but I feel I have to in this generation. With that said, if you want to follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook fan page that is totally fine with me [laughing].
DA MAN: Who has been your biggest influence and encouraged you to pursue an acting career?
Maika Monroe: My mom was the one that really believed in me. Both my parents were athletes, so this acting stuff was foreign to them. I think my mom saw that I was totally passionate about it. She thought after countless auditions and coming really close but not getting the part that I would give up. But I didn’t. I didn’t take it as a rejection. She would finish work, come pick me up at school and then drive the two hours it took to get to L.A. Sometimes, my audition lasted two minutes and we would be back in the car driving the two hours home. She never complained; it was just something we did. And because of all that car time together, we are very close. She wouldn’t talk on the phone and I wouldn’t text, that was the rule, so we had a lot of time to talk about everything. To this day, she is my closest friend.
DA MAN: What is your motto?
Maika Monroe: Feel the fear, and do it anyway—veni, vidi, vici.
DA MAN: What is your dream of happiness?
Maika Monroe: I am living it. I love my life as it is now. One foot in the sand, one foot in Hollywood. It is perfect.
DA MAN: Do you have other films or TV shows in the pipeline?
Maika Monroe: This [Ramin] movie has obviously opened up many doors for me. I have the best manager and agent anyone could ask for and they are keeping me very busy with lots of scripts and meetings, so we shall see.
DA MAN: Tell us more about your decision to go to live in the Dominican Republic during your senior year in high school, in order to train.
Maika Monroe: All my friends thought I was completely crazy, because senior year is the most fun with prom and everything. I didn’t think twice about leaving. I had spent three months in the Dominican the previous summer and loved the culture and, of course, the consistent trade winds. I feel like it is my second home. It definitely is a [developing country]. I didn’t have a car or phone and barely had Internet, so texting stopped. No TV, so I became very close with the Dominican kiters and the kids on the beach that were always there to help me. Before I left this last time, I set up a donation box at my high school for old baseball mitts, boardshorts and surfing clothes. I also asked the local kiting community for any old equipment to bring to the kids. It was such a good feeling to see them using the mitts, kiting equipment and wearing the boardshorts on the beach. They were so appreciative. I don’t think a lot of people ever experience that. It was life changing and keeps everything in perspective when I am in Hollywood.
DA MAN: What sacrifices have you had to make to get into acting?
Maika Monroe: Definitely, I have made many sacrifices for acting. I live in Santa Barbara, so I would spend after school driving to L.A. with my mom. I couldn’t join any sports teams, because I was in L.A. so often. Also, I would have to stay home and study scripts while my friends were going to parties. I missed out on a lot of social stuff in high school.
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