Be very, very smart. Think about every single thing you're doing all the time. Think about everything you're going to do before and after. The only thing you need to know is to be smart. If you want this life, you have to go through a lot of shit, but you're getting there and that's what you want. It's not as easy as it seems on MTV and in the movies. People think "it's so easy, I wish I could be that girl, she just poses for pictures and she gets money for nothing." Nobody knows how hard it is until you're in it. So stay smart, and if you get there don't ever forget where you came from, who your family is, and what they've done for you.
What was life like growing up in the Dominican Republic?
I cannot tell you about what it's like to work there and other things, because I was very young. But I can tell you it was so innocent. It's such a personal feeling. I wish I could go back so bad, it was so much fun. The people around you, the culture, how everyone lives. The way we used to play, the places we used to go, how much excitement there was just to be alive in those times, we had no cares, no responsibilities. The only thing we had to do was go to school and be good girls, which was a piece of cake. We didn't need expensive toys, we had fun with small things. I will never forget what we did together, how much fun we had together, the places we went, going to the park just to play in the grass, to have picnics. I will never forget.
Yes, my father lives there, all the relatives on my father's side, all the family from my mother's side, I have cousins, aunts and uncles. I have family everywhere, in the countryside, in the north, the west, the east, in the center.
I went back recently and it felt so good. It all comes back to you as soon as you come out of the airport, driving to your old neighborhood, you smell the smell of happiness. It was so powerful for me, and it was so good to go back and realize how important my early life there still is for me. There were so many people I hadn't seen in four or five years. I really felt like I was going home, that warm place you used to live, where everything was so easy and you didn't have to worry about anything, you had no responsibility, you could just be there to have fun. There was nothing bad going through your mind, there was nothing bad around you, everything was so innocent and so nice and pretty. That's how it felt.
I have to dedicate time to my house, my mom and my friends, but I don't have time anymore just to hang out, I never have time to go back home, so I'm calling my mom and my friends all the time just to stay in touch. My friends don't even bother dropping by my house anymore because I'm always working.
I try to give 50% of myself to my family, because I need them to be with me always, and I don't want them to think I've changed, that I don't need them or that I don't care. And I have to dedicate the other half of myself to my job, because it's very important. I have to have every single thing in mind. And I'm constantly checking in with my agent so he can let me know what's going on, what photographers I have to see, appointments, castings, every single thing comes down to me. It's a little bit crazy.
Yes. We all moved to New York — myself, my mother, grandmother, my sister and two brothers — when I was ten. My mother was determined for us to have a better life and to go to better schools. This is such an amazing country, every school has so many activities and they're all free. When you go to school in my country you don't have music and art and sports like kids do here. Even in the private schools there are very few activities and parents have to pay extra for them. And jobs are so plentiful here, even if you don't have any education. And you can work your way up. In my country it's even hard for people with an education to get a job, but for those without education it's impossible, so for all of these reason we had to come here.
When we arrived in New York we had nowhere to go. We came out of the airport, each of the kids with our clothes in little backpacks and my mom and my grandmother found a payphone. They started calling distant relatives and friends and one of those friends agreed to take us in.
Yes, after a few months we were able to move into our own apartment, a little studio, but it seemed so luxurious to us after sharing with another family. We were much better there. My mom kept on working, met my step-father, and after a year we all moved into a house in Astoria. We were so happy there, and then my mom and my step-father were able to buy a house.
When I think about her I admire her so much. My mom has done so much for us. She was so determined. She decided we were going to move here, she arranged green cards, she borrowed money for airline tickets, she got us all packed, and then she just came.
Once we got here she told us "Ok, we're here now, and to get ahead we're going to do whatever it takes, all of us, we have to fight." I love my mom. I often wonder how she had the courage to risk everything, at her age, with three children. But she always says that she'd do the same thing over again if necessary, and if things didn't work out here, we'd have moved on and tried somewhere else, no matter what. With no money and three kids, all by herself, still she came!
My mother told me every single day of my life that I was going to become a model, that I was going to be a success. I didn't believe her, but she'd tell me over and over "You're going to go to Hollywood, you're going to be a big star, and everyone's going to take photographs of you everywhere you go, you're going to be so big." As a kid I was just like "OK Mom, whatever ..." (laughs). Even after I turned fifteen, she was still telling me and I was still saying "Yeah, mom, whatever," and thinking to myself "stop thinking so big, you're too unrealistic."
Then George called me from Boss Models. They were the first agency that called me and the only one. But George was so enthusiastic on the phone, telling me I was so beautiful and that I had to come in right away. I didn't even want to tell my mom and I almost just ignored George's call, because I knew she was going to say "I told you so." But finally I told mom that someone called from an agency and that they wanted to see me. She just said "See, I told you, this is just the beginning."
How did things get started?
I went in to meet George with my mother, and he was so enthusiastic, telling me I was very beautiful, that he loved my style and I'd have a big career. He told me about how the industry works, how things are done. I've got to say I love my life, because George and Ricky (at Boss Models) have brought me to where I am right now. We have gone through so much together, they were really pushing me because they knew something was going to happen. He kept on, he never wanted to give up.
And now that I've got so many jobs, I'm getting to travel, he's so happy, he gets more excited than I do. He goes to all of my fashion shows, he went to Milan with me, last season he went to every single show, telling me "Myra you're waving your hands too much, you're looking too much to the side, keep focused in front of you," always pushing me so I can do better.
Away from work George and I talk about everything. He knows about my whole life, we have a very strong friendship, and we really can talk about anything together. He's not just my agent he's a real friend, which is very good for me. I know I'm lucky to have him because I've heard from so many girls that their agents aren't like that. The other agencies have so many girls they don't have time to talk, it's just "here's your next job, go." When George calls me, we talk, he wants to know if I've eaten, if I'm feeling ok, he'll tell me if this client calls back we're going to celebrate - he is very special for me.
The first time I didn't know what to do, it was impossible. It wasn't like "As soon as the first pictures came out I knew I was going to be a model." No, none of that. I was very scared, I didn't know what to do, what expression to have on my face, how to make the clothes look good. I was very shy to pose. I was very self-conscious around all the other professionals on the shoot, the photographer, makeup, lights, stylist, worried they were looking at me thinking "this girl doesn't know what she's doing."
Later I realized they weren't focused on whether or not I was nervous, they were just doing their jobs. They were making sure the lighting was right, that the clothes looked nice, not about, "Oh my God look at that expression on her face." (laughs). Over time, you get used to it, and you realize the hairdresser is looking at your hair, the assistant is worrying about the lights, the stylist is only looking at the clothes, they're not staring at me. Once I realized this I loved getting my pictures taken, and I couldn't wait for them to come out in the magazines.
Whenever I'm on a shoot, I try to get everyone working together as a team, to have fun. When everybody's working together well you don't feel the hours. You're really happy, you're really on, because everyone working with you is giving you positive energy. If everyone else is down, tired, it's bad for everybody. Every time is different. Sometimes the atmosphere is bad, too serious, everyone gets divided into groups, no one talks to the models, the photographer is back in the corner and only talks to their assistants, like that.
Is it different working with male models than with girls?
Guys aren't like the girls, they're not always talking about work. They're talking about girls, about surfing, some big wave they caught, the clubs they went to, how they went dancing and everybody was wasted, how much fun they had. They're always talking about something other than modeling. They're very sweet. Guys are just not as competitive.