Fortitude in Grace
Story by Diana Addison Lyle
IconicFocus Models NYC/LA
Photography by Anthony Patrick Manieri anthonypatrickmanieri.com
Styling by Caprice Connors
Monika Schnarre – model, actress, and television host – was the youngest woman ever to win the Ford Models “Supermodel of the World” contest in 1986 – age 14. Her achievements and prominence included appearing on the cover of American Vogue and in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue at 15. She went on to become an actress, appearing in over 50 film and television roles including The Bold and the Beautiful and Beastmaster. She made guest appearances on Beverly Hills 90210, Andromeda, Caroline in the City, The King of Queens and Cracked. Monika’s movie roles included Love on the Side, Lost in Time and Junior. She played Oxanna Kristos in the video game Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun.
The stunning 6’2” beauty with a bionic mane of hair went on to study television broadcast journalism at UCLA and was co-host of Celebrity RSVP, a Canadian entertainment news program. She was also a guest correspondent on etalk and ET Canada.
The best possible representative for a product – Monika launched her own line of natural, anti-aging skincare in 2011. Her entrepreneurial skills flourished as she set about offering fellow women the products and secrets behind her own youthfully gorgeous skin.
But way beyond a set of exceptional genes – Monika’s profound beauty lies in her gentleness, compassion and empathy for others. Those attributes are choices. In 2007, she became a volunteer Ambassador for Habitat for Humanity Toronto’s Women Build program.
Most strikingly, Monika’s core beauty manifested itself while we photographed and interviewed her for this special New Year issue. A few days before our shoot, she and her husband separated, and instead of canceling or postponing the shoot during one of the most painful periods of her life, Monika kept her pain private – and powered through it with unrequited grace, professionalism and dignity. As we studied her pictures, the emotional depths of her sensitivity projected itself in every moment caught on camera.
And that is what makes a cover story so genuinely vital. People with magnificent genes don’t get dealt a free pass to life’s complexities and pain. Moreover, their public persona makes it impossible for them to grieve privately or anonymously.
Monika’s survival mode was beautiful to observe. Her unfathomably deep love for her 4-year-old son, Bode, enhanced her tenderness at every conceivable moment. Art is most profoundly meaningful when it captures human emotions and human sensitivities at their most raw and vulnerable phase.
Monika Schnarre displayed her immense fortitude and her complete lack of selfishness. Her core values eschew anything remotely attached to superficiality. Her galaxy of stars lies in her heart and soul.
Our sincerest thanks go out to IconicFocus Models NYC/LA.
Q: Where were you born and what did life look like in your childhood years?
Monika: I was born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. My parents separated when I was about 7 years old. They had a very contentious separation and divorce but my mother was our rock. Though she worked all day long– at night there was always a five star, home-cooked meal on the table.
We never wanted for anything. If we wanted to play baseball or go to gymnastics – my mom found a way to make it happen.
Two weeks out of every summer we rented a cottage on a lake north of Toronto and my love for cottage country was born (many celebrities vacation here including Cindy Crawford and Martin Short). At 23, I was able to buy my own little cabin and we lived there until this year because our son started school. We now live in the Blue Mountains and it’s equally beautiful.
Q: You were exceptionally young when you skyrocketed in the modeling world: 14 years old. Despite that, you relished the opportunity and flourished. Explain that.
Monika: It’s hard to explain, however, I always felt something exciting was going to happen to me. When my parents divorced, it was an especially dark time. I remember one day this warm feeling washed over me and I just ‘felt’ that everything was going to be okay — that something was going to change my life. Divorce makes you mature much more quickly, and, so, when the opportunity presented itself… I felt ready. At 14, I was travelling the world alone.
Q: You moved to L.A. at age 19 to take up an acting career while still pursuing a lucrative modeling career. You describe these years as an important time because you carved out your real identity. What was life like on the beach in L.A.?
Monika: At 19, when I graduated from high school with my class (we had 5 years of high school in Canada), I decided to move to Los Angeles. I flew out to L.A. a few months prior to find a roommate, and had an audition for the show, Dallas. The secretary for the show said she was also looking for a roommate. So, without knowing her or where Manhattan Beach was — one night I moved my life there. In the morning, I opened the shutters and there was the ocean with the sun coming up over the horizon. It was like a dream. I remember running on the beach with my Walkman and listening to Tears for Fears – ‘Woman in Chains’ over and over again. I was free. It was a very cathartic time of healing and finding myself. I needed this time and distance to grow up.
Q: What was your favorite role and in what movie?
Monika: Most of my acting jobs were in television. Working on The Beastmaster was exceptional as I was able to work with the most incredible animals — snakes, pumas, and tigers… to name a few. The production assistants always knew where to find me after lunch – out behind the studio by the spider monkeys. Ever since I was a young child, I have been enamored with apes and monkeys and was actually able to visit the gorillas in 2008 in Rwanda (The Virunga Mountains).
Q: In 2007, you became a volunteer Ambassador for Habitat for Humanity Toronto’s Women Build program. What drew you to this productive endeavor?
Monika: When I was living in Vancouver and dating a contractor, I found my passion in renovating heritage homes. I loved the process and satisfaction from doing the work myself. Habitat for Humanity approached me to be an ambassador for their Women Build campaign and I finally found a charity that I could really be of use to. Inspiring women to pick up the tools themselves and the satisfaction they derive from it — makes my heart sing.
Q: You met your downhill skiing champion husband, Storey Badger, in 2008 at a beautiful dock party. At that stage he was coaching the sport. Was it love at first sight initially – and as time went on, how did you both know that you were right for each other?
Monika: Yes, initially it was love at first sight. Unfortunately, a few days before the shoot for this magazine, Storey and I separated. I was debating whether to share this very personal information, however, I think it’s important for honesty in media. These days everyone shows only their highlight reel on social media and not everything is as it seems. People who have seen these photos said, ‘You look so happy!’ The truth is that I am in survival mode. One of my favorite passages is from Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s, The Invitation:
‘It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.’
This is what I’m doing. I’m in survival mode.
Even the Dalai Lama believes there must be truth in what we represent publicly.
“Social media channels are very important. They allow people to get a clearer view of reality. This is why we have to be objective and truthful, rather than manipulative, with the information we share.”
Q: And yet it began with such promising beauty. You married Storey in 2010 at a beautiful white church on a lake and your wedding guests arrived at the ceremony by boat.
Monika: It really was magical. Everyone arrived by boat to the church and reception (in Muskoka). I was pregnant at the time and not drinking – so, I remember everything very clearly about that day! Sadly, this pregnancy did not work out and neither did the marriage, however, I am grateful for all of these experiences. My marriage was beautiful while it lasted and we are blessed to have our son. There are no mistakes in life.
Q: You’ve always said that becoming a mom was your absolute priority in life – more than any other role. You struggled to have your son, Bode, but thankfully, he was born in 2013. Describe what you went through – and what having him has meant to you.
Monika: The only thing that I’ve ever been certain of in life was my desire to become a mother. After trying for a few years and two miscarriages later, a panic washed over me and trying to conceive consumed my whole life. We tried everything including three rounds of IVF and finally, a simple recommendation from a naturopath (to take iodine for my hypothyroidism) did the trick and we conceived our beautiful boy, Bode, naturally.
Being a mom and realizing my lifelong dream has changed me forever; I’m very conscious of the fact that many women whose dream this also was – did not have the happy outcome that I did. I’d like to tell them not to give up hope. I truly believe the child you are meant to have will come into your life… it may be through adoption, surrogacy, IVF… just don’t give up.
Q: In 2011 you started your natural anti-aging skincare line. You love the production business aspect of that, and you’ve been so successful.
Monika: As the acting roles were starting to fade, it was important for me to have something else that I could fall back on. I approached The Shopping Channel to create a line of clothing for tall women. This was my entrance into the world of business and as an entrepreneur.
When I was trying to conceive I was looking for natural ways to take care of my skin. I met a doctor (Dr. Keith Burke) who has been formulating anti-aging skincare for 30 years. I fell in love with his formulations and suggested we bring them to retail and make it affordable — he agreed. So, we created a medically directed line for a quarter of the price of most skincare regimes you’d find in a Dermatologist’s office. We are now in 200 stores across Canada including Whole Foods.
Q: What are your favorite activities that you like to do?
Monika: My husband was a downhill ski racer and, so, it was inevitable that our son, Bode, would be skiing. He actually started at 18 months old and he’s a better skier now than I am now. In his pre-school they actually skied for one hour every day during the winter.
We try to do something active every day with Bode…. be it cycling, gymnastics, tennis or whatever. Physical fitness was a big part of our lives growing up and we’d like sports to play a big role in Bode’s life.
Q: What do you most want for Bode as he grows up?
Monika: I have just three wishes for Bode: to live a happy, healthy and long life.
If he’d like to live on a ship and travel the world washing toilets… that’s fine with me. I just want him to be happy.
Q: Favorite food?
Q: Guilty pleasure?
Monika: Cheesy 80s Music
Q: Most impressionable movie of all time?
Monika: The Sound Of Music. My family is from the area near Salzburg where it was filmed.
Q: Favorite place in the world?
Monika: Bavaria. When my beloved, ‘Omi’, was alive… this was where I found respite from the craziness that was my life when I was modeling. From the moment I had a credit card and passport, I would sneak away to her home in the Alps with no hot running water or telephone (I would have to run to the post office to receive calls from my agent, Ford, in NY). It was heaven. She would heat up my bath on her wood-burning stove and tuck me into a bed so deep with feather comforters that I couldn’t see out and I would have the most delicious sleeps of my life.
Q: What’s at the top of your bucket list?
Monika: I would like to see Morocco and Peru and buy a villa in Tuscany.
Q: If you could change one thing in the world…what would that change be?
Monika: Take away racism.
Q: How do you typically celebrate New Year and what does the start of a New Year represent to you?
Monika: To be honest, I really don’t go out to party. I’m very privileged to be invited to the most amazing parties all year ’round — so, New Year’s for me is more of a time for reflection. I write down what I’d like to accomplish for the year and snuggle with my son.