Model September 1988

by Lisa Lebowitz

Streamlined Beauty - When Milla's not working she doesn't wear much makeup. "Just a little foundation on my nose, brown eyeshadow, a little powder blush and moisturizer on my lips." At 12, going to school is the only exercise she needs, supplemented by brisk walking at the mall. And, she eats junk food with impunity.

Milla is careful to give consistent attention to her long hair. "I wash it almost every day, but I don't use too much conditioner, because it leaves a build-up. But some nights, after interviews, I'm just too tired."

At 12-years old, Milla Jovovich is the new kind on the movie/modeling circuit. "I'm not so different from other girls my age - I was exactly like them a couple of months ago," she says. But things are happening quickly. In September 1987 Milla's photos landed on a desk in L.A.'s Prima model agency. She was signed almost immediately, and to date, has more than 15 magazine covers to her credit, and two films: Two Moon Junction, and Night Train to Katmandu. Talk about success at an early age.

Like the neo-nubile beauties to come before her, Milla is something of a phenomenon - the latest in a series of precocious preteens to earn a place in the Youth-Glory Hall of Fame. Far from being a New-Age, late '80s trend, this Child Heartthrob tradition has roots in the 1930s. Think of Shirley Temple tap dancing her way into the heart of America, or for that matter, Elizabeth Taylor galloping onto the scene in National Velvet. In recent years Jodie Foster and Brooke Shields have been the pretty babies of note...with a major difference: Unlike their predecessors, they portrayed on screen, in Taxi Driver and Pretty Babe, the kind of steamy nymphet made famous by Vladimir Nabokov in Lolita.

What sets a young girl apart and sets her on a course toward superstardom? And what is it about these child stars that sparks the public imagination? In part, it's the 3 D's - Drive, Dedication, and Discipline - qualities that are rare at any age, but essential for getting a young person through hours of work, when their peers are on the playground. The other ingredients are less easily quantified. Beauty is important, but looks aren't the only factor determining how a person comes across on film. The rest falls on under the je-ne-said-quoi of talent, something Milla has a lot of, according to photographer Herb Ritts. "She has a certain intensity in front of the lens. It's especially unusual for someone her age. She has real presence."

Milla comes by her rapport with the camera naturally. Born in Kiev, Russia, to mother Gallina Loginova, an actress, and father Bogie Jovovich, a physician, Milla's clearest memories of life in Russia are of going to film studios and being on movie sets with her mother. Seven years ago she and her parents came to the States and put down roots in Los Angeles. There she attended public school, made friends, and began forming typically American tastes which hold true today, despite her career. For example, "On free afternoons I like to hang out with my friends, and go shopping in the mall," says Milla. Like many kids her age, she loves junk food, hates Phys Ed, and wouldn't be caught dead in any clothes but "miniskirts and tank tops, baggy jeans and suspenders with either a black or white T-shirt."

Although she doesn't have a boyfriend, she does have crushes. "I like the Beastie Boys because I think one of them is cute...Kind Dreadlocks," she adds, shyly. She is allowed to date, but mostly goes out in groups.

Because of the demands of her career, Milla now attends the Professional Actors school. "The hours are shorter. It's all academic subjects [No Phys Ed]. The teachers are more flexible with homework, and they give me work to take on location." And some of the locations this straight-A student has been to have been pretty exotic. Nepal, for instance, and Paris. But her heart is still in L.A. "I can't stay away for more than a week without missing it," she says. "I just finished 3 weeks in Paris, and before that I was in New York. I like New York; it's fun. But Paris? I'm too young to understand that yet."

Speaking of youth, does age interfere with her professionalism on the set? No, says Ritts, the first photographer to put her face on a cover. "She's terrific," he says. "We just shot a commerical for Parco, a Japanese retail store. It was just her, all day, all imagery. I like to treat her very easy, like a kid. We have fun. I never force her into anything, and at the same time, I keep her in line. She doesn't act spoiled. She's terrific."

Even though Milla is 12, she photographs like she's 17 or 18. But does that mean she can or should wear sexy clothes and makeup? "I don't like to see her tarted up," says Ritts who insists that her makeup be kept natural. "Milla is sensual, and she has a sense of that for pictures. Anything that's tasteful and natural is fine, whether you're 12 or 21."

Like Shields and Foster, whose Ivy League adventures were followed by the press, Milla is academically oriented and intends to attend college. "I want o major in Egyptology," she says. "I got interested in the ancient people and history about two years ago, and want to study more." But for now, Milla, who is bilingual in English and Russian, focuses her academic energy on Social Studies in school, and voices strong opinions about U.S.-Soviet relations: "I think the new friendship between Russia and the U.S. is great...about time, too. But they never should have been in a fight in the first place."

Milla is adamant in her ambition to keep up modeling and acting, whatever her future holds. She admires actors like Jack Nicholson, Meryl STreep, and River Phoenix, and loves old movies with stars like Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh. At the moment, she is looking for parts that suit her, and would particularly like to do a drama. Or maybe even sing. But, she's keeping her options open. "If a great opportunity comes by..."

One of the downsides of her snowballing career is that she has less time to spend with her friends. "I have a lot of friends I've known since I came to America. I don't get to see them as much as before." "I have changed some," says Milla. "I know more about what to expect from life because I'm older now."