Interview: 2011 US Open Model Search Winner Vanessa Hanson
Last year while we were shooting the US Open | UFC Model Search, a stunning brunette suddenly popped out of the sea of people and into our humble Model Search tent. Her name was Vanessa and she was from nearby Orange, California. While it was still early into the shoot, I knew we had a winner. She's since moved on to a gig as an "Octagon Girl" for the UFC and has traveled all over the country strutting her stuff between rounds. We had a quick chat with Vanessa in anticipation of the upcoming US Open Of Surfing where once again we'll be on the prowl for the next big thing in modeling and Vanessa will help us as a judge.
TransWorld SURF: What made you enter the TransWorld SURF | UFC Model Search last year during the US Open?
Vanessa Hanson: The girls I was working with that day were all entering and pushed me to! My boyfriend is a big UFC fan so I thought it’d be a funny thing to tell him about after. To be honest, I never would have entered it on my own.
Did you have any modeling experience leading up to that point? If so, what was it?
I was with a small boutique agency, so very little. I had done maybe one music video and some local fashion stuff.
What did you think your chances of winning were?
Not high. I still don’t know if I fit the typical “ring girl” look, plus California is filled with so many beautiful girls! I entered it with really no expectations.
Tell us about your first modeling gig for the UFC…
My first fight was UFC 136 Edgar vs. Maynard III in Houston, Texas last October. It was so crowded and there was so much energy in the air. I remember feeling super queasy before I did my first lap around the octagon because I was so nervous I was going to trip or do something ridiculous! The fights were great. I saw my first KO in person and I remember thinking, what have I gotten myself into. It was an amazing experience.
Were you a fan of MMA before you won the Octagon Girl gig?
I always thought it was an interesting sport. I would watch some fights here and there, but not religiously. I remember thinking it could get really gory before. Now, no matter how much blood there is I find myself not being able to look away. My parents will laugh because after the first fight I think they could see I was genuinely shocked and now I'm the one yelling next to the cage! I love a good kick in the face. When you see the fights live and how hard these fighters work, it changes your whole perspective. I have so much respect for them.
Who's your favorite fighter and why?
I don’t play favorites, but I definitely have a select few I root for. They are all so talented and every single fighter I have met has been so down to earth and nice.
Did you catch any of the surfing while in Huntington for the US Open?
I was watching when Kelly Slater won. That was pretty exciting! I’m always pretty amazed by surfers. I think being able to just balance on a surfboard would be a huge accomplishment for me.
If you could go on a date with an MMA guy or a surfer, which would you choose?
I'd definitely take a surfing lesson from Dane Reynolds.
Will we be seeing you at Huntington this year? Maybe as a celebrity judge?
Definitely, I'd love to be a judge! I can’t wait to see the beauties California has to offer the UFC and TransWorld SURF.
This may sound kind of corny, but did winning the US Open Model Search and UFC Octagon Girl gig change your life?
It did change my life! I’ve traveled more this past year than the past five years of my life combined. I’ve got to visit so many states I probably never would have gone to with out the UFC. I am so grateful for everything this competition has brought me from the traveling, fans, and new friends.