Orange County native Vanessa Hanson had no idea what was in store for her when she won the TransWorld Sur f 2011 US Open / UFC Model Search and earned the chance to be a guest ring girl at UFC 136 last October. In less than one year, the former wild child has taken the UFC and Strikeforce cages by storm—all while controlling her tattoo obsession and need for Pixar violence.
What’s life been like since you won the UFC Model Search?
It’s been so much fun, but definitely crazy. I can’t believe how much exposure I’ve gotten. It’s insane to think that I have fans now. One of the best things is that everyone in the MMA industry has been so nice. When you’re doing what you love, it really makes a difference. Since my guest appearance in the UFC, I’ve been able to be a ring card girl for the last three Strikeforce events—Tate vs. Rousey was intense. I’m pretty new to the sport, but I’ve never seen anything like that. It was unbelievable.
Did that make you want to get in the cage and fight?
No, I’ll stick to my yoga.
It’s legit, and so is my crow pose [laughing]. Yoga is no joke. I usually try to go at least two times a week. It’s a great workout.
What else do you do to stay fit?
I love hiking outdoors—anything outdoors, really. I just started P90X, so that’s been entertaining. I’ll let you know how that goes.
You turned 21 years old last month. How did you celebrate?
I went to New Orleans for the fi rst time. I got to go to the French Quarter Festival. It was amazing. I’ve never seen anything like Bourbon Street. It never stops—the music, the people, the fun.
Mardi Gras must be total insanity.Now that you’re 21, have you been partying in Orange County?
I’ve been checking out a few bars, but I’m more of a take-me-outto-dinner-and-a-movie girl. Anything with food, and I’m there. I love trying new food…and cooking new food.
What’s your best dish?
Anything with cheese. I love it. I make a mean homemade mac-n-cheese, and I’ve got some great mashed potatoes with cheese.
What kind of movies do you like?
It’s funny because I love Pixar and I love violence, so two ends of the spectrum there, but American Beauty, The Shining, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill—I’m a big Tarantino fan.
So now you just need Pixar to come out with Toy Story 4: The Buzz Lightyear Killing Spree?
Yeah. Is that too much to ask? I just want some animated violence [laughing].
You were a wild child, weren’t you?
Totally. I’m a reformed bad girl [laughing]. I got into my share of trouble in high school. I’m the youngest of three kids, so I guess I was the rebellious one. I drove my mom insane.
Now who do you drive insane?
I’ve had a boyfriend for three years, so he puts up with me now.
Three years? I don’t see a ring on that finger.
No, I’m still legally single.
How did this dude snag you?
This is so lame [laughing]. We met in science class when I was a freshman in high school, but we didn’t start dating until a few years later. Science class—instant chemistry. Insert rimshot, badum-bum [laughing].
I imagine you’re getting plenty of male attention with your newfound fame?
I’m definitely getting used to the catcalls in the cage. Actually, today, some old guy with an eagle tattoo yelled, “Hey, girl, yeah!” and then sped off in his van. I don’t get that. Did he expect me to chase after him?
That’s standard operating procedure for a tattooed man in a van.
Well, I do have six tattoos, so maybe that caught his eye.
That’s a lot of ink. What are they?
“Be Free” in Spanish on my left wrist; a butterfl y on my right wrist; a crescent moon with my family initials on my left ankle; the Zodiac sign Aries on my neck; an E. E. Cummings’ poem on my right foot; and a Sanskrit proverb on my left hip.
Are you getting any more?
I want to, but it may interfere with my modeling, so I’m trying to contain myself—six in three years is probably enough for now.
What’s your gameplan for the rest of the year?
I’m going to see where the modeling gig takes me. I’m ready to do a tropical shoot. Put me on the beach in Mexico, and I’ll be happy. I want to make the most out of the opportunities that I’ve been given…and maybe get one more tattoo [laughing].
Follow Vanessa on Facebook and Twitter: Facebook/modelvanessahanson and @Vanessa_Hanson.