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Published: Saturday, 5/8/2004

Finding the spark: Model Kim Alexis says beauty wasn't enough to maintain her happiness

BY VANESSA WINANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Model Kim Alexis talks to representatives of the Lifestyles for Ladies Only gym at a meeting in Maumee Bay State Park. Model Kim Alexis talks to representatives of the Lifestyles for Ladies Only gym at a meeting in Maumee Bay State Park.
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

In the 1980s, Kim Alexis ranked among the brightest supermodel stars, regularly appearing on the covers of Vogue and other fashion magazines. Women idolized her; men desired her.

But all too often, the blue-eyed blonde from Buffalo's 'burbs couldn't enjoy any of fame's fruits. And after photographer Irving Penn declared, "I can't work with her. She has no life in her eyes," Alexis knew she needed to learn what made her happy.

Alexis, now 43, told her story yesterday at a seminar for Lifestyles for Ladies Only fitness club managers, held at Maumee Bay State Park. Her tale of fame, athletics, Christian faith, and motherhood, which she peppered with humor and Scripture, fit in well with the club's goals, Lifestyles owner Don Stump said after her hour-long talk.

Alexis grew up at the other end of Lake Erie, she told the 40 folks at the seminar. From childhood, sports and learning played a big role in her life.

"I used to waterski on the Niagara River," she said with a laugh. As a teen, she became the top female swimmer in the state of New York, also earning straight A's, taking college-level calculus, and playing clarinet in the band. At 17, she even became an elder in her church. Her professional dream: to become a pharmacist. But God, she said, had other plans for her life.

At the time, though, she didn't realize that. "People said, 'You're pretty.' I thought, 'Well, is there money in that?'●" It turned out there was.

Alexis was discovered by a modeling scout and put on a plane for New York City two days after her 18th birthday. But even as she became one of the celebrated faces of her era, her old values no longer seemed to apply to her new life. People in the industry regularly ran her down, telling her to lose weight or insulting her fashion instincts.

"I cried for two years," she said.

But it took that disastrous photo shoot to convince her that "I had to learn what made Kim happy," she said. "I learned you have to take care of the spark in your eyes."

The process took years, through Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, health issues, two marriages, and five children. Along the way, she has acquired a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, which she uses to recover from workouts ("I have one in my house. You just feel great. You guys need 'em in your clubs," she told the group), and an ever-growing relationship with, and comfort in, God.

Two decades after the glory days of her early career, Alexis believes she has finally grown into the person she needs to be.

"I pretty much have balanced what's important and what's not,' she said. "It's who I am on the inside that's important."

She looks forward to the future and hopes to do more television work. And unlike many women, supermodels or not, aging doesn't faze her.

"I look at being older and gaining wisdom," she told the group. "I've learned to stay fit and healthy.

"I accept my body, my life, and my circumstances."

In the end, Rachel, Ross, Joey, Phoebe, Monica, and Chandler had a lot of friends.

An estimated 51.1 million people tuned in for the final Friends on NBC Thursday night, watching the crowd-pleasing story line of Ross and Rachel declaring their undying love for each other.

That makes it the fourth most-watched television series finale ever, behind M*A*S*H (105 million in 1983), Cheers (80.4 million in 1993), and Seinfeld (76.2 million in 1998), according to Nielsen Media Research.

It was also the most-popular entertainment program on television since the concluding episode of the first Survivor, watched by 51.7 million in August, 2000.

Besides the Ross-Rachel coupling - after a series of last-minute fits and starts - Monica and Chandler's characters were surprised by the birth of twins as they prepared to move to the suburbs.

A former Xerox copier salesman who made it to the final episodes of Donald Trump's hit reality show, The Apprentice, has been hired by the Oakland Raiders - but not to play football.

Chief Executive Officer Amy Trask, a fan of the NBC show, has hired Nick Warnock, 27, to sell 143 luxury suites at the Oakland Coliseum.

"I called someone else in our office equally addicted to the show and told him, 'I want to hire this guy to sell suites,'●" Trask said. "At first he was dubious, but when we saw on his Web site that he had a football background (he played high school and college football), it seemed like a great idea."

Warnock flew from Los Angeles to the team's Alameda headquarters Thursday for an interview. Although his salary and benefits are still being negotiated, Trask said Warnock has agreed to work for the team this season.

Trask said she was impressed by Warnock's salesmanship on the show and noted that many people, including Trump, complimented his ability to close a deal.

Thomas Gibson, who played the stuffy lawyer-husband on the TV sitcom Dharma & Greg, and his wife, Cristina, have added to their family.

Agatha Marie was born April 28, the actor's publicist, Heidi Lopata Slan, said in a statement Thursday.

The 41-year-old Gibson and his wife also have two sons, J.P. and Travis.

Prince Charles declared himself an urban music fan Friday, and rapper Jay-Z said the prince was very cool.

The heir to the British throne met Jay-Z at a rehearsal for an urban music festival sponsored by Charles' youth charity, the Prince's Trust.

"I'm not very familiar with the urban scene, but I do like some of the music," said Charles, who gave the performers an enthusiastic ovation.

Jay-Z, dressed in a navy-blue suit and striped tie, said Charles was "cool, very cool. For someone so high up to help kids and give them a second chance in life is a beautiful thing," he added.



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