marianne gravatte may have been backward as a schoolgirl, but now she has everything going in the right direction
At one point during our recent conversation with Marianne Gravatte, she whipped out a comb, ran it through her sunny locks, then braided them into a pigtail at the nape of her neck. She added a spangle from her purse to the end of the pigtail and tied a brightly colored band around her forehead. The whole process seemed to take seconds. She was instantly transformed from lush and lovely into bright and sporty. Amazingly, although she had not once consulted a mirror, the finished coif was perfectly done. The change was significant. In that moment, she had gone from professional model to private person, and she seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. Private person, you see, is a bit of an understatement. Marianne is one of the quietest, shiest people we've ever run across. For her to be a model is a triumph of paper over scissors or like running water backward. Yet she is determined to make it in one of the most public of professions.
Marianne has been modeling for a year now. She has appeared in ads for jeans, wet suits, beer, pools and motorcycles. For a shy girl, she moves a lot of product. But each time she is asked to appear before the camera, she swallows hard.
"Right now, she told us, I'm the least shy I've ever been in my life. There was a time when if I didn't know a phone number, I would be too embarrassed to call Information. At school, I would never do an oral book report. I'd arrange to be absent on that day. But gradually, I'm getting out of it. Every job I do now gets a little easier for me." Marianne is at a loss to explain why she is so reserved. Her startling looks may have something to do with it. She simply attracts attention whether or not she wants to. And, as she says, "Being the center of attention makes me nervous." As a result, she avoids public contact as much as she can. Raised in a Los Angeles suburb, she still lives there, driving to the city only for a modeling call. "I don't like cities; they're too noisy. I feel best in the mountains, where it's quiet." One of her favorite places to be is along the Colorado River, where she and her boyfriend regularly go for a little boating and water-skiing. There, in the bosom of nature, she is at peace. "The air is clean and dry and the sun is warm, not hot and sticky as it is in the city. I like the feeling of having nothing to do but lie in the sun." Her love of the river is surpassed only by her love of animals. At one time, she wanted to be a zookeeper, "just to feed the baby animals all day," until she learned that such a job would take seven years of schooling. Now she is content to play zookeeper to her seven cats and two birds. Only one of the cats was purchased; the rest are strays she has taken in. Cats do not make her nervous.
Appropriately, one of Marianne's screen idols is Clint Eastwood, known for playing the strong, silent type. Marianne hasn't got the strong part down yet, but she's working on it. Her appearance in Playboy, as you may imagine, is a big step for her. There is resolve in her voice as she explains her coming out: "I figured, for once in my life, I'm going to take a chance!"
For someone with Marianne's looks and quiet charm, it's hardly a gamble.
Photography by Richard Fegley