NATURALLY, IT'S NERIAH
meet miss march: treasure of the sierras
"My parents raised me on a commune in Angels Camp, in the Sierras," says 21-year-old Neriah Davis, who is turning heads on the shaded terrace of a Sunset Boulevard restaurant. As we chat, November leaves drift onto our table, and mother nature provides an eerie counterpoint -- we're being dusted by ash from wildfires raging in Topanga Canyon.
Neriah's early life in the central Sierra Nevada gold-mining town of Angels Camp was bucolic but raw. "We didn't have electricity. We didn't have a TV. When we wanted to take a bath, we had to heat the water and pour it into the bathtub. My parents grew all their own food. It was like "Little House on the Prairie." I love that that's the way I grew up."
The commune was a former kayaking school called the Confluence. When Neriah, her parents and her three siblings moved there in the mid-Seventies, they fought efforts to dam the Stanislaus River. "My dad was one of the main protesters. When I was seven or eight, just a little kid, he would get us up early in the morning and dress us as trees and rocks, and we'd all stand in the middle of the road holding signs and chanting, 'Don't dam the river!'" In recent years, Neriah's father, who is part Cherokee, has been organizing support for members of the Hopi Nation who are engaged in a land-rights struggle at Big Mountain in Arizona. Neriah coordinated part of a Thanksgiving relief caravan that joined him there.
She came to Los Angeles with her try-anything-once spirit, and within a week she landed the first of a series of small acting jobs, including a supporting role in USA's made-for-cable movie "Marilyn & Bobby." She went on to land modeling gigs that put her on the cover of a "Playboy's Book of Lingerie."
"I did this poster. Oh, my gosh, it was crazy," she says, laughing. "The photographer and I drove up to a ramp on the 101 Freeway in Woodland Hills, and I was standing there totally nude with this sign that read Will Work For Sex. I was wearing pink lipstick and pink pumps. Cars were driving by. It was the craziest crazy thing I've ever done. I've heard it's one of the best-selling posters right now."
She admits that appearing in Playboy made her consider possible conflicts with her newfound Christianity. Thinking for a moment, she says, "I feel that these shots are not going to make a difference in the world. But, then, another side of me likes to do this. I'm an exhibitionist. It was fun to do that freeway shot. I think people should have different facets to their personality." Although Los Angeles gives her some interesting opportunities, Neriah's return to the ranch cannot be far off. She wants to own a mountain farm -- after she does a few movies and some more modeling -- and she's weighing a plan to work in Costa Rica with her boyfriend to develop a Christian adventure camp for kids.
"I'm not materialistic," she says. "Living in the city, it's real hard to be close to God. I find that when I'm at my parents' house, I feel blessed and find inner peace. I don't feel that way here. It's hard to keep your insides healthy." Need a better reason to get out in the woods? We'll meet you back at camp, angel.
-- Clint Gila
Photography by Stephen Wayda