In a Devlounge exclusive, I recently got the chance to talk design and art with a former Miss USA, current Bikini.com supermodel, and of course, designer. Sit back and give our interview with Larissa Meek a read.
Devlounge: Hey Larissa, thanks for giving up some time around the holidays to chat with me. Mind giving a quick background on yourself so everyone knows who you are?
Larissa Meek: I’m an artist, web designer, bikini.com supermodel. I placed 4th runner up at Miss USA 2001. But I’m most likely known as the girl from NBC’s Average Joe: Hawaii… (Oh yeah, and I was a kid with asthma.)
DL: How old were you when you began designing sites and digital artwork? Did you “teach yourself” your skills, or did learn from a school or other resource?
LM: The year was 2001. I was 22 years old. A month before I had bombed my top 5 question at Miss USA then became a recently laid-off 3D animator.
I felt lost. I needed to work and there was very little opportunity for 3D animation in St. Louis, so I turned to the web as a way to promote my artwork and modeling portfolio.
I studied 3D animation in school so the familiarity of timelines and motion made Macromedia Flash an easy transition. Thanks to hundreds of books, great resources on the web and a passion for visual stuff I learned web design on my own. Today my focus is on css/xhtml based sites.
DL: Let’s talk about design first. You’re a senior designer at Agencynet, and you run your own portfolio and studio site, along with a blog. I’d say you’re a bit busy. What’s it like try to balance all three, and how’s work at Agencynet?
LM: AgencyNet is my first and foremost priority. It gives me the rare opportunity to contribute to stunning projects in an energizing environment.
I admire the people I work for and with. I can’t imagine working anywhere else.
I wake up every day and feel energized by doing what I love.
It never feels like work.
Since I started working at AgencyNet, I have stopped freelancing with the exception of the occasional favor or charity based site. However, larissameek.com serves as a testing ground for new ideas. I never want to stop learning. I wake up every day and feel energized by doing what I love.
It never feels like work.
DL: In terms of some of your artwork, a lot of it is focused on a woman’s life and body. Is there a reason for this reoccurring theme in your art?
LM: I think, as a result of modeling and growing up a little girl bombarded with images of female perfection I became fascinated with the female form.
I find the flowing curves more captivating than trying to figure out the defined muscular structure of the masculine form and I’m a sucker for fashion. It also seems that some of my works subconsciously become auto-biographical.
DL: You had the chance to spend 8 weeks in Hawaii filming the NBC show “Average Joe”. I do remember bits and pieces of the show, but I never watched the entire thing. What was that like being part of the “reality TV”
LM: It was the most fun and most emotionally difficult part of my life.
Reality TV is not reality. It is very much produced and seeded. Don’t get me wrong… It’s really fun but a lot of the situations are molded to have an outcome for the highest entertainment value. And then there’s the magic of editing.
I had a blast being on the Average Joe: Hawaii. I met oodles of really cool people and dreaded every “elimination” night.
The strangest part is going from obscurity to becoming semi-famous. At the height of the show I was walking into Hollywood VIP parties and talking to celebrities whom had been watching my show. About a year later people are like, “I know you from somewhere. What High School did you go to?”
I respond, “I think I sat behind you in math class.” (hee hee)
Also, contrary to the way the show ended, I’m still dating the guy I picked.
DL: Going from competing at Miss USA to a designer is a pretty sharp change in occupations. Did you find it a struggle to turn careers around like that?
LM: Coming back from Miss USA was a whirl-wind. Especially because I bombed my on-stage question which you can see on YouTube, but the more I think about it the more I realize that things happen for a reason. I love design and I love technology.
DL: You’re known for a multitude of different things, from web design, to art, to television appearances, but which would you prefer people recognize you for?
LM: For web design and art.
DL: What are some of your other favorite things to do in your spare time away from the designer world?
LM: When I’m not at AgencyNet I’m probably thinking about what to blog about next. Otherwise I like to break out my sketchbook or hunt for books on anything from fiction to computers to art.
DL: Are you happy you made the switch to designing? Any regrets?
LM: No regrets ever! I’m just amazed how I aimed to do something else and web design found me. The path it took me to get where I am now is something I could have never imagined. I just know that since I was a little girl I always wanted to work in something visually stimulating.
DL: We’ll that about wraps it up. It was an honor to conduct this interview with you. Hopefully I’ll be talking to me Miss USA’s in the future, but that’s another story :). Good luck in the future, we’ll be watching!
LM: Hey, thanks for the opportunity to chat! I love Devlounge! You guys rock. If I come across any available Miss USA girls, I’ll be sure to pass on their number, so long as they don’t get fired.