At a time when most young ladies were dog-earing pages of Judy Blume books and bemoaning their first pimples and crushes to their diaries, 11-year-old Milla Jovovich was being photographed by celebrity shutterbug Richard Avedon as one of Revlon's "Most Unforgettable Women in the World," and earning $3,500 for a day's work.
The only child of Russian former film star Galina Loginova and Yugoslav pediatrician Borgi Jovovich, Milla spent her early childhood years being carted back and forth between the Soviet Union and London, where her father completed his medical studies. The family emigrated to the United States in 1980, when Milla was 5, alighting in Sacramento, Ca. They soon relocated to Los Angeles, where Milla enjoyed rounds of acting classes, days at the beach, and large numbers of bong hits.
Backed by her mother-manager, the exotic young beauty pursued work as a child actor and succeeded in landing a modeling contract with Prima at the age of 11. Photographer Avedon snapped her picture for a Mademoiselle cover, but when the magazine discovered that the smoldering beauty was only 11, they refused to run the photo. Avedon was so adamant that the shot be used that he gave the magazine an ultimatum: run it, or risk permanently losing his services. The end result of the tussle was that the tarted-up Miss Jovovich became the youngest model ever to grace the cover of a fashion magazine. Casting the original waif mold, she subsequently found herself being used as fodder for the talk-show-friendly topic of prepubescent supermodels, as Christian groups lamented the attendant associations of kiddie porn and rampant eating disorders.
Milla used her minor celebrity status to branch out into acting opportunities, and succeeded in landing a promising role in the film Two Moon Junction. At 15, the modeling vet won a nationwide casting call to star in the much-maligned Return to the Blue Lagoon. Fueling unclean Nabokovian lust with her impish-vampish look and nubile form, Milla carried on her tradition of appearing nude on film with a minute part as Christian Slater's jilted girlfriend in Kuffs. A secondary role as Mildred Harris in Chaplin, and a two-line part in Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused did little to hone her acting skills. Obviously, it was time to try something new.
Having commanded both the catwalk and the silver screen, Milla set out to conquer the pop music realm; 1994 witnessed the release of her first album, The Divine Comedy. Informed by the pain she experienced as a child growing up as a Russian emigrée in the Red-bashing Reagan era, the introspective, European-folkish debut drew favorable reviews from critics and celebrities alike—Winona Ryder and Beavis & Butt-Head loved it—and comparisons to the angst-ridden poetic stylings of Kate Bush and Tori Amos. The 18-year-old had become one of the few, the proud, the multi-hyphenated: a model-actress-singer-songwriter.
Until her appearance in The Fifth Element, Milla's cinematic offerings largely disappointed. But, with this film, she seemed to finally find the perfect role: sporting bright orange dreads with lemon roots and an absolutely fabulous Ace bandage costume, Milla played a divine being-slash-warrior who helps Bruce Willis battle an evil force. It was disclosed after the film's banner opening weekend that she and director Besson had carried on a torrid affair during filming. No wonder the director called her "the most talented person I've ever worked with." Not surprisingly, they eventually married. The couple split after two years of intercontinental wedded bliss, a period that coincided with their collaboration on Besson's The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, in which Jovovich portrayed the enigmatic martyred maiden. She is collaborating on her follow-up to The Divine Comedy with current beau John Frusciante, guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
What professional frontier Milla Jovovich will tackle next remains to be seen, but she does plan to head back into the studio to record a second album. She sums up her artistic ambitions as follows: "I just want to make one really good movie a year. And when I die, to know I was honest as an artist." Failing that, there are always those lucrative fashion shoots and that high-profile cosmetics deal with L'Oreal to fall back on.