At home with Maggie Rizer.
Dressed in black leggings and a loose sweater, Maggie Rizer still looks like a model, even with a second child due this month. That’s not to say she won’t try to convince you otherwise. “I have food on me all the time,” she insists. “I’m covered in dog hair.” Nice try, Rizer.
In her storied modeling career, the 35-year-old has graced the cover of Vogue, starred in campaigns for designers ranging from Prada to Tommy Hilfiger, garnered five nominations for VH1/Vogue Model of the Year, and called up Oscar de la Renta when it was time to design a wedding dress. But at home in Diablo, with 15-month-old son Zander shaking out the contents of a bowl and three dogs barking outside, you can almost pretend she’s just another East Bay mom juggling work and motherhood.
Q: How were you discovered?
A: My best friend, Katy, and I replicated the Kate Moss Calvin Klein ads for our photography class in high school. My mom wanted to send my photos in, but I never thought modeling was a real way to make a living. I didn’t want her to do it, and she did. [The agency] called and asked me to come in, and I was the first girl it had hired from someone sending their pictures in.
Q: What was your start like in the industry?
A: I spent the summer in New York, and it went really well. My first three shoots were for Italian Vogue with Steven Meisel, and one cover, which for a summer is amazing, but I didn’t know it at the time. I thought, “If I’m doing really well, I should be on the cover of Seventeen.” I had done one year of college, and I actually disliked it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was kind of lost, so I stayed in New York that year, and everything took off. I started shooting for American Vogue and did the Calvin Klein campaign with Kate Moss and the Versace campaign. I just got really, really lucky. I don’t think I appreciated what had been handed to me right away. But then you start meeting other girls, and you learn it’s really a tough industry to get into, and you learn to appreciate what you have.
Q: Did you fall in love with New York?
A: It’s funny; I never loved cities, so it was hard for me. I went home to upstate New York a lot, especially during the summer. Most people would go to the Hamptons on the weekends; I’d always go home.
Q: When did you know you had made it?
A: When I shot the cover of Vogue with Kate Moss.
Q: Did you tell her you had done her ads for a photography class project?
A: No, my agent knew the background and told Steven Meisel about it. I remember being on set with her, and Steven joking about me now shooting with her.
Q: Your husband, Alexander Mehran Jr., is part of the Mehran family that owns and operates San Ramon’s Bishop Ranch. How did you two meet?
A: We met in 1998 in New York. One of my roommates was friends with [his sister]. I guess the long story short is that we went on a few dates when we were younger, and between him being at school and me being all over the place, it just never really happened where we had a relationship. We saw each other on and off for years, and always kept in touch. Then, in 2006, we started dating seriously. We were both more mature, and the time was right. I moved in with him a couple weeks later. We got married in September of 2010.
Q: Was it hard choosing a wedding dress, knowing so many different designers?
A: It was. I had asked Consuelo [Castiglioni], and then I freaked out and decided I wanted something more classic, so I went with Oscar [de la Renta]. I don’t like looking at wedding pictures and knowing when they were taken. I really wanted something that was timeless. I don’t know if I did that or not. In 20 years, I’ll let you know.
Q: What appealed to you about Diablo?
A: We moved to San Francisco first and lived there for about a year and a half, but we just never took advantage of San Francisco. Alex’s grandmother lives down the road [in Diablo], so we spent a lot of time right here. We just loved this area. It’s very peaceful, and it’s really not far from the city. Here, you can have four times the size of a house and a big yard. You have to be a certain kind of person, I guess. Some of our friends are looking at places to buy right now, and they say, “I want to be able to walk to get coffee.” I’ll be fine if I don’t see a coffee shop. I can make coffee.
Q: Don’t you miss the jet-set lifestyle?
A: I grew up in the suburbs, so I love that feeling of community. It’s just a nice way to live. I spent a lot of time in Manhattan and traveling, so it feels nice to not only have roots, but to have something that feels so much like home.
Q: Any favorite local spots?
A: I can never get a seat, but I love Sideboard in Danville. And I could eat Piatti’s pizza pretty much every night. If they delivered, I would.
Q: Do your neighbors know you are a famous model?
A: I don’t know. I don’t really talk about it, and whenever someone brings it up, I seem to change the subject. Alex can be the general manager of Bishop Ranch and still be him. But when you’re a model, you’re kind of two people, and I just like to be me.
Q: What’s harder, modeling or motherhood?
A: I wouldn’t want to do either every day [laughs]. No, that’s not true. They’re both really hard. I wouldn’t want to work all the time, but having a little break to work and feel human is good, too.
Q: Where do you like to go with Zander?
A: I love that park over here, Hap Magee. And the Diablo Country Club is good for kids because there are a thousand of them, so no one notices one screaming.
Q: How do you stay involved with the fashion industry?
A: When you move out of New York, you’re really making a statement as far as your work goes. They’re like, “Alright, she doesn’t really want to work.” So I am just focusing on jobs that I’m really interested in, things that are more creative or avant-garde, rather than working for the sake of working. It’s not only doing the jobs now. I have two little people to take care of. That really plays into only doing the jobs I’m really excited to do, that I feel would be worth taking the time away from them, and Alex, and the dogs.
Q: There was a rumor that you might be writing a memoir. Is that still in the works?
A: I had been working on it for a while, and I just got sick of it. There was a lot about my dad [who died of AIDS when she was 14], and the story depressed me. I was living in that time for much longer than I would have liked to live in it. When I put it on hold and stepped back for a minute, I was like, “Why am I trying to relive that?”
Q: Do you see any modeling in the cards for Zander or his future brother?
A: I’ve seen so many kids on set, and it’s just not a good thing to do to them. Maybe an occasional thing with me for something really special, but not his own thing. He’s just going to be a regular kid and go to school to get an education and a real job. It’s like, how many kids want to be professional baseball players in the world? You put your whole heart and soul into it, and it’s just not worth it. At least baseball players still get to go to college. Models drop out and move to New York.
Q: Any tips for moms trying to look put together?
A: The key thing is not trying too hard but not forgetting to try. You can wear Gap jeans and a J. Crew top, but then if you have a great pair of sunglasses or a great pair of shoes or a great bag, it really changes it. It’s just about putting in a little effort. It’s life; you’ve got to be comfortable.
Q: Is there one piece you live in?
A: I wear a lot of Alexander Wang. It looks good, but it’s still super-comfortable. The biggest thing about being pregnant and dressing is you can’t dress like yourself. You could go to the nicest maternity store and buy the most expensive clothes, but they are still maternity clothes. So I try to stick with stuff that I would wear anyway.
Q: You’re obviously gorgeous. Any flaws?
A: I have so many thank-you notes to write. I am so bad with thank-you notes.