Forget all notions and stereotypes you hold about Playboy models. Three-time Playboy Playmate Maria Eriksson, a Master's Degree-holding science teacher from England, has proven to the world of modeling that looks alongside brains can go the distance in the industry. With so many models coming to the United States from all over the globe, Eriksson has become a stand-out in the business, having graced the pages of Playboy multiple times as well as FHM, and modeled in countless countries—even on three different continents. Because of her efforts, and the fact that she brings a hefty sense of charm and smarts to the industry, Eriksson has been awarded the "Extraordinary Ability" Green Card from the U.S. government.
While modeling in her younger years, Eriksson eventually stopped to become a full-time educator – teaching physics, biology and chemistry. But she soon found herself missing the glam of the modeling world and decided to give it another go-around. And from what you might have gleaned, she's done pretty well.
Still, as the fact remains that as these models – even outside of Eriksson – brighten up the pages of some of our favorite magazines across the globe, the truth is that earning a chance to stay in the country continues to be a hardship. And given all the talk about immigration in the United States as of late, it seems safe to say that nothing could be more relevant.
So, hundreds of modeling gigs and three Playboy centerfold spreads later – and even a small ambassadorship to bring the magazine back to South Africa – Maria Eriksson spoke with MStars News as a permanent resident of the United States about Playboy, the world of modeling and the current state of U.S. immigration.
MStars News: First of all, congratulations on obtaining an Extraordinary Ability Green Card. That's exciting!
Maria Eriksson: Thank you! I don't have citizenship yet; I have permanent residency. I'm good in the United States for the rest of my life and I can choose to become a citizen in five years if I want. It's a big deal! So maybe in five years I'll be reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I do know it, I swear.
MS: I'm sure you know it better than some people in the U.S. who are citizens.
ME: Probably. [laughs]
MS: For those who don't know – definitely not me, of course – can you describe what that means?
ME: It basically means that you're better than the average at your career- you're one of a kind. I had to prove I'm getting hired because I have certain qualities in my career that are unusual, or extraordinary.
It's a very strange visa to get because I'm up against people who are searching cancer drugs and medicine, but then they have category for artists- that's what modeling falls under.
MS: I imagine your academic background helped as well.
ME: I hope so! I would imagine so. That way it's not just a model giving advice on a career; it's an academic at the same time. I think the two things I have were beneficial.
MS: What was the first thing you did after you heard the news?
ME: Cried and had a glass of champagne. [laughs]
MS: Was this something you had sought out to do?
ME: In the beginning not really. I was a school teacher back in England for a while so I'm a bit of an academic really. I have a Master's Degree and did some modeling before. When I was in my mid 20s I thought I could do more with it so I went to London and things really took off.
I taught biology, chemistry and physics. I did modeling when I was younger but never saw it as a career. So I went the academic route and did modeling as a way to travel. But I missed it when I quit to teach.
I never set off to be a model. I thought when I was younger that maybe I could get a photograph in Playboy but now I've got three centerfolds and covers. Plus I've done things for Costco and Wal-Mart. I'm lucky where I'm not pigeonholed to one category. I think that helped with the green card.
MS: Everybody knows Playboy, and getting in once is a big deal, but you've been a Playboy Playmate three times. With that, you were also the ambassador for bringing Playboy to South Africa?
ME: Yeah! I think they were around years ago but then disappeared off the grid for years. They reestablished themselves in 2011 and I was asked to do a lot of publicity pieces to encourage people to come forward and apply for Playboy. This way we could show that Playboy really wasn't a dirty magazine; it was classy and sophisticated. They wanted a model that wasn't the stereotype, and I think my academia helped with that. Then two years later they wanted me to be a Playmate.
MS: Is that still a stigma around the world, that it's a dirty magazine?
ME: I think it depends on who you talk to and where you are. I think now people are seeing it as kind of normal. And it is a very prestigious magazine known throughout the entire world. I guess everyone has their own way of looking at it, but it is seen largely as very glamorous and upscale.
MS: Are there any significant changes that obtaining this green card has brought to your life?
ME: Oh, absolutely! Stability, for one. I've lived in Los Angeles around four years and this is the longest I've been here. The fact that I can buy a place to call home is a huge change for me; it means I can utilize my career to go into different fields rather than having visas expire all the time. It's a huge life-changing event.
MS: I can't imagine how stressful that must be, having a visa expire.
ME: It's been a really difficult process. When [a visa] expires you either have to renew it or move into something else or leave. When my visa expired it took three to five months to get another one. Legally, I couldn't work until I got another one. I also couldn't leave or see my family. The first time my visa expired my driver's license expired too and I couldn't get another driver's license.
I think the immigration process definitely is not where it needs to be in the U.S., but at the same time it's bound to be a mess because so many people want to live here because it's such a good country and there are so many opportunities. Because of that, I understand the government's side, too. They can't just hand out green cards to anybody; they have to know they are giving them to people who are not going to be detrimental to society and who will improve the economy and be a good person. It's a tough issue.
Find more from Maria Eriksson over on her official site.© 2019 Mstars News, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.