Jarah Mariano: An Intimate Look At A Model’s Life

Jarah Mariano is no stranger to the world, having graced countless covers, some of which include Sports Illustrated, Vogue, Glamour and Elle. She’s worked with numerous brands, among them Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Armani and Sephora. And, she’s also currently the face of Kirin Coffee in Japan!

We first met in New York earlier this year. When she found out it was my first time in New York, she offered to show me around her hood, Williamsburg. Hanging out with her felt like hanging out with a best friend. She was just very, very sweet and generous in spirit, and completely unpretentious. You would expect someone who’s achieved so much success in life to have a few airs, but, no, it was completely the opposite. She was just really down to earth and humble!


Meeting Jarah was very special to me, because that’s where a nugget of an idea to do something for myself sprouted. Over brunch, she told me about some of her plans for the future, which made me to wonder what my own plans were for myself. A couple of months later, Little Slices was born!

Today, Jarah opens up to us about her incredible modeling career – among her many milestones being the very first Hawaiian model in Victoria’s Secret!

“I was scouted for modeling when I was around 15 years old just standing in the middle of Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California. They asked to take photos of me and submitted them to a top agency. I began working right away and have not stopped since.

It was a privilege to be a part of the Victoria’s Secret family for so long. It was especially meaningful to me because I was embraced when there weren’t any models of my ethnic background who had ever been a part of their campaigning. We were a very spoiled but humble crew and I was fortunate to be a part of it while it had this rare energy. I got to travel to the best destinations like Ibiza, Turks and Caicos and St. Barts. I was excited to go to work each day because we made everything so much fun, we definitely worked hard and played hard.”


Modeling seems like an incredibly glamorous job, yet as with any job, there are always the less than glamorous behind the scene bits. What are her favorite and least favorite bits of modeling?

“I moved to New York when I was 18, put myself through college and invested in a home by the age of 23.”

“I entered into the industry in such a unique time between old world versus new, and I had the advantage of being a part of both influential times and such a large transition. I began when everything was photographed on film and Polaroids versus digital. It is a talent to photograph this way and for us subjects to perform as well. It’s very much about finding the light and capturing a moment in time. If you capitalize in a smart way, it can really serve you. I moved to New York when I was 18, put myself through college and invested in a home by the age of 23. Modeling rocketed me into this world of sensation to fuel every dream and gave me all the essential tools to becoming an individual whom I feel can manage and survive just about anything.

There is a downside to every up, and I would say that the most challenging part of modeling is the constant testing of your spirit while tempted and manipulated at times with diverse situations and wide varieties of people and places. You can easily get lost in so many ways unless you maintain a solid grip on who you are and what you want, or don’t want. The constant traveling at times and having to show up refreshed and ready to work a long day ahead when you were working in another country and time zone the night before can be pretty grueling and isolating.”


Being in the glare of the spotlight means people often develop their own ideas of who she is. What was something about her that most people didn’t know, that she wished we’d know?

“My friend hired me as a photographer on a job once in London and the first person I photographed was President Clinton.”

“Modeling is limiting in the way that a specific image is imposed upon you to represent a company or product. You’re rarely given a voice, which is fine because that’s fundamentally what modeling is. Of course this idea has changed tremendously with the introduction of social media. I’m generally a private person and find it conflicting to share my true self. On top of it, I was a very shy child as I entered modeling. So it’s kind of the last job I would have ever imagined for myself. I wanted to be an artist for as far back as I can remember. To be honest, I still don’t really love being in front of the camera. I would rather be behind it in the creative department. I also enjoy photography, but not for fashion. I like abstract things, people, landscapes. My friend hired me as a photographer on a job once in London and the first person I photographed was President Clinton. Fashion isn’t a big interest to me and I was never a girly girl. I grew up with older brothers, we were very active and we played in nature a lot. I have also always had a daredevil in me and will try almost anything at least once. I’ve been sky diving a couple times, swam with sharks, climb or jumped off of things I probably shouldn’t have, I have tattoos and I can outdrink the average person. Yet I’m highly nurturing and sensitive to bad energies.”

“If I ever do come across weird vibes on any format, there are lovely editing buttons used for blocking, reporting and erasing.”

In this day and age of the Internet, bad energies abound, especially when you’re in the public eye. I absolutely loved her response when I asked her how she dealt with Internet trolls and haters.

“I don’t deal with internet trolls or haters because I discard negativity. If I ever do come across weird vibes on any format, there are lovely editing buttons used for blocking, reporting and erasing. Thankfully I have not had to do it much. I would love to respond to peoples other kinds of questions but I handle all my own social media and feel that if I respond to one then I must respond to all. I do read most every comment and take it to heart and appreciate the positive loving messages I do receive!”

Ha ha! Lovely editing buttons! Man, I wish they had them for people in real life.

Bad stuff happens to everyone, and I think while a lot of things are out of your control, how you react to it is one of the things that you can control. Jarah’s gone through a lot in life, but she’s a total trooper!

“I try to find the lesson in each instance and ask myself how am I able to grow from this rather than use it to fuel anger or self-destructive behavior.”

“I’ve had many challenges in life, but I never chose to linger on them or allow them to consume me because everything is relative in the end. I’ve suffered tragedy, loss, broken family issues, health scares, mistreatment. Just because things may occur in your life or happen around or to you, doesn’t mean that they define you or place you on any other path than the one that you decide to choose for yourself. I try to find the lesson in each instance and ask myself how am I able to grow from this rather than use it to fuel anger or self-destructive behavior.”


Of course, one grows from both positive and negative experiences, and Jarah’s latest sojourn home to Hawaii has been transformative for her. Her love for Hawaii glows brightly, as she speaks about her birthplace.

“The Hawaiian spirit is rare and I couldn’t be more proud to have that connection.”

“I’ve just returned from spending a few months in Hawaii that has changed my life forever. I was born on the island of Kauai, but around the age of 4 we relocated to live in Southern California. I went back for the summers to visit family, so I feel like I had the chance to grow up in both places. As an adult, I have also returned for work purposes and for visits on occasion. But going there for this extended time at this time in my life could not have been more meaningful and necessary. I completed an accelerated Hawaiian Studies course at University of Hawaii at Manoa and learned so many beautiful and shocking things about my culture. I then traveled to the other islands and spent time feeling what each place had to offer. All of them so distinctive and extraordinary. I definitely felt at home and in my element. It is utopia and has every ingredient to be self-sustaining. Even in paradise though there is a darkness, of course all having to do with politics, but that’s a whole other discussion on its own. The Hawaiian spirit is rare and I couldn’t be more proud to have that connection.”


Speaking of connections, let’s talk men. What are her ideal traits in the perfect guy?

“My ideals of what I want in someone are transformable as I discover new things about myself. I really don’t have a physical type, but I do prefer when a man takes care of himself and his body. I definitely need to have that undefinable trait or “chemistry” that you either feel or don’t feel when you meet someone. And from there, it really is simple- I like people who have the qualities that I try to aspire to, like higher learning and motivation. Respect is huge to me, and someone who just excites and intrigues me in their own way.”


Looking at her body, she definitely takes very good care of her body. What’s her fitness routine like?

“It’s all over the place! I’m not the disciplined type, I enjoy activities for a workout rather than routines. I would rather go surfing, hiking, swimming, bike riding or any new thing I haven’t tried yet as opposed to showing up at the gym every morning. I enjoy vinyasa and hot yoga for the physicality of it, but mostly for the meditation and centering elements. In high school I did a little track and field and volleyball, but it didn’t stick. I primarily love a good motivational run while blasting music and letting my thoughts stream along. I love foods of all kinds, but I’m predominantly pescetarian and will choose the organic options over all. I try to stay away from beef, pork, poultry, processed foods, high sugar, sodas, anything that’s a crazy fluorescent color that you just know nature had no part in. I’m not super strict though because sometimes you find yourself in a certain setting or with certain cultures and you just gotta go with the flow.”


As someone who’s achieved success and fame at such a young age, I wanted to pick her brains on what she thought were the traits that helped propel her to her level of success.

“If you just work hard and with your intention in the right place, it’s amazing what unfolds on its own.”

“There are so many theories to the key to success, but I find what has worked for me has always been a mixture of; a humble heart, daring curiosity, challenge your fears, and listen more to that voice within you and not all the outer nonsense. I have often felt like I was just lucky to be gifted with so much opportunity, such as being discovered for modeling, but to quote one of my favorites – “luck is when time meets preparation”. Doors open all the time all over the place and they always will, never look at the ones you didn’t make it through and feel like a failure, just try your best to learn why and be ready when the next one opens. I try to remind myself that everything doesn’t always have to be so calculated to get the outcome that you think you want. If you just work hard and with your intention in the right place, it’s amazing what unfolds on its own.”

One of the conversations we had in New York was of course, about how great a place Japan was. Jarah was also very inspired by a lot of talents from Japan. I wanted to understand what it was she found inspiring.

“I thoroughly enjoy Tokyo and all of Japan. I gather so much stimulation for life every time I’m there or merely encounter its culture in forms all over the globe and in art, food, practices, etc. I have had the privilege to meet and work with various talents from there and am always in awe of how multifaceted they are. For example, the girls will model, host, act, sing, dance, DJ, play instruments, and just exude creativity. This is a place where I can appreciate fashion because of the fun that they have with it. Even with this abundance of innovation, the Japanese still maintain a very grounded sense of their tradition and culture. That something that I feel Hawaii is very similar with in respects so it’s easy for me to relate. There is a harmony with both nature and people that comes so easily and makes so much sense.”


For someone who’s already done so much in life, what’s next for her? I wondered what other goals or dreams someone who’s already achieved so much success at a young age could have.

“I have so many goals and dreams! I have some big things in the works, but unfortunately I can’t divulge that information quite yet. A lot of it has to relate back to my culture and being more of an activist than an advocate now that I feel like I’m at a capable place in my life and career to dedicate myself fully and in the way I would like. I’m living my ideal life because I’m well aware of everything I’m fortunate to have, but in my ideal world if there were no constraints on anything, I would abolish hate and inhumanity because I can’t find a single good use for either. Also I would be able to wail on the drums. In retrospect, we are here for a blip of a second in this life and I just want to soak in the beauty of it and give whatever I have to offer for the moment back to all.”

If you enjoyed this post and want to read more stories about people, don’t forget to subscribe or come say hi to Little Slices on Facebook!

If you can’t get enough of Jarah, follow her on on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!


Ann Jie

Loves good conversations and hates small talk. Finds people fascinating and wonders why meanies exist. Loves writing violent, graphic short stories but finds horror movies too scary to watch. Follow me on Instagram @annjieslices or tweet me a slice of YOUR life at @annjieslices!


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