Sims' 'Vegas' Gamble Pays Off

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Don't kid yourself, saying it's all lighting and makeup. Models are different from mere humans.

On a recent stormy day, as everyone else is bedraggled, Molly Sims looks runway ready as she sashays into a hip Soho bistro. While others push about-to-frizz hair off their faces, Sims' blond tresses fall in a haphazard cascade of relaxed curls. Other women may have the raccoon look from smeared mascara rimming their eyes, but Sims' makeup perfectly frames her green eyes.

Most people are wearing slacks and raincoats; some are even in practical rubber boots. Sims is wearing a gold, shimmery minidress, black tights and black stilettos.

No, models are not the same as mere humans.

And people notice. One middle-aged man notices so much that he nearly falls off his chair as he pivots to watch her pass. She walks through the crowded restaurant, well over 6 feet in those heels, and people whisper, "Who is that?"

One woman says, "That's Molly Sims."

Yes, the model for Cover Girl, Jimmy Choo and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. She also stars in NBC's Friday drama "Las Vegas" as Delinda, who runs the restaurants and bars at the Montecito Resort and Casino. James Caan plays her father, Ed, the tough guy in charge, but Delinda stands up to him.

That was not easy, says the 33-year-old Sims. Nothing in her background truly prepared her for where she is and what she is doing, she says. As she talks -- and Sims is a great talker, with hints of a Kentucky accent slipping through -- it is apparent that she has worked diligently to get where she is.

"Being from the South and not having huge exposure to culture and theater and fashion and entertainment, I'm really an all-American girl," she says. "I'm not from New York and I'm not from L.A., but I can dress like it."

Sims orders a fancy grilled ham and cheese sandwich. And in what appears to be one of life's greater injustices, she also orders fries without a side order of guilt. The reason she can still model is that she eats precisely one French fry, though she did eat her grilled sandwich. She recommends pretty much everything on the menu, having already sampled it. This is her neighborhood restaurant, where she had a steak last night. Her new apartment is a block away, and the modeling agency that signed her 12 years ago is also in the neighborhood.

Sims, who reached her 5-foot-9-inch height in eighth grade, fell into modeling when a college friend suggested it. She was at Tennessee's Vanderbilt University, which she worked very hard to get into. Most of her friends attended state schools, but Sims wanted to try Vanderbilt. Though she had good grades, she didn't test well. Her parents drove her two hours each way so she could take a college prep course. The extra work paid off, and she attended Vanderbilt, but when modeling beckoned, she left school.

"I struggled for so many years with my weight," she says. "I was a real girl. I swam for 10 years." She slides back her black sweater to reveal developed shoulders, which she credits to doing all of those laps.

Modeling took her to Europe, where she learned French and a bit of Italian and Spanish. She posed for the cover of French Vogue. "I kept saying I would only do it for a semester," she says. "I'm an adventurer. As much as I don't like change, the best thing for my life was that I changed."

And she stayed open to change. In between the print ads, she did TV commercials, which eventually led to a gig on MTV. After auditioning five times, she wound up on MTV's "House of Style" and loved the makeovers.

Sims puts those makeover skills to use on Mexican orphans. A few years ago, her acting coach became involved in supporting an orphanage, Casa Hogar Sion, in Tijuana. Sims visits often, raises money for the orphanage and brings Cover Girl products with her to make over the girls.

While working on the MTV show, Sims realized she might want to act, so she enrolled in the Sanford Meisner Center and commuted between Los Angeles and New York.

For her initial audition for "Las Vegas" she wore sexy boots, jeans and smoky eye makeup. When they called her back, Sims wanted to prove she is a serious actress, so she wore flip-flops, a camouflage T-shirt and no makeup. The result was the producers wanted her but worried that she didn't want to be sexy.

"For the first year, I could barely get my words out," she says. "I could barely walk and talk at the same time."

She has come a long way, says Cheryl Ladd, who plays her mother.

"Watching her development as a young woman and actor has been a joy," Ladd says. "I love working with her. I love doing our mother and daughter scenes. She has a fabulous sense of humor, and she is generous and kind beyond anyone's imagination. She treats everyone with respect -- hair and makeup people. She is not a diva."

This is proven at lunch. Once the bill is paid, Sims worries about the tip. She waits until she's certain the tip is included. Only then does she make her way through the restaurant, nearly giving that middle-aged man whiplash as she moves past his table.

Sims walks like a model, and though some actresses denigrate modeling after making it on a show, Sims maintains it's been very good for her, bringing her success and expanding her horizons.

"I'm thankful for where I am," she says. "But that doesn't mean I don't want more."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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