She doesn’t do nudes, but living amidst the glitz, glamour and lights of L.A., Guam-born Marissa Ivana Chaco has still managed to make it in the entertainment biz without resorting to medical magic to enhance her looks. Instead, she has done it the natural way – with hard work, talent and determination.
Photography by Karlo Gomez
Hair & Makeup by Dani Navarro
Some people might see her as a restless heart, being born in Agat, growing up in Tumon, relocating to Seattle, moving to Mexico before finally settling down in Los Angeles, California. For Marissa Ivana, this is not about following her elusive dreams, but actually making those dreams come true the old-fashioned way. Uno was fortunate enough to catch up with her during a break from her typically hectic schedule to find out what keeps her on her toes.
Tell us about growing up on Guam.
I am very thankful that I come from such a talented family and was born and raised on Guam. The people and the culture of our little island have truly influenced my life and values.
You were a SKIP dancer. Did being in SKIP help to shape and prepare you for your career? How? Have you ever been in a dance battle?
Yes, I trained with SKIP and BodyArts, but my true inspiration for becoming a dancer and a performer had nothing to do with those dance studios. My first dance instructor, DeeAnn Camacho Englund, was my reason for dancing. She was the first person to believe in me, at a time when I didn’t believe in myself. She took an awkward, uncoordinated, overweight 12-year-old and transformed me into a confident, professional dancer. I always imagined her in the audience of every big audition and performance because I wanted to make her proud. I hope to inspire my daughter Tasi and other young girls the way DeeAnn inspired me. And no, I don’t do dance battles, but I love watching them!
You moved to the States after you graduated from Southern High School. What made you move? Was it difficult settling in Seattle? Did you have to do a lot of adjusting, being from an island?
I worked my butt off after graduation to independently support myself and applied for grants and student loans to send myself to college at Seattle University. I always knew I'd pursue a career off island, particularly in Los Angeles, so it was easy and exciting for me to move. Although upon arriving in Seattle, it was definitely a bit of a culture shock. I adjusted quickly though, and met some amazing friends that I still hold close to this day.
Have you been able to visit Guam since? What do you miss most about Guam? Any plans to move back?
I did go back to visit my family a few times after moving, but in 2001, my family made the huge decision to leave Guam and move to Washington to be with me. They missed me, and I was crazy homesick for them, so I was extremely happy they all moved. I do miss the friends and family still on the island, the beautiful beaches and the fiestas! I don’t have any set plans to move back yet, but I live life with a very optimistic, "anything can happen" attitude, so I am definitely open to moving back if it was for the right opportunity.
What was your experience like as a Portland Trailblazers’ cheerleader?
AMAZING! I loved everything about that job! Becoming an NBA cheerleader was one of my childhood dreams, so it was almost surreal that it really happened. The energy of the crowd, the excitement of performing for hundreds of thousands of people and my unbeatable courtside seats were just a few of the things I loved about that job.
What was the most unforgettable experience during that time as an NBA cheerleader?
From my very first audition to my very last game, every moment as an NBA dancer/cheerleader was unforgettable because I was living my childhood dream. One of the most rewarding experiences was our 2003 visit to Fort Hood to perform for the troops. It was heartbreaking to see the American flag patches on the little children of soldiers being deployed and yet so inspiring to see the genuine love that those families had for each other.
Ever had a crush on any of the NBA players or visa versa?
Hahaha. NO COMMENT. ;)
Did you move to L.A. to further your career? Tell us about how competitive the entertainment industry is and how to manage it?
I moved to L.A. partly for my career and partly because I felt like I was meant to be here. The entertainment industry is indeed very competitive! Beautiful and talented people from all over the world migrate to L.A. hoping to make their claim to fame. It's easy to compare yourself to others and beat yourself up over little things because everyone around you is competing to be this unrealistic Hollywood version of perfection. I admit, sometimes it makes me wonder if I would've booked a certain job or been given a certain opportunity if I had huge (fake) boobs, a ginormous Brazilian ass (implant), a smaller (lipo-suctioned) waist, an expressionless line-free (botoxed) face or huge (juvederm injected) lips. I've worked so many jobs with big groups of hot girls and I was the only "all natural" one. I force myself to remember that I love being different, unique and real. I teach others how to love themselves and I know that I must also love myself exactly the way I am. After all, they can buy those boobs, asses, lips, noses, hair, etc. and still be miserably insecure, but they can’t buy my legs or my self confidence.
You also became one of the Knockout dancers and ring girls for L.A.’s pro boxing team, the LA Matadors. Do you box yourself?
Yes, I was an L.A. Matador Knockout dancer and ring girl for two seasons. That was so much fun but so challenging because we had to dance in 6" stilettos on a thick padded boxing ring! You try balancing in 6" stilettos on a bosu ball (which is about as unstable as the boxing ring), then try to do choreographed routines on it! Crazy hard, but crazy fun! Yes, I do box (bags and pads, no sparring), but I prefer cardio kickboxing. I love boxing as a workout, but have such a hard time watching it because of the blood! I could never date a boxer because I would probably cry every time he got hit!
You’re a dancer, fashion model, actress, stylist and performance artist. Which hat do you wear most often? Which one is the most rewarding?
Add love doctor, writer, digital doctor, benchwarmer cards model, hostess and of course, mother to that list! The mother and love doctor hats are the two I never take off, as I am "on call" 24/7 for my Tasi, friends, acquaintances and clients. Those are also the two roles I find most rewarding. Other than being a mother, nothing makes me happier than knowing I can help someone. My daughter will always be my #1 priority and she knows I love her more than anything on this earth. As a love doctor, I try to help people give and receive love. It can be extremely time consuming and emotional, but it's my gift, and I know I can make a difference in their lives so that is what motivates me.
How do you stay fit?
My current obsession is hot yoga sculpt. It's a hot yoga class that incorporates light weights and H.I.I.T. (High Intensity Interval Training) set to modern music (like Tyga, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, etc.). It's an intense workout for your mind, body AND soul! Also love to do cardio kickboxing, cardio barre and whatever random group fitness classes I can fit into my schedule. Clean eating and juicing are also a huge part of being "fit," and I will admit that I tend to cheat a lot more these days, but I still try my best to be a good girl"most of the time!”
You were in a couple of fitness DVDs with The Biggest Loser trainer Bob Harper. What was it like filming those? Did you like the workouts? Were they tough?
No, they weren't "tough," they were "insane!" Bob Harper's purpose was to challenge the fit, athletic people who didn’t get much of a workout from other fitness DVDs. He basically pushed us beyond our physical and mental limits and then pushed some more! Filming those DVDs was such a blur because we were in an entirely new and unfamiliar state of mind. But I'm so glad I survived that experience, and yes, I'd do it all over again!
You were also a radio co-host on a sports talk show called The Show. Did you enjoy radio or do you prefer TV?
I had an amazing time working with Antonio Harvey as his co-host for The Show! It was my very first radio job and I loved it! I enjoy both radio and TV, but it was definitely fun to multitask (search the Web, have a snack, text/email, not worry about what I looked like) while on the air for the radio show.
You seem to follow a very hectic schedule. How do you decompress?
Yikes, yes, hectic is exactly the word to describe my schedule! I love being busy though. To decompress, I try to do hot yoga everyday and get full body massages every week.
Tell us about your daughter Tasi. What do you tell her about Guam and what lessons do you teach her? Does she show an interest in following in your footsteps?
My little Tasi is truly the love of my life. She is my soul mate, my best friend and the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. She is literally a mini-me! Her desire to help those in need, the way she brings joy and love to everyone she meets, her compassionate heart and bubbly personality and of course, her off-the-wall goofiness are all characteristics we share. No one ever believes she is my daughter because they think we look like sisters (especially now that she is nearly my height)! I've told her many stories about growing up on Guam, and some day, I hope to bring her back to the island. I try to lead by example because I know that words mean nothing unless they are followed by the corresponding actions. A few of the lessons I try to teach my daughter: always respect yourself and others, treat others the way you want to be treated, love unconditionally without losing your power and give freely without expectations.
Any advice for aspiring actors or dancers back home?
My advice for anyone, regardless of the profession, is to find what truly makes you happy, then work your ass off to be the best you can be at it! It's easy to make excuses, compare yourself to others and give up, but that will never get you anywhere in life. So find out exactly what you want, work hard for it and enjoy the success that follows!