Celebrity Spotlight - Alyssa Milano
Whether you grew up watching her on Who’s the Boss? or caught her all grown up on Melrose Place or Charmed, you aren’t alone if you’ve been captivated by actress Alyssa Milano. Alyssa, who parlayed her role as Tony Danza’s daughter Samantha into a successful acting career in television and movies, brings light and passion to every role she plays. Honored with the Spirit of Hollywood award in 2004 for her commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of others, she currently serves as ambassador for UNICEF and the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Disease Control. In addition, she was recently honored with a humanitarian award from spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy: The Peace Meditation at the United Nations. In 2006, she started Touch, her own line of sports apparel for female fans. Oh, and did we mention she has seven horses and three dogs?
COMING TO TERMS WITH HER CELEBRITY
“My celebrity didn’t make much sense to me when I was younger,” Alyssa says. “There’s a certain amount of ‘why me?’ that comes along with any success at a young age. And I think ‘why me?’ is a question a lot of young people ask themselves no matter what they are going through or doing.”
In 2000, Alyssa lived in South Africa for three months and volunteered in a children’s hospital. “That experience opened up this humanitarian side I always had,” she says. “It was difficult to exercise that in Los Angeles. Here, it’s all about walking down a red carpet for a cause, which always seemed disconnected. But when I lived in South Africa, I was able to help babies who had HIV and read to kids with special needs. I could exercise my celebrity in a way that was really conducive to my spirit.”
When Alyssa returned home, she auctioned the photographs she had taken there, raising money for Nkosi’s Havens, which are safe care centers for HIV moms and their kids. “That whole trip gave my celebrity purpose for the first time,” she says. “I realized that I could be the voice for people who had no voice.”
Alyssa intends to continue contributing her efforts to good causes. “It was one of those things I wanted to do when I was young enough to influence younger generations,” she says. “So often you hear about ambassadors for UNICEF who have gotten involved when they’re older. Especially as part of a generation that seems to be largely apathetic about what’s going on in the world, I felt it was important to try to reach younger generations now.”
A LOVE OF HORSES
Knowing how much she gives to others, we weren’t surprised that Alyssa loves animals. She grew up trail riding with her dad. “I guess that was an odd thing for a New Yorker, but once we moved to L.A., we’d go riding in Griffith Park every weekend. I loved to ride, and it was great bonding time with my dad.
” When Alyssa was 19, her mother and father broke both of their feet jumping from second-story windows during a house fire. “Because of this jump, my dad had chronic back pain for a really long time,” says Alyssa. “He couldn’t ride anymore.” At a horse show called the Fiesta of the Spanish Horse, she learned about paso finos, which are a gaited horse that people with back problems are comfortable on. The horse doesn’t trot, so there’s no bouncing. “For my dad’s birthday that year, I bought him a paso fino,” she says. “He fell in love with the horse, I fell in love with the breed, and now we have quite a few of them.”
In addition to the paso finos, Alyssa also has a stallion, a rescued Peruvian Paso, and a rescued national show horse. “They’ve all brought great pleasure to my family. They bring our lives so much— everything from relaxation to happiness and all the colors in between,” she says. “I’ll come out to the stable on a Saturday morning, and my parents—who live close by—will just be sitting by the horses, or my dad will be riding. The horses have really been a great escape for us all.”
Each of Alyssa’s horses has a distinct personality. “For instance, my Luna, who’s the old black mare, is the most amazing sort of Zen horse,” Alyssa says. “She’s very grounded. If a kid comes up to her, she’s the horse who puts her head down to let him pat her. She’s very giving, so she’s good with the Chihuahuas, too. She’s very patient with them.”
THE DOGS IN HER LIFE
Alyssa got her first Chihuahua, Lucy, six years ago. She’s named after Lucille Ball, because she was Alyssa’s favorite actress at the time. Her mom also got a Chihuahua and named her Ethel. Then Alyssa’s best friend got two Chihuahuas and named them Desi and Ricky. “So we basically have the I Love Lucy cast in Chihuahuas,” she says. Her other Chihuahua, Gibson, was named after Kirk Gibson, who played for the Dodgers in the 1980s and 1990s.
Another of Alyssa’s dogs, Pinto, a German shepherd, died recently. She got him when he was four years old. “Pinto was amazing. He was completely trained in protection, and he was my hero for the 10 years that I had him,” she says. “He was an athlete in the purest sense. He worked out with the LAPD dogs until he was about 10.”
The only time I don’t feel totally fulfilled is when I focus too much on one thing. If I have the balance of feeling fulfilled in my career, with my family, in my friendships, and with my animals, then I feel happy.
Pinto lived to 14 years of age. “I always said that I would help him out once he looked like he was ashamed or didn’t have that pride that he always had,” Alyssa says. “But he never went through that. He was always so full of life and happy to be around us. I think he lived a long life because he didn’t want to leave his post. So he just went in his sleep.”
Alyssa got a six-month-old German shepherd, Quixie, in September. “She’s starting to look like Pinto,” Alyssa says. “It’s really weird because her puppy pictures looked nothing like him.”
Pinto suffered from hip dysplasia for the last five years of his life, but the disease became particularly bad in the last two years. “We did everything we could possibly do to help alleviate his pain,” Alyssa says.
In addition to the veterinarian who oversaw most of Pinto’s care, Alyssa took him to a veterinary acupuncturist once a week. “Pinto would have a hard time climbing into the truck to get there, but when he returned home, he was like a new dog for three days,” she remembers. “He also had a chiropractor who would come once a week.”
Different veterinarians take care of Alyssa’s horses and dogs. The canine veterinarian is the same one her mother’s Chihuahua, Ethel, visits. “Both veterinarians are fabulous,” she says. As a case in point, Alyssa describes the time Ethel had a problem with her neck and her mother couldn’t drive the dog to the hospital. “The veterinarian picked up Ethel from my mom’s house and brought her to his office,” she says. “He’s amazing.”
What Moves Alyssa
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Of all time, Audrey Hepburn; modern favorite, Toni Collette
Right now, I’m listening to a lot of music. My brother’s band, Chloroform Days, is amazing. I also love Sufjan Stevens and Death Cab for Cutie. I grew up listening to The Beatles and Crosby, Stills & Nash; they’ll always have a special place in my being.
If you could photograph anyone, who would it be?
Jesus, John Lennon, and Jackie Robinson
An Inspiration to Others
Alyssa is proud of the compassion shown by members of her message boards (which you can access through her website, www.alyssa.com). She explains: “Every Christmas, they put together the ‘Book of Love.’ In it are stories of what they’ve done that year to make a difference. They document it all so I can see how I’ve inspired them. It’s the most amazing thing and great, solid confirmation that one person can make a difference. I can only hope that, by sharing their experiences, they inspire others as well. Passion for anything is contagious.”
A True Sports Fan
Alyssa has been a sports fan most of her life, which can be partly attributed to her family. Her brother, who is 10 years younger than she is, started playing hockey when he was three years old. “I would get up at five o’clock in the morning or whatever ridiculous time I had to get up for ‘small people’ ice hockey, and I would watch him play,” she says. “He’s still playing. I watched him play in his league last night.”
Even more of a sports influence in her life was her father, who was a huge Dodgers fan while he was growing up. As Alyssa puts it, “He was one of those kids who was heartbroken when the Dodgers left New York.”
Five years ago, Alyssa got Dodgers season tickets. “I was always one of those female fans who looked for clothes to fly the colors and cheer on the team, but I could never find anything that I would wear anywhere else than to a baseball game,” she says. “I couldn’t find anything that fit my body, and I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t pink. This drove me nuts, because there is nothing about any sports that’s pink.”
In what she describes as a lightbulb moment, Alyssa pitched the idea of a sports clothing line just for women to her agency. Her agency then got her a meeting with Major League Baseball. Last season was the first season that Alyssa’s clothing line, Touch, appeared in stadiums.
“It’s in every stadium, but the story gets better,” she says. “Last year, we gave Major League Baseball the exclusive. This year, we have licensing with all the leagues—NFL, NHL, NBA, and college (NCAA)—so this is the first year that the clothing line is available for all sports. It’s very exciting.”