Friday, October 24, 2008

Christine's Birthday Martini/Cosmo Trail

Part Three of Christine's 40th Birthday celebration--a Martini/Cosmo Blaze through South Beach. I invited several girlfriends for an evening in South Beach. The final five that attended blended perfectly like a martini, shaken not stirred--smooth and flavorful with a zest!

First let me introduce our fabulous five latinas: Christine (the birthday girl who's half Ecuadorian and half Polish so I'm the oddball), her cousin Alexandra (a natural brunette turned blonde from Ecuador), Cecilia (from Puerto Rico in the pink sequence top), Nanushka (Christine's neighbor from Colombia, we call her Nikki--she's the one over 6 ft tall in heels), and Carmen, (another neighbor who's the stunning Mexican in the black dress).

In a black stretch limousine (by World-Wide Limousine), Rodney, our driver, picked us up and off we were to carve out a martini/cosmo trail for these glam girls. Watch out South Beach--here comes Miami's Angels! Our ride and early evening out (South Beach doesn't pick up until 11pm) was serendipitous. Little did I know my friends were such Divas. It turns out our evening was less about drinking and more about bringing that inner beauty and confidence out to shine with grace and a natural style. Not the uppity, celebrity or august type, but average women confident in themselves and not afraid to shine. Nikki, a professional model, guided us on how to pose with subtle changes in body position, hand placement, tilt of the head and in an instant we were Miami's Angels. By the way, we weren't the only ones posing at each bar. A parade of women followed our act.

Our warm- up practice took place in and around the limo. We started with a leg warmup.

Legs from left to right: Nikki, Christine, and Alexandra

Nikki poses with true-to-form limo driver, Rodney

Carmen, Cecilia, Christine, Alexandra standing by limo on 8th & Collins.

Onlookers thought we were celebrities. We played along.

First stop was The Setai. This is where Sean Combs held a private party for the VMA awards. All virgins to the Setai, this Asian-influenced, luxury ocean front hotel seduced us with its handsome decor and ambience of grace and serenity. Out in the courtyard, lounge chairs and sofas bordered the rectangular pond. Here we ordered our first drinks, Lychee Martinis and at the suggestion of our waiter, Carmen tried the Chili Martini. The Lychee Martini was excellent. The best one yet. Not too sweet. Then we sampled Carmen's Chili Martini with a few chili pepper flakes floating on top. FANTASTIC! Sweet and smooth, not sour. A concoction for the taste buds and soul. Wow do I dare order another one? No--we're too smart to commit any Britney-Spears-regretful acts by overindulging. So BEFORE the drinks, our inhibitions were abated by the cool breeze, and the confidence from female bonding. Silently I was thinking--we are BOND girls--Beauty, brains and a couple of us have powerful legs and strength. Never underestimate attractive, slender women.

Back to the story, I highly recommend The Setai for the established age group of 30's and older.

Alexandra, Christine and Cecilia in the breezy courtyard of The Setai.

Nikki posed on cushion backing and shows us how it's done.

Next stop, three blocks up the road, The Gansevoort. This is a new hotel three blocks north of The Setai on Collins Street. We asked for the bar and were told we could not enter through the hotel lobby but directed to a separate door further down the sidewalk. Entering the door, we followed a cordoned rope to the elevators of the lobby. Very strange. Is this the route for the proletariat? This was not a good first impression. The bar was rooftop along with the pool. Nice view of city lights but the crowd was a younger crowd, kids mostly in their early twenties. Boy I'm getting old now that I call 20-year -olds, kids. While the bar was less than inviting with a flock of "kids", we caught sight of the nightlit, rectangular pool and the photoshoot began.

If you're our age falls in the prime of 30 -50 years young, we recommend skipping the Gansevoort. Although someone said the restaurant was good. I'll have to try it one day.

Next stop: The Delano. South Beach's most famed Art Deco hotel. Unfortunately the interior was not preserved to its original fabled history. However, it was remodeled to a contemporary design but its impressive tall ceilings, circular columns, wood paneling on the walls, and floor-to-ceiling white sheers exudes ultimate urban chic. The Blue Door restaurant, partly-owned by Madonna, is in the Delano Hotel. White square beds border the long, rectangular pool. Sound familiar? Looks like the Setai was copying the style during its remodeling phase. But it works. People of all ages and backgrounds visit the Delano, if nothing else, for a peek. The only difference, The Delano white beds are only for the rich or those drunk enough to purposefully get into debt in this unstable economy. To sit or lay on the beds and drink, one has to order a minimum of $300. So if you're a couple, you have to order an overpriced bottle of wine or champagne. More than half of the beds were empty. Why not reduce the price to $200 or $100 dollars to make more revenue? It's about standards. The Delano has standards, no matter the season. The bar at the end of the pool was packed. This was a special celebration and I was not inclined to stand around like a happy hour hangout. No we deserved a table, chairs and a waiter. So what did we do instead? We posed for more pictures on the privileged white beds! Shortly after I pulled out the cell phone and told Rodney we were ready for the next stop. No questions asked. I love limo drivers!

Christine and her cousin Alexandra on the Delano white bed next to the pool.

Our final stop: The Forge. If you have never visited The Forge, this landmark building and five-star restaurant is a Miami institution. The Forge is opulent, old world and attracts the social elite and celebrities. The outside of the building is ornate concrete similar to a 15th century building in Europe, while the interior boasts intricate, stained glass panels. The setting is very dark, a hindrance for some customers. The menu offers steak and seafood and an extensive wine list, over 300 wines and prices to match its five star rating. Famed for its Wednesday night events, a DJ plays house music and dancing is encouraged. Friday through Sunday nights have joined the Wednesday tradition. For our evening, the music was appropriate, a little loud in my opinion. I wanted to dance but some of my friends had to work the next morning. So I decided against it knowing dancing was more addictive for my girlfriends than drinking.

Cecilia introduced me to the owner, Shareef Malnik. A dashing, blue-eyed, blonde with a James Bond build, he took my hand and kissed it. Charming! (And yes he's single). Cecilia then asked Shareef for permission to bring in an outside birthday cake. He graciously allowed it. I called Rodney and he drove up front to deliver my birthday cake.

Cecilia's gift to me was this beautiful, custom decorated birthday cake. (Cecilia has been decorating cakes for sixteen years--a protege of her mother--Ana Paz--famed cake maker in Miami. Cecilia's true profession and passion, is a realist artist). Thank you Cecilia!

Our waiter noticed the cake and brought out a sparkler to ignite while my friends sang me Happy Birthday. We had our second round of cocktails for the night, and our sixth round of photos.

Exiting the Forge. One last pose in front of limousine before heading home.

Thanks to my friends for joining me on this special occasion. I couldn't ask for a better time. A group of girls after my own heart who knew how to have a good time without excessive drinking and make the most of every moment with class and style. How lucky am I? LET'S DO IT AGAIN BEFORE MY 50th BIRTHDAY!

P.S. My recommendations for a cocktail trail

Tiffany Hotel, Spire Bar (it was closed for private party night of my celebration)

The Setai

The Delano (if you can afford the white bed)

The Victor Hotel (on Ocean Drive, slow on Friday and Sat nights; Thursday is the popular night)

The Forge

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New SOBeFit magazine- So What?

Picture: Christine Michaels and trainer Dominic Dorsey

A new fitness magazine has launched, a health and fitness magazine. Another one? Apparently so. But SOBeFit magazine, unlike other national magazines, targets both men and women in South Florida area who are interested in health and fitness. Not just "interested", but actively breathing and living it. This is not a magazine for couch potatoes.

The event to announce the launch took place on October 14. I had the opportunity to attend via personal invitation and so I RSVPd. To read my complete review and experience of the event, please click here.

Scanning the magazine racks at bookstores in anticipation of the launch, titles such as SELF, SHAPE, MUSCLE & FITNESS, Mind Body Spirit FITNESS, Women's Health, Men's Health lined the shelves of the lifestyle section. Is SOBeFit really different? Is it equally balanced for women and men? Is there substantial content to tie it back to South Florida? Is the magazine informative, engaging and motivational? Will it spark readers to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Will it speak to me? Kick me in the butt? Maybe that's for couch potatoes.

In flipping through the pages casually, here are my immediate observations:

+ An article on nutritional value of stone crabs at Joe's, a popular, seasonal restaurant in South Beach famous for their stone crabs speaks to ==> Food, Nutriton, Connection to SFL

+ Calendar of fitness and sport events for reader participation. Events include a 5K run, the ING Miami Marathon, and Climbing the Wachovia tower--wow just the adrenaline from fear will burn calories ==> Activity, Fitness, Connection to SFL

+ An article on the consumption of black beans and other legumes (popular staples in South Florida meals) and healthy recipes ==> Food, Nutrition, Connection to SFL


- The promotion of the "Fittest Person" sends you to their website to register but the registration is not set up. Also, the website does not offer details of the contest and only announces the prizes. This is not a strike on the magazine but the website. Note to Marta--someone needs to connect the dots and ensure all i's are dotted, t's crossed, links working, and promos are backed up ...

- The article on SOBeFit certified facilities left me dazed and confused. I had to read it three times and reach for the fitness dictionary. The "day pass" threw me off. A "day pass" normally means a free pass for one day to a gym. In the introductory paragraph, I understood the readers will get a day pass to evaluate the different facilities. But in reading the full article, I think SoBeFit rates the gyms. So what is the "day pass"? Maybe my blood sugar was low.

-A protein monger and lover of stone crabs, I enjoy them best at the famous Joe's restaurant in South Beach. The article educates the reader on the nutritional value of stone crabs and mentions it is "low cholesterol" but fails to show the cholesterol amount in the nutritional breakdown chart.


The launch issue is nice and condensed, about 100 pages from cover to cover, a plus in my consumer opinion. For me, the less pages, the more likely I will absorb and digest from the first to last page instead of speed reading where I forget 90% of the material. Thick magazines are daunting for this busy Bond bee, although I overheard that the first issue, which launches December 24, will contain twice as many pages. I'm guessing the additional pages will serve as guidance and motivation for the dreaded NEW YEAR resolutions.

Content is evenly distributed across the four pillars--health, fitness, nutrition, and sports. SOBeFit successfully melds content with South Florida culture as indicated above. The magazine draws inspiration from Miami icon and celebrity athelete, Alonzo Mourning who's ready-to-take-off pose mirrors the launch spirit. At both the launch event and in the magazine, Alonzo invites readers to be the fittest person in South Florida. Unfortunately, in following the SoBeFit brick road to the website, there's no information. Was this teaser intentional? Not sure.

More inspiring to me were the articles of regular folks, like me, who have full-time jobs and juggle a plethora of responsibilities including a fitness regimen. The story of Junelly Rojas, a violinist, is a perfect example. She started exercising out of necessity because she developed scoliosis from carrying the heavy violin case for years on the same side. Now she works out at least three times per week: 30 minutes of cardio in the morning, circuit training and 600 reps of abdominal exercises, plus 45 laps in the pool once a week. Junelly is 33 years old and at 5'4" weighs 110 pounds. I need some Junelly juice to get this Bond Girl back on track!

SOBeFit is also packed with how-to's for pushups, weightlifting, stretching and use of the new fitness toys with plenty of photographs at different stages and angles to guide readers. This is very important and I give SOBeFit contributors high marks. Other magazines lack in this area. Risk of injury is high without proper instruction on form and function. Four, five or more clear pictures or illustrations with use of arrows and diagrams is critical to minimize injury and to maximize the exercise. The magazine takes it a step further to include zoomed-in illustrations of the primary and secondary muscle groups. Excellent idea!

RECOMMENDATIONS for future issues:

* I hope to see nutritional value of other local restaurants, whether it's a mom and pop location, a destination restaurant, or a popular fast food chain like Pollo Tropical that is famous for homemade Caribbean fare that is mostly grilled.

* Offer subscribers discounts to future events and day passes to spas and gyms alike. [Day pass meaning no cost to use the gym or spa and its facilities]. Remember, loyalty has its rewards. In a quick comparison to a national magazine, I visited the website, and found an offer for a three-day pass to the LA Sports Club in Miami on Brickell Avenue.

Overall, SOBeFit magazine is a refreshing addition, aid or arsenal for South Florida's fit and health-conscious women and men to battle the bulge, stay fit or strive for higher goals. SOBeFit stands apart from other national magazines and I predict will become part of Miami mainstay. So BE IT!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Review of Ponderosa Stables in Phoenix, AZ

As part of my birthday gift to myself for a getaway spa weekend, horseback riding in the desert park would align me with nature and emancipate me from daily stress.

I learned that Ponderosa Stables was the closest horses stables in Phoenix, an easy 20 minute ride from my hotel in Tempe. Driving up on the dirt road, I felt I arrived in a midwestern ghost town straight from an old cowboy movie. The wooden boardwalk and railing, and a creaky, rusted, swinging saloon sign with not a soul in sight, spurred my fears that they were closed for horseback tours. But wait, a rustle of some hay and the whine of a parked horse, alerted someone behind a barn-sized door. Apparently I was the only customer and would get a private ride with a tour guide. Yeehaw! The stifling 100 degree weather ended with my arrival, and the cooler 90 degree temperature (with zero humidity, it felt like 75 degrees Fahrenheit) marked the beginning of the horseback riding season. At a price of only $30 for the hour, I was elated at Ponderosa Stable's wallet friendly prices.

Devon, introduced me to my horse Mississippi, a male (pictured above). A little fussy at first, once I mounted him, he was a perfect gentleman. My tour guide was Kelly and her horse a young teenager, Boogie (pictured below). He was quite the stud and the typical male teenager--mischevious at times despite Kelly's reprimands. Aahhh animals--they are like children.

Kelly & Boogie guided me (Mississippi was along for the ride as I suppose he knew where he was going) on a tour through a desert park. The star of the show was the giant cactus as pictured below. Actually there were many. The true name of this cactus is Saguaro, pronounced "sah-wah-roh", a Spanish-language adaptation of the aboriginal American tribe.

The Saguaros have a long life span. It takes approximately 75 years to grow the first arm and 50 years for each additional arm. The Saguaro can live a Bible life span of 150 years. Each arm produces a blossom, which is the state flower of Arizona. The flower is a nocturnal bloom, appearing only April-May and requires a pollenizer--in other words forced pollenization. What nocturnal creatures fly around at night? You guessed it--BATS! They feed on the nectar from the night-blooming flowers, which often remain open in the morning.

As I absorb the story of 150-year-old species and bats, in the middle of the desert, an eerie sensation chills my spine and I suddenly ask Kelly--"Will we stumble upon any rattle snakes?" (I really am heart-attack frightened of snakes) "It's possible", she replies calmly. It's only October 3, not the 31st. Too early for Halloween spooks. Suddenly I see a white cottontail rabbit RUN across some rocks. This is better--cute, cottony rabbits. I'm less paranoid now.

Kelly then continues to point out nature's rock formations and those inscribed by the Hohokam Indians, a prehistoric archaeological culture dating back to the beginning of the era to about the middle of the 15th century. Not to spoil the surprise, I'll leave the details of the rest of the tour for your future trip and horse ride at Ponderosa Stables.

Upon our return to the corral, I asked Kelly about the two horses I noticed parked out front. One in particular, a stunning copper horse, looked especially emaciated to my unexpert eye. Kelly shared with me that the two horses (pictured below) were recently rescued. "No kidding!" I exclaimed. "That is wonderful news and the MAIN REASON for my visit!" I shared with Kelly my blog sister's posting on the growing epidemic of abandoned horses (if you have not read the posting by my Blog Sister, Alicia, please take a moment to read it now).

Taking advantage of my private tour, I then asked Kelly how long she has worked at the stables. "Going on four years". Not only does she work there, she lives there. A requirement for caring for horses. How much does she like her job? She loves it! At the end of the tour, I tipped her $10.

Not only did I enjoy my horseback (and by luck "private") tour ride, but I had done a good deed by supporting a horse stable that truly cares about its mission. Later I learned that Ponderosa Stables offers more than one hour guided horse rides. There are 2 hour, 3 hour and 4 hour hide-from-the law rides. Then there's the T-Bone Steak House Ride where the group rides to a restaurant for a juicy T-bone steak. The most popular is the Hay Wagon Rides and Cookout of traditional favorites like hamburgers, hot dogs, steak and chicken.

In total, Arizona has the most acreage of county, state and federal parks combined--over 70 million acres of publicly owned land. Amazing!

I highly recommend visiting Arizona in October. The heat has subsided to a comfortable body temperature, hotel rates are more affordable than peak season (winter), and I will go so far as to suggest taking kids out of school for one or two days for this cultural and educational experience. Arizona State Parks does an excellent job of offering plenty of family activities--their calendar of events is more packed than your female teenager's social calendar. Check it out!

I definitely plan on returning and discovering more of the archaeological culture and desert beauty of Arizona and visiting my new friend, Mississippi.

My horse: Mississippi

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Spa Weekend at The Buttes Resort

Click on the image for a magnified picture.

Arriving Friday morning, Oct 3, I was instantly greeted at the door by attendants in khaki shorts and yellow polo shirts with a cold bottle of water. "Welcome to the Buttes. Is this your first visit to the Buttes?" they asked me. "No actually I was here 20 years ago". 20 years ago!? Wow--you know you're getting old when you say "20 years ago". I recalled its exquisite desert beauty and surroundings and vowed I would return. 20 years ago the hotel was under the Wyndham flag. Now, the Buttes is part of the Marriott chain and recently completed a mult-million makeover. It appeared as new as my first visit in 1989. Perfect timing.

The Buttes is nestled on a craggy hilltop in quintessential Southwestern character. At the top of the hill is a circular "Top of the Rock" restaurant with an expansive view of the city and Camelback mountain. Next gradient below is the Market Cafe (with an indoor waterfall) offering contemporary cuisine with indoor and alfresco dining. The Market Cafe and some guestrooms overlook the heart of the resort-- cascading water falls spilling into two free form swiming pools, adorned by cactus-studded rock gardens, and a pots of bright fuschia -colored bougainvillea. A narrow stretch connects the two pools and a cutout wall with a see-through glass invites all to play mermaid or merman and take pictures.

I was in a juxtaposed heaven--the dry, arid rock and cactus with the sound of rushing waterfalls at each pool and inside the Market Cafe. A welcome change from humid, HUMID, hUmId, Miami.

After checking in at 10am, (fully aware that my room was not ready), I changed clothes and planned to go horseback riding at a nearby stables. The purpose of the trip was for pampering the body, mind and soul. So I started in reverse order. Well not pamper the soul, but nourish it with altruistic motives. Since my blog sister shared an enlightening story about abandoned horses in this country, I knew I had to do something. So I decided to support riding stables with my business which in turn, I hoped, would help the plight of abandoned horses. To read the full story, visit Alicia's blog by clicking here.

I visited the Ponderosa Stables, a 20 minute ride from a lavish resort to a remote, desolate, dirt road. I half expected Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine to emerge from a cloud of horse-riding dust (from the movie: Two Mules for Sister Sara). An experience to remember, it required a separate posting. Please click here or visit the next posting for Christine's horse adventure.

The next two days at the resort was packed with spa treatments, lounging by the pool, dining at each bar, restaurant and outdoor patio area overlooking the amoeba shaped pools. I absorbed every sight, amenity and sound as if it were my last for another 20 years.

The Narande Spa is a recent addition to the resort from 2005. Narande, which is Japanese for "alongside flowing water", is a retreat from the everyday world. The spa is equipped with five treatment rooms, a couples room, a rainshower room and nail salon. Spa treatments range from $100-$134 for a 50 minute session. Each week the spa features one facial or massage and offered at a slightly lower rate, normally $20. Rates do not include tax and tip.

For my facial I chose the special the"Vitamin C Experience". This skin rejuvenation treatment left my skin re-texturized and revitalized. After the exfoliation ritual using hot towels and a potpourri of scents (lavender, rosemary), my skin is rehydrated with moisturizers full of Vitamin C--an antioxidant. This facial treatment is appropriate for any skin type, including extremely sensitive skin. I felt 20 years younger. OK maybe a few years younger.

The next day my body, worn from years of NOT horseback riding, yearned for a body massage.

I signed up for the Narande Custom Massage and my therapist, Marty, fulfilled every aching request: Moderate pressure, extra attention to my non-circulation feet, and untying the knots in my shoulder. Then my therapist gently placed hot rocks on my back. This was a new sensation and a soothing relief. My highly skilled therapist also used the soft rounded edges of the rocks to rub along the grain of my muscles and elongate them so I grew an inch (just kidding on the last part). Love the rocks! I highly recommend this massage.

The Narande does offer super discounted specials for one week in September, called "Spa Week". According to the attendant, treatments are reduced to an affordable $50 without skimping on time or techniques. So of course I asked to be added to the email list. If you're planning a spa getaway to the Buttes during the week, then take advantage of a $40 coupon offered by Arizona Spa Girls. It's valid Monday through Thursday only and expires November 30, 2008. Hmm, the idea of spending Thanksgiving in Phoenix is starting to open my pores.

My only recommendation to the Spa is to offer more than room temperature bottled water. Perhaps chilled, light juice (pomegranate water juice is the trend now in most health facilities and spas and even high-end stores like Neiman Marcus) would bring it to par with other spa resorts. The entire space is a little small and tight in the locker room and sitting area. But after a single spa treatment, your oblivious to any shortcomings and indulge in more pampering.


Overall The Buttes was everything I expected. The Staff was excellent--attentive, polite, and very helpful. Although the view of my guestroom ( the parking lot) was blocked by tree branches, it did not matter. Natural light illuminated the room which was spacious and comfortable with a glass enclosed shower, closet with bathrobe, and a separate vanity area --Love it! As a woman who loves to spread her toiletries and makeup like a breakfast buffet, I need countertop space!

Picture: Front Desk staff in the evening were the best!

Unfortunately there were no exercise classes at this spa resort but I knew this in advance when doing my homework before booking. But the gym, with a view of the mini city skyline and freeway fared better than many gyms with little or no windows or views. I love natural light so the wide window aided me while I trekked across the valley on the treadmill. The Buttes is a spa resort and not a full-fledged resort with tennis, golf or water sports on a lake. It's always important to conduct thorough research when picking the right resort.

The Buttes does not provide airport transportation and there is a daily parking fee for cars. Once you're at the resort, they do offer transportation to any destination but at a handsome price. However, the hotel is only three miles from the airport. Thankfully, Arizona residents are refreshingly helpful and kind, that one lady offered me a ride back to the hotel from the stables and another offered me a ride to the airport.

The Buttes is also in close proximity (driving) to many activities. During my weekend visit, Oktoberfest kicked off Friday night and ASU (Arizona State University) is a football field away. This weekend I dedicated to pure relaxation and pampering and secluded myself to the resort which never lacked in scenery, ambience or things to do.

For my next visit, I plan to explore another butte--weather-sculpted buttes punctuating the landscape of Arizona's desert parks, learn about the history behind the city's moniker of a persevering bird (Phoenix), and return to visit my new friend, Mississippi (a horse).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Christine Turns 40--Let the Celebration Begin!

The Big 40 is arriving (Oct 9th) and dreams of endless festivities dance in my head. Normally my birthdays are quiet, noneventful. A dinner with family and friends. But this is the BIG ONE. So I asked myself--what have I always wanted to do for myself or with friends? It hit me harder than a hangover (wait a minute--I've never had a hangover, honestly).

The birthday celebration would span several weekends. Energy levels willing, I can keep up with my own plans.

Most strangers do not believe me when I say I'm turning 40. Flattery will get you everywhere! I'm often asked what is my secret. Here it is: plenty of sleep (at least 7 hours each night, exercise 2.5 days a week faithfully, minimal stress [hence the change in jobs and still single], and eating in moderation). That's it!

Now the challenge is to keep looking 10 years younger as I approach 50. So my first gift, a gift to myself, is a three day weekend at a spa resort. Massages, facials, relaxing by the pool, reading a good book, eight plus hours of sleep. My selected destination: The Buttes Resort by Marriott at Tempe, Arizona (right outside Phoenix, Arizona).

For weekend number 2, my family is inviting me to a weekend in any Florida city I choose. What city is warm this time of year, with plenty of activities and a party atmosphere? Key West!

For weekend number 3, a limo ride with friends to various chic bars in South Beach. Watch out South Beach--here comes Miami's Angels!!!

Let the Celebration begin!!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bond Girl was Born with Six Fingers

In case you may not know, any woman in a major role in a James Bond movie, is considered a "Bond Girl" whether she's an accidental heroine or mistress of evil empire.

In the upcoming Bond Movie, "Quantum of Solace", Gemma Arterton plays Agent Fields.

But did you know this English beauty was born with a deformity? Six fingers on each hand. She considers it her "little oddity".

Learn more about this talented actress ,and her polydactyl condition, who beat out 1,500 contenders for this role as a Bond Girl. I'm so jealous!!!