Simona Fusco is a woman of many talents who clearly loves to keep busy. Born in Milan, she began her career modelling at aged 8 for brands such as Benetton and Lacoste. She moved to the US aged 14 paving a successful career in Hollywood starring in movies such as 'Beerfest', 'Pool Boys’ and ‘American Poltergeist', but don't make the mistake of pinholing this blonde beauty who runs multiple successful businesses and a non-profit organisation.
Kim O'Meara caught up with single mum, Simona, to hear more about her latest ventures and the special bond she has with her dog.
Tell us about your dog - we'd like to know everything about him!
Bear is 7 years old. My daughter who was 8 at the time, found him in our neighborhood pet store. She came running home and was very excited to tell me about him. She begged and pleaded for me take a look and get him for her. When I walked in the pet store with my anxious little girl, it was love at first sight. He was sitting all alone in a corner looking lost and abandoned. He looked like a big fluffy Teddy Bear hence the name Bear. The pet store ended up closing down because they were accused of selling puppy mill dogs. Bear and I became very attached. He thinks he is human and acts like a big kid. I think he is grateful I rescued him from that store.
Over the past 7 years, Bear and I have been through a lot together. The loss of the father of my child and the loss of my dear mom to cancer. He was my best friend during this most difficult period of my life. I am grateful to have him in my life.
Photos by Rochelle Brodin / Courtesy of Shandrew PR
How long how long have you been a pet owner?
I love animals and grew up around many breeds of dogs, some of which were Rottweilers, Doberman, German Shepherds and King Charles Spaniels. The biggest impact on my heart besides Bear who is bar none, was probably my Rottweiler that I had in Austria. I was only around 8 years old and we would play hide and seek. Of course her big, wet nose would always find me but what was so special was that she would grab my hand by her mouth ever so gently, to pull me out of my hiding spot. She was highly intelligent and such a gentle soul. Her name was Nike. I miss her!
You've been called a 'modern day Bo Derek' by Esquire magazine and have built a successful career through modelling and acting with more than 30 acting credits to your name. What led you into showbiz?
I was approached by modelling scouts in Austria at only 8 years of age. I started modeling for campaigns such as Benetton and Lacoste. My mom decided to move to the US when I was 14 years old and once again I would get approached by agents. Long story short, I started acting and felt right at home on the set. It felt natural and as if I had always been on set. Last year I added producing to my credits. I produced a movie with Dean Cain called 'Beverly Hills Christmas' which aired on TV throughout December.
What do you think you would have done, had you not followed a career in modelling originally?
I was set to become an attorney. People still tell me that I missed my calling and should have been a lawyer. I was also always very curious about the medical field, especially since my mom was diagnosed with cancer not just once but twice. After living with her cancer over a period of 20 years I felt as though I was a doctor with all the medical knowledge I had learned over the years about this disease.
Alongside your work in Hollywood you also own an online boutique and launched a high end match making company, Perfect12.com, so you must enjoy a day packed full of variety!
I just started my online boutique called StyleBySimonaFusco.com. Some of the celebrities that have worn fashion available in my boutique are Katy Perry, Nicole Scherzinger, Aubrey O’ Day and many others. Why should only celebs or wealthy people wear quality fashions? I wanted to make quality fabrics and classy, timeless styles attainable to everyone.
As far as my matchmaking service Perfect 12, I founded Perfect 12 because it was hard for me to meet quality singles. I know what you might think, 'oh please how hard is it for her to meet singles. She must get approached all the time' and you would be correct in assuming so. But it was quality and not quantity I was looking for.
I wasn't the type to go to bars or nightclubs nor would I trust online dating. Most of my friends and colleagues felt the same.
There was some research out in the UK recently about how pet's can help when dating. What are your thoughts?
I think pets make a great subject of conversation. I literally get approached every minute when walking Bear, whether we're hiking or at a restaurant, or simply walking to my car. People stop me and tell me what a beautiful dog he is and ask what he is breed. It is a great way to meet singles. I have met many interesting people walking my dog and typically pet lovers are kind people. It is a great way to connect.
What three key pieces of advice would you give to pet owners who are searching for love on two legs ( we know they have it on four).
Overall, my advice for everyone, not just pet owners, is to first love yourself before you go out looking for love.
Some people make the mistake of looking for love to 'fix their problems’. They think once they find love they will live happily ever after and everything will fall into place. Like it will just fix itself and be hunky dory. You need to be happy own your own.
Sure, in the beginning love may heighten your spirit and make you feel like you’re on top of the world. But if you went into it hoping it would fix your problems, you’ll soon find out that those problems are not gone. Once the honeymoon period is over, your demons or issues will come back rearing its face and it might take a toll on that new found love. So my first piece of advice is don’t go looking for love to fix you.
My second piece of advice would be to always respect yourself. Don’t settle for less. You deserve to be valued and respected.
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My third piece of advice is to find someone that compliments you. Someone as I call it 'matches your crazy' and understands you. Someone you can be yourself with and don’t need to fake it for. Someone who is your best friend.
Something else people might not know about you if they know you purely for your modelling and acting work is that you also founded a non-profit organization called ‘The Maria Gruber Foundation’, whose loved ones are affected by terminal cancer. Tell us a little about this.
Yes, 'The Maria Gruber Foundation' was founded upon personal tragedy. As I’ve mentioned before, my mother was diagnosed with cancer twice.
She survived the first time however, 20 years later, the cancer came back with a vengeance and ultimately took her life. My daughters godmother Farrah Fawcett died of the same cancer as my mom. Colo-Rectal cancer stage 4. Cancer has been a very dominant figure in my life.
I was only 16 when my mom was first diagnosed with cancer. You can imagine the fear and helplessness I experienced as a young teen. I had nobody to turn to and now my sick mother to take care of. I was terrified of losing her and being all alone. I visited all the top hospitals in the Los Angeles area and requested to speak to the top resident oncologists.
At 16, I worked hard to support my mother and get her the best treatments available. My pain and fear gave me the drive I needed to fight for her mother’s life. There are many charities that help raise money to find a cure but there are none to help family members left behind needing guidance and support during and after we lose a loved one. That is why I founded 'The Maria Gruber Foundation'.
It is our vision to provide support to families whose loved ones are affected by terminal cancer by turning the fear, grief and helplessness caused from this disease into awareness, compassion, and support. It is the mission of the foundation to create educational tools designed to help parents, children, and loved ones affected by terminal cancer by raising awareness through education by creating educational tools What to do/say and what not to do/say, removing some of the helplessness that comes with the dreaded diagnosis of being diagnosed with a terminal disease and also providing support to parents on how to communicate with loved ones during this difficult time while they prepare for the inevitable.
We also work to grant families loved ones one last wish.
We aim to create a support system with guidance counselors, grief counselors and volunteers designed to help loved ones during this hard time. Sometimes all you want is someone to lean on and our goal is to be that someone.
It sounds like the foundation is doing hugely valuable work. We're sure it will continue to grow and thrive helping many, many families along the way.
We have a few thought fun but provoking questions here...
Do you have a motto that you live your life by? What would you say Bear's motto might be?
Let me think.
Bear's motto would be unconditional love. He loves me whether I am upset and down and he loves me when I haven’t showered in days (laughs). Not that I do that – who does that? But, you know what I mean? He loves me whether I look dumpy and frumpy or styled for a photoshoot.
My motto is live and let live. You cannot control everything. It’ll only drive you insane.
If you were to swap roles with Bear for a day, how do you think he'd cope being you and what would you most love about being him?
Oh that’s an easy one for me! I would love get down and dirty playing with my fellow dog pals in the park and ask them about their lives with their pet owners. I bet they would have a ton of interesting stories to tell!
As far as Bear being me for one day, think he would love all the great restaurants I go to eat. He would have a feast at my favourite steak house and drive my car like a bat out of hell with the top down and his hair blowing in the wind, tongue out and all (laughs).
For this question, we ask our celebs to match up the following people’s personality to a breed of dog, for example, Winston Churchill = Bulldog or J.Lo = Afghan Hound, Frank Bruno = Boxer etc. If the following celebrities and dog lovers were breeds of dogs, based on their personalities alone, what type of breed do you think they'd be...
Hugh Jackman – I think he'd be a Malamute.
Victoria Beckham – I think she'd be a Doberman Pinscher.
Sylvester Stallone – I can see him as an Italian Bull Mastiff.
Joanna Krupa – I think she'd be a Collie.
Now, onto our quick fire questions...
Which do you prefer and why?
Big dogs or little dogs – Big dogs. Just given by their size, people respect it and you feel protected.
Pedigree dogs or cross-breed – For me, I can't choose between so I'm saying both.
Quickest or shortest route to a destination – Quickest route.
Days off or days at work – It depends on the day. I love my careers, being off gets boring.
Describe the last time you laughed out loud because of something you saw Bear or another dog do.
He was running on the beach and tripped over a hole a kid must’ve dug. I thought he would see it but his front paw went in and he took a nose dive (laughs). He shrugged it off like nothing happened and looked at me like 'why are you laughing?'.
If you could arrange a dinner party inviting three people (choosing from any era, past or present), who would you choose to invite?
Great question! Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe.
What three items do you never leave home without?
My keys, iPhone and money.
What is your current favourite…?
TV show – 'Two and a Half Men' with Charlie Sheen, he was the best and can’t be replaced.
Book – Has to be 'You'll Never Make Love in This Town Again' – it's a true story about life in Hollywood.
Film – 'The Notebook', I am a hopeless romantic.
If you could sum it up, what do you think is the best thing about being a dog owner?
That we, dog and dog owner, have this special bond nobody knows about. I think dog owners 'get' each other. Almost like a fraternity. They are more compassionate and caring. You cannot be selfish when you have another life to be responsible for, much like having a child. You have to think of another life to take care of besides your own. Also, there is something between man and his dog that is so special and hard for non dog owners to understand.
Finish the following sentence, my dog is... my best companion.
And finally, this is always a tough question and often requires a fair degree of thinking time but….if Bear had the ability to speak and answer one question and one question only, what would you ask him and what do you think that he would say?
I would ask himwhat he thought of humans and I think he would answer 'You are all crazy and way too superficial. Money rules your world instead of love, like it does with us'.
Many Thanks Simona!