Meet the Model: Hawai‘i’s Neka Lanoza

After taking the L.A. scene by storm, the local model-on-the-rise is back home pursuing one of her greatest passions. She spills about making a difference, her gasp-worthy TV moments and what’s next for her in fashion.
neka lanoza
At Dawn top, $118, pants, $168. At Dawn, 1108 Auahi St., Suite 154, (808) 946-7837. St. Agni sandals, $189. Here, Salt at Our Kaka‘ako, (808) 369-2991.
Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino | HAIR/MAKEUP: JOANNA LEE; LOCATION: THE LAYLOW

 

Hometown: Mililani, O‘ahu

Insta: @nekachoo

Agencies: L.A. Models, L.A. Talent, Premier Models & Talent

You know her from: Deal or No Deal as Briefcase Model No. 8; the Next in Fashion runway; ads for Hyundai, MGM, General Mills, Marriott.

ring
Photo: courtesy of m33ms

 

Local fashion faves:

I love the direction Ari South is taking her brand—she loves hula, the land, the people, and it shows in her work.

I wear a sunrise shell necklace (below) from Tidepool Love with my name in gold.

My engagement ring was custom made by m33ms. I wanted it to have a Lord of the Rings vibe.

 

necklace
“I wear a sunrise shell necklace from Tidepool Love with my name in gold.”
photo: David Croxford

 

RED-Y, SET, GO

I was discovered while shopping at the Pearlridge MAC store. I was looking for a red lipstick and the manager ended up booking me for an event.

 

KIND OF A BIG DEAL

Initially the [Deal or No Deal] casting started with 20,000 model submissions, which they narrowed down to the 2,000 in-person auditions I was a part of.

 

SOAP STAR

My most memorable case opening was with a contestant who was obsessed with soap operas. The producers played dramatic head-turning music whenever we opened a case. And when he called my case number I took my time, finally opening it with a gasp.

 

deal or no deal
PHOTO: COURTESY OF NBC

 

WOWIE HOWIE

My favorite Howie [Mandel] moment happened behind the scenes. He heard that the models were hurting—our feet were swollen and backs sore after standing on stage for eight, nine hours a day—so he hired masseuses to be there for us every day backstage.

 

next in fashion

Walking in Minju’s finale dress (below) was one of my favorite moments of my modeling career. It was this gorgeous billowing mass of fabric with all these different elements—it’s a veil, no, it’s a head thing, no wait, it’s a train. I was not expecting the effect it had on the runway. The audience audibly gasped when I came out.

 

SUCH A DOLL

I recently did some voice work for American Girl’s YouTube video series. I played Nanea, a Hawaiian girl whose storyline happens on O‘ahu in 1942. She’s planning a birthday party, so I was baking a cake; talking to my dog, Mele; and making shave ice.

 

netflix
Photo: COURTESY OF NETFLIX

 

BUSINESS-MINDED

A lot of younger models message me for advice. So, I’ve been thinking about doing workshops to help the next crop of Hawai‘i models make better, informed decisions when it comes to treating your career like a business.

 

MODEL CITIZEN

My dream job would be something that makes a difference with kids. I worked as a behavior therapist at schools here for six years, right up until I moved to L.A., and it was very rewarding. Now, I’m in the process of becoming a registered behavior technician, to work with children with developmental delays, and from there I’m hoping to become a board certified behavior analyst.

 

Read more stories by Brie Thalmann