Before reading this, you've probably already formulated your assumptions about Tisha Marie: She's a model, so she must be brainless, and she's done nude modeling, which means she must be promiscuous. The truth is, however, she's neither of the above. Marie has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Oklahoma, she's never considered adult film offers (so quit asking), and the stunner maintains a strictly professional relationship with the rappers whose videos she works on, including Snoop Dogg and Young Jeezy.

With the honor of being the 12th African American featured on the cover of Playboy, the February 2011 Playmate has become one of the most hotly requested models in the industry. We recently had a chance to sit down with Marie inside the Complex office to catch up on all of her career moves, from playing in the Lingerie Football League to fitness modeling and becoming a video vixen.

Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)

How did you first break into modeling?
There’s a lot of land in Oklahoma, so I would do just do different photo shoots, like go on farms and do sexy tractor girl type stuff. Modeling was kind of a hobby for me, but I started off styling some of my friends with my clothes and putting them in poses. I would direct photo shoots.

I started doing pageants, then I had my baby, so I couldn’t do qualifiers for Miss Oklahoma or anything anymore because of the law on that. So, I went into fitness modeling and competed in that. Then, I began working as an MMA ring card girl along with doing fitness competitions. That was just the beginning.

How did you get discovered?
I just traveled and found my niche in different places. I don’t think I was ever discovered. I just worked really hard networking and putting myself in the right position by acclimating to different types of modeling.

So then how did you get in touch with Playboy?
Well, I have two degrees from the University of Oklahoma, and while I was finishing my masters program, I decided to move to Dallas and do an internship with Interceramic Tiles. While I was working under the CEO there, I wanted to be a Dallas Mavericks or Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. It just so happened that I missed the deadline for becoming a Cowboys cheerleader. I like to work out in different ways, like I'd box and do jiu jitsu in Oklahoma, so, I wanted to do a different type of workout when I moved to Dallas. There, I met a few girls that play football. For a workout, I would just go to football practice with them.

I liked it so much that I was torn. On the same day of tryouts for football was the same day of tryouts for the Mavericks cheerleaders. The Mavericks cheerleaders, however, would’ve been a really short tryout, with less energy and less challenging. It was more of a challenge for me to see if I could play seven-on-seven tackle, make the cut, and make the team. It was 107 degrees outdoors; the other was indoors. To me, I like to challenge myself, my body and my mind. It was a really hard tryout but I made it!

I watched some highlights from Lingerie Football League and it looks pretty intense.
It is! Even practice is super intense. Girls are completely different than guys. Say a girl doesn’t like you, she might try to make you look bad on the field or make it look like you don’t know your plays. It’s like a battlefield, and I felt it every day.

When you’re playing, you’re literally just in padding and lingerie. Have you ever gotten any serious injuries?
Yeah, even at practice, when we just started playing, three girls dislocated their shoulders. If you hit the wrong way or tackle the wrong way, it’s just something that happens. They ended up being inactive for that season. I only played that one year for Dallas Desire but, considering the risk of injuries, the amount of money we don’t make and the type of insurance they don’t provide us with, to me, that just didn’t go hand in hand with being a single parent mom. I just had to cut ties with that.

But while I was on the team, Playboy was going to do a Lingerie Bowl Edition for their February cover spread and Superbowl is February, as well. They sent an e-mail out to all the girls and I didn’t send the e-mail back to respond right away. But when I got that phone call from the commissioner of the Lingerie Football League's sister, saying, “Playboy chose you, and if you don’t want the position, then we’ll go to someone else on the team. Do you want to do this?” I said, “Of course.” 

I almost did the Playboy College Edition in 2006, but I just had my baby three months before that. So, while I was about to shoot, I kind of started milking. I was like, “Oh my God, I’m embarrassed! I don’t want to do it! I’ll just wait!” But then it eventually happened.

I always wanted to be a part of Playboy I’ve had Playboy everything in my room since I was in high school. When I was 16, I got my Playboy bunny tattoo on my hip; it’s actually in my high school yearbook. We had an anonymous tattoos section for all the seniors, so it’s pretty much been known that I’m a Playboy person.

How did your life change after you became a cover model?
I don’t think it really changed—it just evolved. It was a blessing because I am the 12th African-American woman to be on the cover and it’s been 58 years this year, I believe. Hef has so many magazines and TV shows and all of those other things that for me to be on the main cover, I’m really just excited about that.

When you shot that cover, did you also get to meet Hugh Hefner?
Yeah, we actually lived in the house. One girl from each team—there were ten teams at the time—all went out there. We would shoot five girls one day, all ten girls the next day, then five other girls the next day. We had a lot of fun. I called a promoter and me and a couple of the girls snuck out of the mansion and went out to a club during the week that we stayed there. We would have dinner with Hef and the playmates and his (now) ex-fiance. I think this was the first or second week of November 2010. 

 

I haven’t met one person within ten years of my age whom I feel I'm going to work out a relationship with. I need someone older.

 

What a lot of people don’t know is that I’m not only in the February 2011 cover, I’m also in the next two issues with just different pictures. The March issue has a candid picture of me and the other girls in his house with him with a little write-up of our stay there. The next month, because so many people were writing and saying they loved me, they put an editorial picture of me with a fan letter up. They were like, “Move over, Beyonce!” I was like, “What? Beyonce? Are you crazy?” [Laughs.] But it’s been a great experience.

Given your large fan base, do you ever receive any bizarre requests or gifts from people?
I’ve had gifts sent to my house. I had a personal shopper from Neiman Marcus come deliver me shoes from one of the fans, the Texas Rangers’ owner’s son. We actually ran into each other one time at an event and I exchanged my card with him in case there was any more events. One day, he called me and was like, “Do you know who’s on the fucking cover of my Playboy magazine? Why didn’t you tell me you were modeling for Playboy?” And I was like, “Well, it’s now just coming out.” The day it came out, he just sent that personal shopper to me. He just sent me a gift to be nice. 

A lot of people have bought my autographed Playboy issues because I sell them on my website Tisha Marie Online. I write special messages to my fans and mail them out. I love all of my fans regardless of how they met me or what not.

 
I’m sure because of how you look, you get a lot of the guys trying to pick you up. I heard that someone was hitting on you on your way here.
Yeah! Delivery guys, homeless guys—they all of a sudden can see now.

How do you want guys to approach you?
If a guy is really interested in me, the best way to do that is if I’m not rushing around, if we’re in some kind of establishment where there’s time to talk. If he just comes and introduces himself like, “Hi, excuse me, my name is such-and-such,” and reached to shake my hand and asked me what my name is, that’s the easiest way to get me to let my guard down to talk to him.

But so many guys just come up like, “Hey, I’m Bill Bob Jr. whatever and can I get your number?” Dude, you don’t even know my name! What are you going to do, call me and be like, “Hey, I got your number. What’s your name?” That doesn’t make any sense, and thousands of guys do that. It’s so annoying.

Are you picky when it comes to guys?
Well, I’m very into personality. I like someone who supports me in what I do and is uplifting because I’m an uplifting person. But what it comes to attractiveness, I can be attractive to somebody and not like him at all when he opens his mouth.

Sometimes he doesn’t even have to be GQ status. He doesn’t even have to be an athlete per se. Most of the time, I’m not into athletes. We just don’t get along. They think money grows on trees and they all end up bankrupt and we all end up laughing at them. Like, how are you bankrupt if you had 100 million dollars or even one million dollars? How did you not manage your money properly?

I need someone who’s intelligent and has financial literacy. I have two degrees. I know I do a lot of modeling, but I need somebody I can talk to and I can learn a little from. I like older men because the people that are close to my age, I just don’t see anything in. I haven’t met one person within ten years of my age whom I feel I'm going to work out a relationship with. I need someone older.

What made you decide to get your degrees if you always planned on modeling?
I just wanted to be a writer in the long run, so I write on my site about health, relationships, life, fitness, beauty and glamour. I’m working on some books right now, and I have some writing offers from a couple of different magazines. I think, all around, I feel like I needed school. I’m one of those people that needs to multitask, so modeling is just a small portion of me.

How did you get into fitness modeling?
I grew up athletic. I used to swim eight hours a day as a kid, morning to close; they would have to kick me out of the pool. I used to run track for school. I practiced dance. So just all around, activeness was always in my life. I just really like to work out in different ways.

Do you also follow any pro sports?
I follow a lot of different sports. I was just in Nigeria, so I was really into football there, which is soccer here. I actually met the coach of the Nigerian football team and just talked about the sport and the different politics behind it all. Education and everything is completely different there. Here, you have to have good grades to stay on the team, even in college; over there, it’s not the same.

Which are your favorite teams?
I’m an Oklahoma Thunder fan. Watch out, we’re getting the ring. [Laughs.] As far as football, my favorite era as far as teams are when the Cowboys had Emmett Smith, Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders and Deion Sanders. That was when I was just die-hard all about football.

Is football still something you play for fun?
I would love to run routes with my future boyfriend, whoever he will be. [Laughs.] I don’t know if he will be athletic, but hopefully he will be. I would love to run routes with him and and if we ever have kids. I’d love to play with my six-year old.

What does your daughter think about you modeling?
She loves it. She’s so proud of me. She’s just so ready to be on TV herself, but I told her that we’re just going to keep her in school a little longer before I take her out and start homeschooling her. I still have a few things I need to accomplish first before I let my daughter get into that.

My daughter stays in school while I’ll travel for work. My parents are a big help and my whole family’s really supportive. They don’t want me to waste my talent either. I feel good when I can pay all of my parents bills and I feel like they deserve it.

You also did some video modeling for Snoop Dogg and a few other rappers. How did you get into that?
I actually met Snoop and all of them three years ago. I was at a club in Dallas. When I went to the bathroom, these girls were like, “Ooh, you think Rihanna?” and other girl was like, “Ooh, you think you’re Beyonce?” Another girl was trying to block me from leaving the bathroom. I was like, “If you want to fight me, you have to fight me in front of everybody.” So, I opened the door wide as hell because if you want to fight me, you need to not hide in the bathroom because I got people.

 

Behind the scenes, some girls really put themselves out there. They want that kind of attention. They’ll do anything to be on TV, be in a video or be with a guy and I’m not like that. I’m strictly business.

 

So, I come out the door and Snoop’s cousin was like, “Girl, don’t be ninja kicking these hoes. Do you want to do a music video? Just calm down. Don’t be fighting.” They were so nice that they escorted me to my car at the end of the night. That’s how I ended up doing the Snoop video.

He’s real respectful, so I don’t know what the stuff was on VH1 that one time about girls saying that he makes them do this and that. I’ve been to plenty of his concerts and I’ve been backstage at so many of them. His people are always really nice to me and nobody’s ever hit on me like that.

Have you ever worked with someone who was really disrespectful?
There’s a lot of disrespectful people. Even sometimes the entourages are disrespectful. I’ve seen a lot of different things. A lot of the times, behind the scenes, some girls really put themselves out there. They want that kind of attention. They’ll do anything to be on TV, be in a video or be with a guy and I’m not like that. I’m strictly business. The people that do come across me treat me in a respectful manner because I’m a respectful person.

Sometimes there are just assholes, though, who’ll do anything and say anything to you to try to break you. So I’ve been cussed out when I’ve been a good girl. I’ve been called a "bitch." Although other people would back me up, they’d still be like, “No, she’s stuck-up.” They’re so used to girls acting a different way.

Who was the most difficult one to deal with?
I think it’s random nobodies, honestly, who are the most difficult, like people at an event that I’m hosting. People would try to grab me, grab my hand, or put their arms around my waist. I’m like, “This is my body. I know I’m on the flyer, I know you may have heard my name on the radio for hosting this event, but that doesn’t mean that when you see me, put your hands around my waist." Once I get that clear, if I’m not getting cussed out, then I’m being nice. There’s a time and place for everything and sometimes your boundaries need to be respected.

I’ve been through a lot and I’m stereotyped a lot because I did Playboy. People are like, “You’re a naked model so how does your family feel about that?” But Playboy is a very honorable company to be a part of and it’s classy. There’s raunchier pictures than that, too; a lot of things that I need not express of girls in different positions.

Are you offered adult films from people who assume you’d be down with that?
I think there’s always somebody that’s going to ask any kind of girl that if they can get an e-mail to them or if they can hand over a card. But yeah, I’m not even that open sexually to do anything like that. I’m not a promiscuous person. It’s laughable to me.

Do you ever get any criticism because you have these respectable degrees yet you chose to model?
Most people don’t even know I’m educated. I don’t care if they know. I know. I have my degree. People who really know me and have been in my life, they know a whole ‘nother side of me. Modeling just kind of naturally expanded and if you have a life plan, which I do, there are certain things you need to do to get where you want to be. Everything is strategic.