August – September 2014, by Yu Shing Ting, photography by Mark Arbeit
Stylist: Kyle Kagamida
Makeup & Hair: Kecia Littman of www.keciabella.com
Shot on location at The Kahala Hotel & Resort
In this rare interview with HILuxury, Malia Jones opens up about life, motherhood and her newest endeavor – a swimsuit and clothing line to debut next spring.
Malia Jones admits to being a very private person— even details of her wedding to actor Alex O’Loughlin last April continue to be hush-hush.
But the mysteriousness just makes her even more intriguing. Her striking beauty, very much appealing.
And her globetrotting life as a surfer and model, simply fascinating.
We caught up with Jones over lunch, sitting on the ocean-view balcony of Neiman Marcus’ Mariposa restaurant— where she ordered a chilled crab salad and reminisced on her teens and 20s, traveling the world, living out of a suitcase, never in one place for more than six to eight weeks.
Life, however, doesn’t always map out the way you plan it to. Shortly after giving birth to her first child, Spike, now 5, she moved back to Hawai‘i to be with her mom, Vi Jones-Medusky, who was battling ALS and passed away in 2011. “Losing my mom who, was my best friend” was the hardest time in her life, says Jones, who was splitting time between Hawai‘i and Sydney at the time.
Jones, who is of German, English, Filipino and Spanish ancestry, was born in California where her dad, John Jones, was attending dental school. She was just a year old when they moved back to Hawai‘i, finding a place in Kailua. The first born later became an older sister to three brothers—Daniel, Mikala and Keoni, and together they all shared a passion and gift for surfing. At 15, Malia won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, and her brothers all went on to become pro surfers.
“My childhood was rowdy,” she recalls. “I was the tomboy big sister—just cruise and surf with the boys. I didn’t even wear a swimsuit until I was probably 14. Before that I was wearing big, baggy boy’s shorts and T-shirts, and surfing. Then, one day I got a Brazilian bikini.”
Her petite, surfer body, exotic looks and the fact that there weren’t too many girls charging the waves back then got her noticed by many, including photographers and modeling agents. Her first modeling job was for Surfing Magazine‘s swimsuit issue featuring girls who actually surfed. Then she got a call from Elle magazine and two weeks later was being photographed wearing luxury designer swimwear.
“It didn’t even register, designer anything,” she remembers. “After the shoot, they let me keep one, and I wanted the Chanel. It was white with Chanel written in fluorescent pink and green, and I surfed in it every day. I was like 17.”
That was the start of a modeling career that would include countless national magazine covers (including Shape and Outside), commercials and print ads. In 1998, People magazine named her to its list of The 50 Most Beautiful People in the World.
“I just loved the traveling, that’s why I did it,” says Jones on modeling. “I was all over the world in new places and down for whatever. I would just fly by the seat of my pants. If I was in Hawai‘i and on my way to New York, and somebody said come to Italy for a week, I’d be ‘OK, sure.’ I did as much as I possibly could of everything.
“But Hawai‘i was always a base for me. I always kept that balance between moving to New York, Paris, L.A. and Sydney. I’ve lived in all the cities that I wanted to, and now that I’m a mom, Hawai‘i is kind of the perfect atmosphere for our lifestyle.”
Home now for the 37-year-old is in Diamond Head, where she lives with O’Loughlin and their growing family (they have three children between them, including their 1-1/2-year-old son, Lion). The couple met through mutual friends, and it didn’t take long to realize they could have a future together.
“Maybe we did everything backwards because we have the family, it’s not like people who date and then get married (and wonder what it will be like),” says Jones. “For us, every day is full-on, from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to sleep.
“The wedding was more of a ceremony for our family than just us.”
Her career also has shifted into a new direction—instead of promoting other people’s fashions and products, she’s now designing her own swimsuits and clothing. Expected to arrive in luxury boutiques in spring 2015, and online at www.maliajones.com, her label consists of eﬀortless and stylish pieces that are comfortable, travel well, and can be dressed up or down.
The collection includes high-end basics, such as swimwear pieces in classic colors that will always be in stock, plus fresh, new colors for each season. There also are cover-ups, including long, comfy caftans with leather trims. And everything is made in the U.S.
“This has always been something I’ve wanted to do, and I’ve done it for different companies—I’ve designed my own line within companies and had creative input for other companies, so I’ve done this for everyone else. Now that I’m in one place, I can actually sit down and do it for myself, and it’s exciting,” says Jones. “These swimsuits need to be more timeless, so that you can always have that swimsuit that you love, that you know you look good in, that you feel your best in, that you can layer from the pool to the beach whether you’re in Hawai‘i or somewhere else.
“The caftans are pieces you can take with you in your weekend bag. You can be at the pool, you throw it on and you can go to the bar, or you can go to the restaurant, you can slick your hair back put on some red lipstick. It’s living that permanent vacation vibe.
“You also can wear it around the house and the hotel, and just kind of lounge in them. It’s things that I would wear. Things that people who travel a lot would wear when they’re on vacation and want to be comfortable, but also look great.”
Often flying between Paris, Biarritz, L.A., New York and Hawai‘i, Jones credits her travels for the inspiration of her line. “You go to all these places but you have the same suitcase full of stuff, and so I think it’s kind of shaped my habit of what I gravitate toward,” she explains.
Through all the life-changing experiences she’s had, one thing that has stayed constant is the surfer lifestyle that was instilled in her from infancy. Her parents both surfed, and most of her childhood was spent at the beach where they would be from morning to sunset. “I remember the salt in your hair at the end of the day and it’s fried, and it goes blonder and blonder,” she says. “Your skin is, like, crispy and then you just fall asleep and wake up with sand in your bed because it all falls out of your hair.”
She also remembers spending the winter months with her dad, who also was a photographer for Surfing Magazine for 25 years, and helping carry his camera equipment when she was just 5. She grew up surfing Bowls and Rocky Point, which are still her favorite spots, and describes her ideal wave as 4 feet in height and glassy or sandbars.
“The surfer lifestyle is a lifestyle that revolves around the ocean and not necessarily because you always want to just surf,” she explains. “It’s because you just want to be out in the water. It’s just literally paddling out and refreshing yourself, refreshing your outlook on life, just being away from anything you need to do and just centering yourself.”
Jones reveals that she does wear a swimsuit every day (she wore one to our HILuxury photoshoot paired with a simple black T-shirt, pareo and slippers), and while she still surfs and makes it a point to get in the ocean regularly, she now takes great pride in seeing the tradition continue with her children. Spike already has his own little surf-board, and enjoys riding the waves.
“Surfing has been such a big part of my life, so to keep it going in my family and seeing how much he loves it and keeps asking to go surfing, it means a lot to me to know he loves it too,” she says.
At home, Jones enjoys cooking and makes dinner every night for her family. She even took a course to be a holistic health practitioner, and prepares meals that are organic, local and well-balanced.
“I love macrobiotic, and we’re mostly gluten-free,” she notes. “I do a really good organic meatloaf with a kale Caesar salad that everybody loves and that’s probably my favorite. I don’t eat chicken, but I make a really, really good shoyu chicken.”
Even with a husband in showbiz, she confesses that she doesn’t have time to watch TV and does most of her shopping online. But she’s obsessed with Pandora (her favorite music group is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and is addicted to face oils (Herbal Recovery Oil from Eminence, Midnight Oil from Kiehls, and Aesop face oils from Australia are some of her daily favorites). She also always carries Lucas’ Papaw Ointment in her bag (which at our lunch was an oversized black leather Balenciaga she found while shopping in Tokyo).
Juggling life as a mom, wife and business owner, along with all those unexpected curveballs life can throw at you is not easy—and, yes, Jones admits there are moments when the stress reaches a freak-out point—but she’s learned to pause, breathe and move on. As her mom would say, “just keep moving.”
“As long as I jump in the water, then I’m fine,” she says. “It’s weird how it just goes away, and I think that’s one of the luxuries of living in Hawai‘i is you can do that. Just loving the ocean, loving that state it puts you in, making time for it and making it part of your life. You live in Hawai‘i, so why not?”
She also has learned to keep life simple. She doesn’t like clutter and likes to keep things organized. And she’s making an eﬀort to stop multitasking, which has become one of her pet peeves.
“I feel like now less is more,” she explains. “Less is more in exercise. Less is more in clothes. Less is more in life. Less stress. Keeping everything super simple and still enjoyable.”