By Jill Rosen, The Baltimore Sun
6:00 AM EDT, September 7, 2012
Ever since the two appeared arm in arm on the red carpet at the London Olympics, people have wondered: Who, exactly, is Michael Phelps' new girlfriend?
She hasn't been talking with the news media until now. But in an exclusive interview with The Sun, Megan Rossee seems sporty, competitive and quick to laugh at herself. And, yes, she's also a willowy blond model who loves shoes, sweets and marathon viewings of "Sex and the City."
Though it's been widely reported in the media that Rossee is a cocktail waitress, that makes her laugh because she says she worked at Hollywood's Blok nightclub for only about a month to help pay the bills. Trying to make it as a model is as rough as it is unpredictable, and she wanted a more reliable paycheck.
"It's hard to budget yourself," she says, "when you don't know when you're going to book a job."
Yet Rossee, 25, never dreamed of being a model. In fact, as a child, she wanted to be an actress.
"My parents say I used to run around and spit out lines from movies," she says.
Raising her in Long Beach, Calif., not far from Los Angeles, Rossee's supportive folks got her an agent and shuttled her to auditions. The agent, however, saw her tall and lanky frame and thought she'd have better luck modeling.
Still, even as she headed to college — Lyon College, a small liberal arts school in Arkansas — Rossee's passions lay elsewhere. She had to choose between pursuing modeling and playing on Lyon's soccer team. Soccer won.
"All of my friends were playing at the same time, and I'm a really competitive person," she says, adding that soccer offered immediate gratification and instant thrills; in modeling, rejection is a fact of life. "You win a game, and you know that's a good feeling. If you don't book a job, you take it harder."
After graduating from college, Rossee grudgingly gave up soccer to pursue modeling, saying jokingly, "It wasn't cool to show up with bruises." But with her modeling "on hold," she's brought her inner Beckham back out — saying she and Phelps mixed it up for a little "two-on-two" just the other day.
Rossee isn't comfortable talking much about Phelps or their relationship, just that she met him through mutual friends and one day when they happened to be at the same place at the same time, they hit it off and kept in touch. (The "kept in touch" line also makes her laugh. "'Kept in touch.' Obviously we kept in touch.")
Rossee has modeled for runway, videos and print — you can even glimpse her in the opening montage for the now-canceled ABC Family show "Jane by Design." She's the one in the slinky black dress.
Her favorite jobs have been runway work for designers including Betsey Johnson, Michael Kors and True Religion.
"There is a certain type of collaboration that happens during shows that makes it feel like you're a part of a team," she says. "However, I'm not the most graceful person in heels, which can cause some major anxiety."
While she's taking time off, she has been able to follow Phelps to the Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb., and of course to the Games in London, where she cheered as he made history. That's also where they made their red-carpet public debut.
That appearance vaulted her into the spotlight and made her the target of gossipy speculation that she's in the relationship for the wrong reasons. She seems to be trying to ignore it.
"People are going to say and believe what they want," she says. "I have close family and friends who know me and what I am about, which is what I deem most important."
Rossee has been spending quite a bit of time in Baltimore, tasting crabs with Phelps and accompanying him to a Ravens practice session. She says she loves the city — at least its summery side.
"Ask me again in January, and I may have a different opinion," she says, laughing again. "I'm not a huge fan of cold weather."
She says she looks forward to going to Ravens games (despite being a huge Dallas Cowboys fan), getting better at cracking crabs and checking out the National Aquarium — a date Phelps promised her months ago.
As for the future, she's not inclined to predict. But it seems as if she hopes it includes much more Maryland.
"I'd rather just enjoy it as it comes," she says. "With that being said, I just plan on exploring my passions, surrounded by people that make me happy."
A few thoughts gleaned from conversation and Rossee's online statements.
Modeling standards: Don't ask her to do anything too racy: "I am super- easygoing and pretty much down for any type of project (that doesn't involve nudity)," according to her Model Mayhem profile. "I love what I do and hope to further my career as a model as well as a performer."
Resume: Rossee earned a bachelor's in psychology in 2009 from Lyon College in Arkansas. She volunteers in the mental health department at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Long Beach.
She's upbeat: "Don't worry, be happy!" Rossee tweeted. "Love actually is all around!" She's quick with affirmations online for her girlfriends and of course for Phelps — "Yay Michael."
She has a sense of humor: "I wish I lived in the days when it was considered attractive to be plump and pale," she tweeted. She's also a fan of "Impractical Jokers" on TruTV.
The woman can eat: Rossee, despite being a size 2, chows down on shredded beef and barbecue. A coffee drinker, she's partial to York Peppermint Pattie-flavored International Delight gourmet coffee creamer and recently discovered chai tea lattes.
She appreciates the high life: She's lounged on the sand in South Beach and hung out at Chateau Marmont.
Starry-eyed: Rossee was born April 13 and believes in astrology big-time. She regularly tweets relationship-related horoscopes. Example: "An Aries woman will put her man on a pedestal, if he is deserving."
Roots for: Dallas Cowboys. Which could be a thing with Phelps, a die-hard Ravens fan.
Family goals: Someday. "No kids now: 5-10 down the road," she tweeted.
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