In the early 1990s, there were no reality TV shows in which young hopefuls – singers, fashion designers and models alike – could audition, perform for a television audience of millions and be instantly vaulted into superstardom. This was especially true if you were a farmer’s daughter, living in the small, hardworking town of Donalda with a population of about 250; a community coined the bright light of Central Alberta. And yet, in the midst of the Canadian Midwest, arguably Canada’s first top model, was born.
At the age of seventeen, while standing in line at a movie theatre in Alberta, Tricia Helfer was discovered by the now infamous modelling agency scout Kelly Streit. Helfer, who stands a statuesque 5’10.5”, has striking physical features that pay homage to her German and Norwegian heritage. Modelling never occurred to Tricia. “I was off to university – probably would have gone into Psychology or Animal Psychology. I had no ideas at all about being a model.” As it turns out, her talent for modelling was natural; her rise to the top was quick.
In 1992, just a few short years into her modelling career, Tricia Helfer won Ford Models’ Supermodel of the World contest and was signed to Elite Model Management. Over the next ten years, Tricia was a sought after model, for both photo editorial and runway work. She graced the catwalk for many of the top design houses including Christian Dior, Givenchy, Dolce & Gabbana, John Galliano and Carolina Herrera. Helfer was the face of print campaigns for Ralph Lauren, Chanel and Georgio Armani and appeared on the covers of Flare, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Vogue, to name just a few.
It was evident to me that Tricia understood how the modelling industry allowed her to do so many things with her life – during that time and since then. “It was really not a dream of mine to be a model. It took me down a completely different path than I thought I was going to in life. I wouldn’t say I loved it. I completely appreciate it.”
Over the years, Tricia Helfer has also been a favourite of Maxim magazine, having been the magazine’s calendar cover girl in 2005, and included in several of their Hot 100 Women lists. In 2007, Tricia Helfer was featured in the February issue of Playboy.
In 2002, after a decade in the industry that brought her fame, Tricia Helfer retired from modelling and turned her sights to acting. The break was clean. “It [modelling] wasn’t my lifestyle. It was always a job. As a model, I could have made it to a higher level, had I played the game more.”
When asked about the difficulty of her transition from runway to acting, Tricia was candid with me. “LA took me on – but they didn’t believe in me.” Although it was a difficult transition, Helfer was clearly focused on her future. She began studying at the Penny Templeton Acting Studio in New York and within one year of moving to Los Angeles, she landed her breakthrough role on Battlestar Galactica.
Now a well-known actress and advocate for many causes and organizations, Tricia Helfer is one of Hollywood’s rising acting talents. Best known for her portrayal of humanoid Cylon Number Six on Syfy’s critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica, Helfer also starred in Andrew Paquin’s Open House  and on NBC’s The Firm . More recently, Tricia starred as the voice of The Grid for the animated series, Tron: uprising and has three movies in post production – Scent of the Missing, Scribble and 37.
The personal side of Tricia Helfer is a lovely one. In our conversation, her true Canadian roots shone through. She was funny, gracious and refreshingly frank. She currently lives in California with attorney husband of ten years, Jonathan Marshall. Tricia has a love for motorcycles and the open road; a love stemmed from a childhood spent engaged in outdoor activities. “I was a tomboy growing up on a farm in Alberta and an avid quad rider.” Helfer made the decision to get her license (and her own bike) after a few trips on the back of her husband’s. Now, Tricia owns two bikes – a Harley Davidson and a BMW. When asked about the two bikes, Tricia laughed. “They are completely different. It is like trying to compare New York and LA. The new bike [BMW] is definitely built for speed.”
Combining her passion for motorcycles and her desire to give back, Tricia Helfer, together with good friend and fellow actor, Katee Sackhoff, founded Acting Outlaws. Their website (ActingOutlaws.org) includes the following mission statement: “On a quest to do our part to protect the earth and all its inhabitants, we sought a way to marry our love of the open road with our love of humanity.” Sackhoff and Helfer participate in a variety of charity events in an effort to raise money and awareness for causes they feel strongly about. Money is also raised through their website, where exclusive merchandise is sold and a portion of the profits are donated to charity each year. Helfer often lends her name, time and talent to worthy causes including HIV/AIDS organizations, environmental issues, and promoting the well- being and fair treatment of animals.
By: Tracey Drake – NICHE Magazine Spring 2013