Paradise City

Susan Holmes-McKagan

Famous international supermodel, TV star, author, successful swimwear designer and popular better half to a legendary Guns N’ Roses rocker, SUSAN HOLMES-McKAGAN has seen and done it all — except appear on the cover of MAXIM Australia — until now…

When it comes to the worlds of modelling, fashion and design, to say Susan Holmes-McKagan has done it all is an understatement. Her résumé reads a little something like this…
An international supermodel who has rocked major campaigns, commercials and catwalks for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Versace, Prada, Calvin Klein, Chanel, Victoria’s Secret and many, many other major brands, she’s also been one of the highest-paid fashion models in the world gracing the covers and pages of magazines like Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan to MAXIM, Sports Illustrated and Playboy.
Her huge swimwear line Susan Holmes Swimwear, is worn worldwide by high-calibre celebrities — past names include Kate Hudson, Venus Williams, Stella McCartney, Heidi Klum, Kate Upton and our very own Aussie Elle Macpherson. Plus, Susan and her swimwear have been featured in the Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit Edition multiple times with her infamous bikini, made entirely of guitar picks, donning the SI calendar and DVD covers.
Susan was even awarded the “Swimwear Designer of the Year” in 2008 by the NYC Fashion Industry’s The Michael Awards. What’s more, she was a celebrity guest judge/creative director/designer on America’s Next Top Model alongside Tyra Banks, a correspondent on Fox reporting on all things American Idol and starred on E! Channel’s docu series Married To Rock in front of 97 million viewers worldwide. She’s even been given the key to the cities of Detroit, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio in recognition of her international business accomplishments.
And soon she will add “published author” to her list of impressive achievements. All this, and she still finds time to always be on the road touring the world with her legendary Guns N’ Roses husband Duff McKagan. Suffice to say, the pleasure was all ours when it came to doing this interview for her MAXIM Australia cover story…

Hey Susan, congrats on your MAXIM Australia cover. How do you feel?
Thank you! I am so… beyond EXCITED and HAPPY!

Tell us about this amazing shoot.
I wanted to do MAXIM Australia proud and also incorporate my personality, vibe, aesthetic and style. Being that I grew up on the beaches of San Diego, to then creating my own brand of bikinis, with Susan Holmes Swimwear, I knew I would be in my zone and hopefully nail it.

What did you love most about the shoot?
Everything! No, seriously, everything went unbelievably flawless. I loved that everyone involved on the shoot killed it from the hair and make-up to, of course, the photographer Brian and assistants. It definitely was a magical day with amazing people and my backdrop couldn’t have been any sweeter — the hot California sun was absolutely jaw-dropping framing the glistening hot sand around us.

Well, you look gorgeous. When do you feel you are at your sexiest?
Wow! Thank you so much – I truly appreciate that! Hmmm… I feel sexy when I’m feeling and looking my absolute best inside and out.

What is your best asset?
That’s hard to answer for oneself, so I’m going to have to revert to my hubby Duff on this one… He says, “Uh… ALL of it!”

In a few words, how would you best describe yourself?
I guess I’ve been told over the years that I am… down-to-earth, an animal lover, engaging writer, sweet and, on a good day, a crafty cook in the kitchen.

When you’re not posing for MAXIM Australia what do you do?
At the moment I’ve been full force with everything that involves my book that I’ve just completed! It’s a fast-paced novel set in the ’90s, and a coming-of-age story that is injected with a colossal amount of adventure, love and humour! The book is called The Velvet Rose, and it’s officially being released on March 12 — but is available for pre sale online at Amazon before hitting all the brick and mortars.

Sounds awesome! Tell us more.
I’ve worked fastidiously on sharpening my writing skills for various publications, as well as being a consistent front-page cover columnist for The Huffington Post for the past three years, so it’s incredibly rewarding to now see my first tome — a fictitious novel — finally come to life! I’ve got to say for me, after all this hard work, it’s an immensively proud moment, to now add “published author” to my résumé.
The Velvet Rose could be described as the earnest generation authenticity of a ’90s “coming-of-age” novel. It is navigated by a lead female protagonist and I believe people will especially fall in love with the characters and feel almost as if they know them after reading my book. It also explores the journey of figuring out one’s own path and championing that aspect to finding your dreams. Let’s just put it this way, if you enjoy books that take you on a voyage filled with lots of colourful travel, a rock & roll romance coupled with high fashion adventures and outrageous hilarity, then you, or someone you know, will love this book! At the end of the day, it will be relatable to all those who have ever had the courage to chase their dreams and pursue an unconventional path in this glorious world.

Huge congrats! Now, tell us all about your business, Susan Holmes Swimwear.
I grew up in the So Cal surf scene, so my uniform – besides my Catholic school girl one growing up – was a swimsuit and I loved fashion and design. Besides being voted in my senior high school yearbook as “deserted island companion”, I became the President of my sewing club in high school and would take extra extracurricular pattern and sewing classes as well. Then, after doing so many personal modelling fittings for shows in Paris, New York, London and Milan, I couldn’t help but be reinvigorated and inspired to try my luck on the “other side of the fence” – that is, make my clothing brand. I made all the right business steps – filing for a business license, researching the best fabrics and resources and doing meticulous fittings and patterns. Before I knew it, Victoria’s Secret placed a six-figure order on my first collection and inspirational celebrities like Kate Hudson, Elle Macpherson, Heidi Klum, Stella McCartney, Venus Williams and Kate Upton were all rocking it!

Amazing. For those who don’t know a lot about you, give us a brief rundown of your life story so far.
I was born in a small Midwest college town of Bowling Green, Ohio to a Doctorate thrice Fulbright Scholar Professor father and an MBA English teacher mum. We relocated to San Diego and, upon high school graduation, I flew off to Paris for a modelling contract. I ended up living there for eight wonderful years – worked hard, secured my first Vogue, Glamour, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and W magazine covers — then returned to the USA and lived and worked out of New York where I received a few more Vogue covers and scored ad campaigns from Dolce & Gabbana to Yves Saint Laurent, GUESS and Victoria’s Secret. After this, I graduated to living bicoastal between New York and Los Angeles and then I met and married my better half – the raddest man on the planet and my hubby now for over two decades – Duff. We’ve basically been inseparable ever since.

You’re currently on tour with Duff — what’s the best and worst thing about being on the road with him and Guns N’ Roses?
The best part is that I get to be with my hot-ass husband and see him slay in front of huge audiences for one of the world’s most iconic rock bands – and also getting to meet and appreciate all the awesome fans out there with him. Yeah, it’s pretty sweet. The worst is, of course, being away from your kids, friends and our dog.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen on a GNR tour?
There was a tap-dancing Elvis in the audience in Vegas – no shit!

What’s your favourite Gunners song?
There are too many! “Welcome To The Jungle”, “It’s So Easy”, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “November Rain”, “Coma”, “Paradise City”…

OK, agreed. Dumb question. What are parties like at the McKagan house?
We just had our first ever adult party last May – for my birthday on Cinco de Mayo! It kicked total ass and we plan on doing more. We had a few hundred close friends and family, an open bar, Mexican wrestlers, piñatas, photo booths and a DJ. Before this, all our parties have been our kids’ birthday parties.

What makes Duff your ideal man?
He is the “every man.” He is a good person, he is intelligent (he went back to school and got his business degree when he was in his 30s), he’s sensitive yet knows how to be a man and rock the house at home and when on tour, he is – as I always say – my “True-blue dude”. And, hello? Have you taken a look at him? – HOT!

What have you learnt about men over the years?
That I still don’t know all the dynamics but I do know I’m thankful for all they do. I’m happy I have a nice connect with them from my Dad and brother to my wonderful husband too, of course.

What’s one thing men should always remember when it comes to women?
Be f—kin’ cool!

If you and Duff took MAXIM on a double date, what would it entail?
It would most likely be X-rated. It’d be in Amsterdam – that’s all I’m going to say!

Great, now we feel like a drink. What can we get you at the bar?
A nice, chilled Aussie white wine, please.

Status Update

FULL NAME: Susan Holmes-McKagan
BORN: May 5 in Bowling Green, Ohio, USA
HOMETOWN: San Diego, California
LIVES: “On an GNAiRplane, hotel, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego…”
AGENT: “Iconic Focus.”
HOBBIES: “Spending time with friends, family and our dogs, reading, writing, cooking, hiking, swimming, fitness, taking new classes, skiing, traveling, going to concerts…”
WORST HABIT: “Sweet tooth.”
PHOBIAS: “Heights and anything that would really hurt my feet — not sure what that’s called.”
MODELLING MISCONCEPTION: “That we’re all full of ourselves and not too bright. Modelling is cool and yes, often glamourous, but it’s often a one-dimensional type of career.”
LIFE MOTTO: “Work hard and be nice to people.”
INSTAGRAM: @susanholmesmckagan
TWITTER: @suholmesmckagan


For the full article grab the January 2019 issue of MAXIM Australia from newsagents and convenience locations. Subscribe here.

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