Exclusive: Michelle Monaghan Talks Fashion and the Secret to Having It All

Whether she’s jumping out of an aeroplane, goofing around with co-stars, or watching the big football game pre–red carpet, Michelle Monaghan is a walking reminder that life should be fun—never too serious. And fun is precisely how we’d describe the actress’s latest project, this month’s action comedy Pixels. The arcade game–inspired flick, which also stars Adam Sandler and Ashley Benson, serves as the perfect follow-up to Monaghan’s recent string of heartrending dramas (True Detective, Fort Bliss, and The Best of Me). “It made me nostalgic when I read it,” Monaghan tells us about the film. “And my character is blond and a total badass. I couldn't say no to that.”

Dressed in skinny jeans and ankle boots—standard off-duty wear for the actress—Monaghan arrived on set for her Who What Wear shoot in high spirits, ready to field any fashion trend we threw her way. But for this former model, mastering even the trickiest of silhouettes, namely the wide-leg trouser, was a breeze. Keep reading for our exclusive story with the star. 


Robert Ascroft

Who What Wear: What was it about Pixels that made you want to be a part of the film?
Michelle Monaghan: I play Lieutenant Colonel Violet VanPatten, and well, what can I say, her name and job title really got me. I grew up playing and loving ’80s games. The film reintroduces these games to a new generation in a very funny, high-concept kind of way.

WWW: What was your favourite arcade game?
MM: I wasted a lot of quarters on Pac-Man.

WWW: Most people might not know you started out as a model. Do you remember your first job?
MM: It was shooting for the Montgomery Ward catalogue. When I saw myself in the Sunday ad, I was bowled over. I couldn't believe it was me. I did a lot of hands-on-hip posing in those days. :)

Credits: COS Kimono Sleeve Jacket ($225) and Wool Culottes ($115); L'Agence Crochet Tank ($225) in Natural; Kurt Geiger Klamp Sandals ($120).


Robert Ascroft

WWW: When did you know you wanted to transition over into acting?
MM: I was modelling in New York and had booked a few commercials. I auditioned for a TV show on a whim and booked the gig. I had no idea what I was doing, but the experience struck a chord with me. I found an agent a few weeks later and never looked back. I thank my lucky stars every day.

WWW: You’ve played so many different characters in your career. What kinds of roles interest you today?
MM: Any genre and any medium interests me, but the character must be challenging to the point that I'm afraid to do it. I'm drawn to characters that are complicated people. Flawed, perhaps. I'm always in search of finding a woman who teaches me something about myself or changes my perception about people or an idea. They're rare finds and diamonds in the rough.

WWW: Who are some of the females in this business who inspire you?
MM: There are so many women that I admire. I have so many colleagues and peers who are often in front of the camera, but the often unsung heroes in the business are the writers, directors, producers, and studio executives—all of whom every single day contribute to making the magic of storytelling happen. Mad respect.”

Credits: IRO Saunders Knit Top ($784); Zaid Affas bralette and pants; Hanut Singh Sputnik Earrings ($9,500, 323.822.3600).


Robert Ascroft

WWW: Would you ever want to explore other facets of the film industry, like producing or directing?
MM: Producing yes, directing no.

WWW: What do you think is the key to juggling a successful acting career, a long-lasting relationship, and motherhood?
MM: Lists, lists, and more lists; real communication; and a strong support system. I call our nanny Mujer Maravilla (Wonder Woman in Spanish). Meditation also helps to keep me balanced and focused. I work hard and take my work very seriously, but my family grounds me and prevents me from taking myself too seriously. I really married the right dude, too.

WWW: I saw on Twitter that you consider yourself an adrenaline junkie? What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
MM: I have a thing for skydiving. I'm the type of person who sincerely enjoys turbulence on a plane. I live for that feeling in the pit of my stomach. Not normal, I know.

Credits: Wes Gordon top ($2950); Rosetta Getty Apron Front Pants ($1600); Melinda Maria Preston Drop Earrings ($98); Mariella Pilato Rectangle Crystal and Silver Cuff ($1,625, 323.822.3600).


Robert Ascroft

WWW: When do you feel you’re sexiest?
MM: Donning red lips or really (and ideally) bikini-clad on a beach, a little sun-kissed with my hubby, beer in hand, kids elsewhere.

WWW: We have to talk fashion, of course. What has been your most memorable red carpet moment?
MM: Having Joseph Altuzarra design me a leather fringe dress for the 2014 Met Ball. I shimmied in that frock all night long.

WWW: Do you have any pre–red carpet rituals?
MM: Normally, it involves my hubby DJ'ing, our daughter fondling all the accessories, and our son "assisting" the glam team. It's loud and rowdy and fun!

Credits: Self-Portrait Sleeveless Biker Jacket ($389); COS Twill Oversized Trousers ($125); Giuseppe Zanotti Black Velvet Mules ($675).


Robert Ascroft

WWW: You have to travel a lot for your job. What five items are always in your suitcase?
MM: My Rick Owens black leather jacket. It's my second skin. Running shoes (although I hate that they take up so much room), one pair of George Esquivel boots that go with everything, my Céline triple bag, and two scarves. Being cold is always a worry of mine. Multiple chargers, too. Forgetting them somewhere is also a worry of mine.

WWW: It’s like you don’t age! Please tell us your skincare secrets.
MM: It's all smoke and mirrors, I tell ya! My routine is very simple, I promise you. Firstly, I drink tons of water—multiple litres a day. It's always by my side. I use sunblock, work out, and drink a green juice daily as well. I also get facials once a month, and my guilty pleasure is tinting my eyelashes. I really believe in the philosophy less is more. My skincare routine is more about working from the inside out rather than putting a lot of products on my skin. I like simplicity.

WWW: What are three beauty products you can’t live without?
MM: Egyptian Magic Skin Cream ($26). I use it as lip balm, cuticle cream, everything! Clé de Peau Concealer ($70) is my best friend, and Rahua Hair Oil ($175). It has the most intoxicating smell and makes my damaged ends presentable.

Credits: Wes Gordon White Ribbed Knit Column Dress ($950); Hanut Singh Discette Earrings ($8,750, 323.822.3600).

What do you think of our exclusive shoot with Michelle Monaghan? Sound off below!

Photographer: Robert Ascroft
Hair: John Ruggiero
Makeup: Shane Paish
Stylist: Dani + Emma
Manicurist: Tracey Sutter