A 19-year-old Hawaii woman who served as the model for the bare-breasted mermaids in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie got more exposure than she bargained for when a national gossip magazine linked her with film star Johnny Depp.
Mililani High School graduate Kristen StephensonPino said an article headlined "Johnny hits on teen model" in the Dec. 27 issue of Star Magazine mischaracterized a little flirty banter between the pair during the Hawaii filming of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" to make her out as Depp’s new love interest.
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"There was absolutely no funny business between Johnny and I. It was very professional … it was more innocent than it was portrayed," said StephensonPino, who moved to Hawaii in 2006 after spending her childhood in Germany and Japan.
The model-actress said she did have conversations with Depp in his trailer during the August filming and took photographs with him on the set, something the star reportedly doesn’t normally allow. She described him as "really sweet and down to earth."
"When I hung out with Johnny he was very easy to talk with, as if we had always been friends. We talked about life before he was famous, how he began and where success has taken him today," she said. "I was fascinated by his honesty concerning his life and listened to his words of wisdom."
She said he may have enjoyed her company because she treated him like an ordinary person. "I wasn’t throwing myself at him," said StephensonPino, a devout Christian who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage.
Star claimed Depp, 47, was "infatuated" with StephensonPino, who is of German, Irish and Spanish descent, and compared her likeness to that of the actor’s girlfriend of 12 years, Vanessa Paradis, mother of his two children.
According to StephensonPino, the magazine initially told her she was being interviewed because she was at the top of a list of up-and-coming models and actresses. "I was careful about the things I said. Everything was positive; my words just got twisted," she said.
As a result of the media coverage, StephensonPino has endured the social media equivalent of hate mail and other unwanted attention. She said her friends and family have been supportive during the ordeal.
"At first, I laughed about it, until I realized how many people believe that magazine," she said. "It’s a gossip magazine. You can’t rely on it … I’ve gone through ups and downs: excited that I actually made the front cover and a pretty impressive four-page spread inside the magazine, and sad when I read what some of the people have written defending Johnny Depp even though they don’t know either one of us."
Although StephensonPino does not have a speaking role in the upcoming "Pirates" film, due for release in May, her breasts were used to make a mold for the mermaid costumes.
"(Depp) did not stand by the door and watch me undress as the magazine indicated," she said. "He may have seen photos of me, since we all needed to show our breasts and have photos taken … There were four of us and we all thought that we had a job, but I was chosen."
Even though she did not get any screen time, StephensonPino said she gained valuable film experience and learned firsthand what celebrities must deal with on a regular basis.
StephensonPino, who is fluent in Japanese, has had small roles on CBS’s "Hawaii 5-0" and ABC’s "Off the Map" and "Lost," and has appeared on English, Japanese, Spanish and Korean dramas.
Despite the tabloid scrutiny, StephensonPino feels she has maintained her wholesome reputation and may even benefit from the publicity.
"I personally don’t think it will hurt me," she said. "After all, it’s not as bad as Miley Cyrus getting caught with a bong."