Williams herself is remarkably well-adjusted, which she attributes to 11 years of daily yoga practice. In 1996 she and two partners opened a studio in Brentwood, Yoga Zone, which was an immediate success, attracting a celebrity clientele. She says paparazzi prowled the parking lot and the supermarket tabloids were always phoning to ask if JFK Jr. would be attending that day's class. In despair, Williams sold out to her partners. "It just became soulless," she says.
Worse, her ex-partners changed the name to Yogatopia. "It sounds like a yogurt stand," she says.
And yet, mat's oddly appropriate. As a high school senior Williams was "discovered" at a fast-food stand-not, alas, in TCBY but "outside an Orange Julius" in Mechanicsburg. Within days she was posing for Hess's Department Stores. "I had been making $3.35 an hour at P&G's," she says, alluding to another local fast-food emporium. "Hess's paid $100 an hour."
Within weeks she was in New York City, doing ads for Lee jeans and Sunkist. For the next few years she commuted between New York and Paris, finally alighting in Los Angeles on a sunny June morning in 1994. "I had a roommate lined up in Brentwood, at Bundy and Goshen," she says. "There were all these TV vans and police cars when I arrived." Hours earlier, two blocks away, Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman had been murdered outside her condo on Bundy. "Welcome to L.A.," says Williams.
Ah, yes, L.A. Williams looks forward to having children but is ambivalent about raising them in Los Angeles. "In the public schools they have to use metal detectors," she says. "And in private schools the children of studio heads get dropped off by their drivers. The values can be so twisted."
She has a friend who helps run an alternative public school for underprivileged children on New York City's Lower East Side, and Williams is working to whip up interest in such a project in Los Angeles. "Everyone tells me it's impossible," she says. "But they said that about starting my own business. I'm not smart, but I'm totally inspired to do this."
By contrast, modeling—Williams will confess under sodium pentothal—has become "so boring" and even "painful." She now only accepts assignments that are too laughably lucrative to turn down. She can finally afford to follow her heart. Williams appeared last fall in two independent films. She knows what you're thinking, but having studied acting for two years in New York, Williams is not your typical model-slash-actress interloper. "I'll only do films that I want to do," she vows. "And I would never be one of these actresses who says, 'I'm not going to have a baby until after I've won an Oscar.' "
Williams shows me snapshots she took on her November swimsuit assignment in Indonesia. All the photos are of children. "I think you see the soul of a country through its children," she says. "Unlike adults, children will walk right up to you. They don't have any fears about digging right in."
Children's lives are all possibility, a vast Dutch Wonderland. I can't help but think of Hanson—millionaire rock stars who can't even drive yet—and be inspired. Williams is way ahead of me. "I feel," she says, "like I can make anything happen now."