Published In C&K Magazine: Vol. #2 – Issue #1 – Date: 2007
Michele Smith started hosting American Thunder ten years ago and to some she is known as an American Motorcycle Icon. Starting out in the modeling world as a pin-up girl, Michele could be seen in Playboy, Muscle and Fitness, Swimwear USA, Swimwear International and Neue Revue. She was spotted on the cover of Easy Riders Roadware clothing catalog and was hired as the host of American Thunder. The rest is history!
These days Michele is gracing magazine covers like Wild Motorcycles, Full Throttle, V-Twin, Hot Rod or Easy Riders. Being involved in the Motorcycle Industry for a significant length of time has provided Michele with a great deal of perspective into the many facets of this complex industry. “I have a lot of respect for the builders that have been in this industry a long time. They are the “real” thing. These are the guys that have dedicated their lives to building motorcycles because they love doing it. They have worked hard to get to where they are today.”
Michele’s other interests include designing. She has a line of lingerie called “Jeweled G’s” which is a G-string with jewelry that can be detached from the panty and worn as a necklace. She is most likely the only person you know that has a utility patent on a G-string! Recently, she also started “No Needles Tattoo” which is a t-shirt that gives the illusion of having tattoos on your arm. “Designing is a hobby and I love it. I have a lot of ideas for women’s clothing especially for the motorcycle market but finding the time is something else right now. Eventually I hope to have my creations in motorcycle shops everywhere!”
C&K: How does a Pennsylvania girl from Harrisburg choose modeling and acting as a career?
MS: They always say that it’s best if you can have a job working at something that you enjoy doing. I started out modeling back in Pennsylvania and decided to go to California and pursue acting and modeling together. I was working pretty much working within my first week of getting to LA.
C&K: You are generally known as the first lady of motorcycling and since your appeal is that of a sexy tomboy, were you active in athletics and outdoor activities growing up?
MS: I wasn’t a real big athlete. I was on the swim team during high school. But, no, actually it was kind of the opposite. I was into beauty pageants and modeling. Once I got to LA and I took the motorcycle.
C&K: So the motorcycle safety course really helped establish the direction of your career?
MS: About thirteen years ago I was working on a short film. It was about a character who was a businesswoman by day but by night she was a motorcycle riding Harley girl. At that time, I couldn’t ride and they’d bring in a stunt double. This girl shows up, she was about 90 pounds soaking wet and she is riding a big Harley. So for the close-up shots, they strapped the Harley in the back of a pick up truck. I had to sit on it and go down Hollywood Boulevard riding in the back of a pickup truck like an idiot. So I said, I am not doing this again. The next day I went out, signed up for the course, ordered a Sportster, and that’s how I started riding. The bike came in a week before the Love Ride in L.A. which is a big charity ride. About 40,000 motorcyclists ride, and that was it. I have been riding ever since.
C&K: Did you take to it immediately or was it something that grew on you?
MS: No, I loved it. I couldn’t believe it was so easy to ride a motorcycle, because for years I was standing in Calendar shots next to big machines thinking oh my gosh, how can anybody ride one of these things.
C&K: Other then riding, do you have any other hobbies or passions?
MS: Well, I love traveling, so when I am not traveling for work I usually take off and go overseas.
C&K: With a hectic schedule, do you have to maintain a strict workout regimen to stay in shape for the show?
MS: Well, it definitely isn’t easy being on the road. I do Pilates. Also, I was working with a trainer but now scheduling is a problem. I fit it in when I can. I do a lot of walking through airports if that counts. And I know what I can eat and what I can’t eat.
C&K: If you had a different career path, what might it have been?
MS: I may have done something like interior design. I like playing around with furnishings and painting furniture and finding old things and redoing them. Some of my friends call me a new version of Martha Stewart without the cooking.
C&K: Well, obviously you are creative. You also design clothes. How did that start?
MS: I was pursuing a Gemology degree when low rise jeans were just coming in. It was a big craze. Everyone’s thongs were hanging out of their jeans, and I thought, okay, we need to see something else back there. It would be nice to have jewelry or something there. So I was playing around with the jewelry and the gemstones, and I attached it to lingerie, and I came up with something called Jeweled-G’s. They are G-strings with pearls, rhinestones or candy attached. They sort of peak out of the top of your low rise jeans. The jewelry is removable and is also wearable. I made it patentable by making it detachable, so I have a utility patent on the G-string.
C&K: You also developed a tattoo shirt. How did you come up with that idea?
MS: Even though I ride motorcycles I am not really the stereotypical biker chick because I don’t have piercings or tattoos. But when I want them I can put the shirt on. When I wear it on the show, a lot of people think I actually have tattoos. In fact, I have gotten mail saying, “I can’t believe you’re setting a bad example for my 16 year old.”
C&K: You have been the host of American Thunder for ten years now? Is that correct?
MS: Yes, this is my 10th year, we’ve been on TV fortwelve years. We are the longest running motorcycle show of its kind and one of the first actually.
C&K: What does the typical episode entail? How much time does it take to shoot, and how much prep time is involved?
MS: Not much for me. When we were shooting at the studio, I’d be in at 9 or 10 and I’d be out of there by 4, and we would tape two shows. But this year, they decided to take me on the road. So everything has changed. I just came back from Daytona and I think we only got one show out of there for 3 days. But I can’t say its hard work.
C&K: How does Daytona Bike Week compare to say an event like Sturgis?
MS: They are similar. Daytona has changed over the years just because it’s more spread out now. Everything used to be geared toward the beach, but now they’ve built this place called Destination Daytona, which is about 5 or 6 miles west of the beach. It’s kind of like Disneyland for bikers. I like Sturgis because a lot of the things are right in the town of Sturgis.
C&K: You seem very passionate about bikes, how often do you ride?
MS: I do not get as much riding time in as I would like. Once in a while I get to go out with friends, but lately, because of the show and personal appearances, I find myself on a plane every 2-3 days. So it’s kind of tough to fit riding time in.
C&K: How many bikes do you own? Do you have a collection, or just one specific type of bike you like?
MS: I don’t have a collection of bikes. Normally, when I go out to events, they have bike for me, and I never know what they are going to have. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. You like to be used to a bike that you are riding. But that doesn’t happen for me because I don’t know what they are going to have for me. Sometimes I get a little nervous. I don’t want them to throw some wild, exotic, stretched out chopper at me and then I got to get on it in front of 3000 motorcyclists. But it’s also good because it gets me used to different bikes.
C&K: Do you have a preference between sports bikes and cruisers?
MS: I have to say, I am going to go for the cruiser. I did ride a Ducati recently, and that was actually my first time on that type of motorcycle, and I liked it. Another bike I would like to ride and I haven’t yet, is a Confederate Hellcat. I heard they are fast. It’s kind of a cross between a sports bike and a cruiser, sort of. They are really wild looking.
C&K: They are wild looking. As a matter of fact, they are also contributing to this issue of the magazine. When you get out to Los Angeles, do you have a favorite ride that you can’t miss?
MS: Well, its always nice riding along Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu canyon. I did it a couple months ago, I was out there riding. It was really nice; it’s always nice to do that.
C&K: Do you have an all time favorite ride overall either here or overseas?
MS: No, andactually, I haven’t ridden overseas. That’s one of the things I would like to do. I’ve heard that they do a Love Ride in Switzerland that is very similar to our love ride in L.A. I would love to be part of that one day. And, you know, any kind of a motorcycle trek through Europe, I think would be wonderful.
C&K: Okay, so let’s pretend for a second nobody is listening. What’s the fastest bike you have been on and how fast did you go?
MS: I haven’t been on a lot of fast bikes, I am a cruiser girl! I am hoping to get on that Hellcat.
C&K: I think we might have to arrange for that after this interview. Very seriously, have you ever had a close call on a bike?
MS: No, but now you are scaring me! Gosh, knock on wood! You are trying to jinx me! I had an incident once, but I wouldn’t call it a close call. It was kind of embarrassing actually. I was on a charity ride in Wisconsin. It was pouring down rain. By the end of the ride, the rain had stopped and the roads were wet. I was about three blocks from the Harley dealer to return the bike, and we were coming around a curve, and it felt like my front wheel locked up. The wheel wouldn’t turn and up came the curb! I went down the grassy embankment between a post box and a telephone pole. I rode along side the hedge, and I didn’t fall over, I didn’t wipe out, I just kind of rolled in to a stop because I knew I couldn’t hit the brakes or I would wipe out, the grass was wet. Everyone behind me was cheering, saying “that’s a great training video”. I was like; I didn’t do this on purpose. By the time I got back to the dealership and the party was there, everyone had heard the story, but it wasn’t a big deal. If I have a mishap now, it’s going to be your fault!
C&K: Well let’s hope that doesn’t occur. Michele, thank you very much.
For more information about Michele Smith go to www.michelesmith.tv safety course and started riding, all of that changed.