Old school denim gets a new vibe.
THIS WAS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY SHE
not perfect!’” She catches herself there—the one thing she’s said throughout our conversation that wasn’t perfectly polite—and laughs. “I’m so not fuckin’ perfect, because all these things, even when I sit down at night to meditate, it’s not because I’m oh-so-spiritual. It’s because I have to keep it together. That’s how I function as a normal person. Otherwise, I would have these weird obsessions and neurotic tendencies. I have to channel my neuroses into all these modalities that other people call ‘perfect.’ They’re all crutches to keep me standing upright.” happiest,” she says. “And I think I finally found myself. Those pieces of myself that were missing, I found them back here.”
Soul-searching, as it were, meant that Mona would open herself up to a lot of different things. It was modeling for the first few years, until she was coaxed into recording a studio album by someone who imagined her to be some sort of local Fergie (the album never saw the light of day, because she quit midway through, saying “I couldn’t sing to save my life!”). Then she worked in the government for a while, promoting the wakeboarding scene in Camarines Sur, and even starred in a reality show with Daiana Menezes not too long ago.
But what stuck to her the most was veganism, which she discovered through her partner, Corey. “It became my new job,” she says, telling me of how she became occupied by championing veganism and cooking raw vegan food. Mona would do workshops, teach the personal chefs of wealthy people to cook the raw vegan way, and become a poster girl for that way of life. “Then all of a sudden I had a raw food girl stigma,” she bemoans. “[It was] an identity that was attached to me. But it didn’t quite feel 100 percent me, because there’s so much more to me than just eating vegetable sticks.” These days, Mona is continuing her work as a vegan chef. She’s taken to painting, too, and still teaches yoga. But more importantly, she seems to have found her place.
“A lot of my time everyday goes into keeping it together, you know what I mean? A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, you’re into yoga, you’re into raw food and veganism and you’re an artist; you’re so perfect!’ And I’m like, ‘No, I’m fucking Then she shows me the scars on her forearms, and recounts attempts at her own life: once with a blade in the corner of a bathroom, and again by downing an entire container of prescription pills. But her tone never turns too rueful. Today, she’s just calm and objective in retrospect of this chapter of her life, acknowledging that it’s in the past, and that burying it there would serve no one.
“I’m not saying that my father was an evil man. He was just a product of his generation,” she says. “My dad passed away at the age of 90, so he was born in 1926, which means he was in the Hitler Youth.” Well, that was thoroughly unexpected. “You didn’t have a choice back then. It’s either you joined the Hitler Youth or you’d have the Gestapo on your back. He never really told us the details of what he’d been through, but you can imagine all the violence that he encountered as a young person. And that just shaped him into who he was, and also as a father.”
There’s compassion, I tell her, in being able to see it that way. People tend to keep it inside, to hold grudges. But not Mona. “After his passing, all of us, we got together, and we remembered him as the positive, uplifting, happy person who he was in times of normality.” MONA LISA NEUBOECK HAS THIS DISARMING self-awareness about her—a rare wisdom of herself and of the world that not only adds to her allure, but defines it. Because she’s learned to take life in stride, and emancipated herself from her own demons, she has survived; and stands today, stronger and more beautiful. To others, Mona is a #fitspiration, but only because they don’t see how much more it is than just fitness. The surfing, the yoga, the veganism, her entire lifestyle—these are all reasons to be truly inspired by her, beyond how well they register on social media. Mona knows that, and in living them, hopes that others can draw the same from a healthy lifestyle too. “It’s a coping mechanism,” she says. “It just looks so good!” moved to the Philippines. “Because a lot of darkness happened [in Austria],” she says. Battered, broken, but hopeful, Mona picked herself up and escaped to her mother’s home country, where she still had fond memories. “Whenever we would come to the Philippines on vacation, that was when my family was the