Josie Maran Josie Maran

Cover girl Josie Maran has never been a fan of Dancing with the Stars. "I didn't watch the show," says Maran, 29, a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model who has also been the face of Maybelline cosmetics. "And when I did see a little bit, I would say, 'I can't watch this show.' I didn't really see the appeal. To me, it looked kind of cheesy."

When the producers asked the 5-foot, 6-inch beauty to dance this season, she told them, "No way." So how did she end up on the show? It took an intimate 29th birthday party in May and the advice of some media-savvy friends to knock some sense into her. Not quite a supermodel nor a household name, Maran's friends convinced her that she could use a little more media exposure if she was going to successfully launch her own business, Josie Maran Cosmetics. "My friends said, 'You know what? You're launching a makeup line [tentatively set to be released this month]. This would actually be a great thing to do.'"

And just as exciting, she realized, is the fact that she would be able to reconnect with her early ambition of becoming a dancer. She adored the moves of Michael Jackson and Madonna, and she took jazz classes between the ages of 5 and 7. "Not ballet," she emphasizes. "I wanted to become a singer and a dancer, but I can't sing. So I thought the next best thing was to compete as a dancer and see the world." Like many childhood dreams, the idea eventually fizzled out. "I don't think I was very good at it," says Maran, "but I really loved it, and I loved the leg warmers."

So now that she's signed on the dotted line, she's going to have to call upon every ounce of that old enthusiasm. Because the mind may be willing, but the body? Maran says that she's completely out of shape. As a new mom — she gave birth to a baby girl 14 months ago — her exercise regime has been limited to "chasing my daughter and carrying her around. I'm back to my original weight, but I have no muscle. I have no abs. I can't even do a sit-up."

She'll have to do better than that if she's going to keep up with her partner, the splendid Alec Mazo, who just married Dancing pro Edyta Sliwinska and partnered Kelly Monaco to her first-season win. "He's the only [professional] male dancer who's won," says Maran. "And Kelly is my hero on the show. I want to break the male winning streak."

It helps that she feels a strong connection with Mazo. "He and I have the same background," says Maran. "My dad is Russian Jewish and Alec is Russian Jewish. He's lived in San Francisco for 15 years and I'm from San Francisco. He feels like a brother."

But very few brothers would make a sister work this hard: Alec and Josie have been spending six hours a day rehearsing. And it isn't just the dancing that needs work. The famous model apparently needs help in the wardrobe department, too. "Alec told me, 'Maybe my wife should take you shopping.' Because I have no idea what to wear."

Time to go grab those leg warmers.

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