Nicole Givens

Picture Perfect Love

Growing up in Los Angeles, where she was born into a family of entertainment professionals, Nicole Givens never dreamed of being a star; in fact, she wanted to get as far from Tinseltown as possible. Little did she know her life would one day resemble the plotline of a blockbuster romantic comedy.

Nicole was pursuing her multicultural teaching credentials when she was offered a childcare job with Club Med. While working in the Bahamas, playing with children on a beautiful beach, destiny caught up to her. A film crew had spent three weeks making a commercial for Club Med, and while everyone else was hoping to get their fifteen minutes of fame, Nicole swore she wanted nothing to do with it. Instead, she spent her spare moments engrossed in Gone With the Wind, part of a lifelong interest in Southern culture. Yet, unbeknownst to her, Nicole was being watched by a secret admirer.

"This guy comes up behind me with this amazing Southern accent that could have been Rhett Butler in my mind," she recalls, saying it was the last day of filming and she had already declined several requests to act in the commercial. "He said, 'Excuse me ma'am, but I've been watching you all day and I think you're real good with the young'uns. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind being in the commercial.'"

She was so charmed by his manner that she agreed. As she sat before the camera with a child on her lap, the man behind the lens said to himself, "That is my future wife, the mother of my children."

Several months passed, Nicole returned to L.A., and by the time the mystery man called her-under the auspices of viewing the tape-she had completely forgotten about him. Only 20 years old at the time, Nicole was still with her boyfriend of 4 Ω years. Nevertheless, she agreed to meet Michael at his home, "a killer bachelor pad in the Hollywood Hills," where he showed her the commercial. Over the next ten days, they talked on the phone every night. Finally, the evening before she was to leave on her next Club Med assignment, he invited her to dinner at a beautiful, romantic Italian restaurant.

"He started talking about growing up in the South, all the places he'd traveled, and famous people he'd worked with," said Nicole. "I was sitting there thinking, this is the coolest guy ever.there's no way he'd be interested in someone like me. But when we said goodbye, he kissed me and I'm not kidding, my toes curled up. I couldn't believe the way I felt."

A year later, Michael took her entire family to the Bahamas, where he reenacted the filming of the commercial for them; framing Nicole in the lens once more, he proposed. They've now been married twenty years. They live in Beaufort with their two children, whom Nicole homeschools, while Michael pursues his career as a film director. Decades after little Nicole surprised her family by vowing to marry a man with a John Wayne accent and live in a house like the one in The Big Chill (she and Michael did in fact live 13 years in a historic home just blocks from the one featured in the movie), it would seem that she has a knack for making her own dreams come true. But she doesn't see it quite like that.

"I put it all in the hands of the Lord," she insists. "I wouldn't say it's anything I've done. He drives the train; I'm just a passenger." 

Up Close:

Mother of: Chandler, 14, and Olivia, 12
cooking, travel, hanging
out with her kids
Next destination:
Cabo San Lucas, where she secretly plans to "propose" to her husband on Valentine's Day and renew their vows