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Introducing Janel Tanna, the winner of this year’s Maxim Cover Girl contest

Keith Gordon
Janel Tanna, the winner of the 2019 Maxim Cover Girl competition, is not your average cover girl. In fact, very little about her is average in any way.

She is a self-invented, unconventional multi hyphenate extraordinaire: an accomplished actress, producer, and occasional screenwriter but also, with the accompanying images as supporting proof, a bona fide model. At the moment she’s acting in several film projects while simultaneously writing and producing an upcoming film of her own. It’s enough to make an onlooker’s head explode. not that this would be so problematic, however, as Tanna can assist with that as well.

You see, Tanna, in actuality, also holds an M.D. She graduated summa cum laude from the University at Buffalo medical school, with a postgrad focus on neurosurgery, all prior to the start of her acting and modeling careers. While she loved her interactions with patients—where she leaned on her empathy and kind nature to connect and to heal—and the human brain, the painful reality of treating terminally ill patients led Tanna to reevaluate her path. “I was accepted into a brain surgery program, but it’s not for everybody. It’s really intense—the hours, and most of your patients are very acutely ill when they come to you. At the end of the day, my personality wasn’t ideal for that,” she says.

While some might balk at the thought of completing medical school only to leave medicine behind, Tanna hasn’t experienced any regret. In fact, she’s been able to utilize her medical experience in her new ventures, bringing the same empathy, compassion, and ability to make emotional connections into her creation of roles and character preparation, along with her sense memory as a method actor. “I use personal experiences and what-ifs to create and get into the mind of personas I create,” Tanna says. And while there are plenty of people in Hollywood who have written, acted in, and produced their own project, it’s highly unlikely any have also served as the medical expert on it, as Tanna has.

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January/February 2019