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On Top of The World
Demmie Stathoplos
February 07, 1989
Multidimensional Tannia Rubiano Hecht has never had it so good
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February 07, 1989

On Top Of The World

Multidimensional Tannia Rubiano Hecht has never had it so good

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It's 8:50 A.M., and tannia Hecht of bellingham, Wash., is already well into her day. She arose at 6:30, meditated for half an hour and then took a 15-minute speed-walk up and down the steep hill on which her house sits. Having seen her husband. Emil. off to work and her daughter, Mia. 13. off to school, she's now behind the wheel of her blue minivan, driving her six-year-old son. Avram, to kindergarten. Hecht doesn't carry a purse. Everything she needs—cash, house keys, credit cards—is in her Day Manager, a thick, organize-your-life three-ring binder. On this overcast November day. the Day Manager is. as usual, chockablock with appointments.

When she was Tannia Rubiano. SI's 1971 swimsuit cover girl, she didn't need a Day Manager. She was just a carefree University of Miami student who did some modeling on the side to help pay for her education. But marriage and motherhood and commitments and committees have changed all that. "My life got so complicated, it was either get a Day Manager or take memory pills," Hecht says.

Hecht is no longer the voluptuous young woman who posed on the beaches of the Dominican Republic. Her hair is shorter, and she's in much better shape. "Back then, sports weren't a part of my life," she says. "They are now."

When she married Emil Hecht in 1971, he told her how much sports meant to him. Says Tannia. "He said. 'Babe, join me or stay home weekends.' " She joined him with a vengeance. By 1975, when she and Emil moved to Bellingham, his hometown, she had learned to sail, ski, windsurf. rock climb and scuba dive. She also pumps iron at a health club, and last March, for her 40th birthday, Emil took her mountain climbing in Nepal.

Hecht looks in the rearview mirror of the minivan and speaks to Avram. who's in the backseat: "Avi, I didn't hear your seat-belt buckle click." A click comes from the backseat.

After dropping Avram at school, Hecht heads for a yoga class, and by 9:30 she's sitting cross-legged on the floor in a restored Victorian building, her eyes closed, listening to the instructor intone, "Let go of any tightness in the neck and shoulders, let go of every sense of competition and achievement. There's no competition, there's only loving yourself." For an hour the class of six women goes through deep-breathing and stretching exercises. It's soooo relaxing.

Which is why, in spite of that jam-packed Day Manager. Hecht never appears frazzled. "The yoga principle is that breath and stress can't live in the same body," she says. "If you can just remember to stop and take a few deep breaths, it immediately eliminates any stress in your system."

Next on Hecht's schedule is a luncheon to raise money for the restoration of an old theater in Bellingham. She drives home, changes clothes, gets back in the minivan. stops at a bicycle shop to inspect a bike-racing outfit she'll be modeling for a charity fashion show benefiting St. Joseph Hospital the following week and arrives at the Mount Baker Theater at noon, exactly on time. An hour later she's off again, to Emil's office.

Emil is a plastic surgeon as well as an ear, nose and throat man. She's going to consult with him about a patient she'll visit later in the day. Tannia has a master's in speech pathology and often works with patients referred to her by her husband.

Hecht's interest in speech dates back to her adolescence. She spent the first 12 years of her life in Cartagena, Colombia. It was a time of particular political unrest in Colombia, and she remembers her stepfather and her mother rushing around to get visas to flee the country because "armed squatters," as she calls them, were encroaching on her stepfather's ranch. In 1960 she was uprooted from familiar surroundings and set down in Miami. "I felt like an alien," says Hecht, who became a U.S. citizen in 1969. "There weren't any Hispanics in the neighborhood we lived in, and nobody spoke Spanish in the parochial school I went to." She learned to speak English in six months, but she has never forgotten how an inability to communicate can lead to feelings of isolation.

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