In the decade since moving from her native New Jersey to Hollywood, Deal or No Deal‘s Marisa Petroro (a.k.a. #18) has had her fair share of Tinseltown success, with, among many others, roles opposite Christina Ricci in Pumpkin and in Tomcats with Jerry O’Connell and Jaime Pressley. But for all the hard work she’s put into making a name for herself as a model and actress, Marisa literally stepped right into her highest-profile gig so far.

"I had to walk down a set of stairs, holding a briefcase, and that was it," she remembers. "I didn’t fall, so I got the job."

However, her luck wouldn’t last forever when it came to the treacherous pyramid of stairs Marisa and her 25 fellow models must scale and descend in sky-high heels. "I was actually the second one to fall ever," the beauty confesses to OK!. "It was just a little embarrassing." Lucky for her, Marisa’s stumble wasn’t infamous enough to make the for-cast-and-crew-only blooper reel the editors put together at the end of each season. "They showed everyone who’s fallen at our wrap party," she recalls. "But not me. I guess I fell so gracefully that no one really noticed!"

In fact, Marisa has become such an expert on those stairs that she occasionally has to give up her usual #18 case to help out a new girl. "I’ll move to a different number if someone’s on vacation," she explains to OK!. "I’ll move to #5 because you have to walk down more stairs. So they’ll take a veteran, put her at five and have the newbie at a higher number."

Regardless of the number of steps she has to climb, Marisa confesses that she relishes those times when she gets picked early in a game and gets to kick off those heels to watch the proceedings backstage. "That’s a blessing!" she admits to OK!.

Of course, when 5’5" Marisa sheds her heels, the height difference between her and most of the other DOND models — who start on average at 5’7" — becomes readily apparent. "I’m glad I got in at the beginning," she reveals to OK!, "because I think if I came in now, they wouldn’t hire me!"

And most of the time Marisa is perfectly happy with ditching the dazzling DOND duds for a more casual look. "I love to just hang out in jeans and a T-shirt and just be really comfortable," she explains. "I don’t wear a lot of makeup." And perhaps that’s the reason fans don’t always recognize her walking down the street, though occasionally, she says, "I will have people doing double takes, like, ‘She looks familiar, where do I know her from?’"

Well, if things go as she hopes, it won’t be long before people don’t have to ask that question. Marisa recently starred opposite Paul Rudd in the film version of the Comedy Central hit Reno 911 and her upcoming film Everybody Wants to Be Italian (CLICK HERE for film’s website) will be hitting theaters March 7.

"I’d like to continue working as a film actress, that’s my focus," Marisa tells OK! about her plans for the future. "But I’d like to be producing and writing as well. I and a few friends, we started writing and just kind of taking power into our own hands and creating our own projects. I have my own production company, Do It From the Heart Productions. It’s at the genesis right now."

But not all of Marisa’s goals are about silver screen stardom. A survivor of rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare childhood cancer that affects the muscles, she has become heavily involved in recent years with The Sarcoma Foundation of America, which she discovered through the family of another famous Marisa — Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei. "I met Marisa’s brother Adam at a screening and he mentioned that he has a type of Sarcoma as well. So we bonded over being sarcoma survivors, and he mentioned that his parents were on the board of the Sarcoma Foundation of America, and I got in touch with them that way."

Check out Marisa on her website, marisapetroro.com, and see her and all the other models Wed., Jan. 2, as Deal or No Deal returns — and host Howie Mandel relaunches his Million Dollar Mission in the hopes of finding the show’s first-ever million-dollar winner!

CLICK HERE for OK!’s interview with #10 Anya Monzikova
CLICK HERE for OK!’s interview with #23 Aubrie Lemon

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