Lucky 13

The hit TV show ‘Deal or No Deal’ has brought Leyla Milani into millions of homes worldwide, and the Toronto native says she’s having the time of her life

Melissa Moniz
Friday - April 13, 2007
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‘Lucky’ Leyla Milani was into fashion design before ‘Deal or No Deal’
‘Lucky’ Leyla Milani was into fashion design
before ‘Deal or No Deal’

Contestants have an ongoing love-hate relationship with Leyla Milani, the keeper of briefcase No. 13 on the hit NBC TV game show Deal or No Deal.

“Either they like me from the beginning and pick me right away, or they’re afraid of me and will keep me until the very end,” says Milani.

Hawaii fans have the chance to meet the lovely Milani as she makes an appearance with fellow Deal or No Deal model Aubrie Lemon (No. 23) at the 2007 Oceanic Time Warner Business Class Technology and Internet Expo happening at the Blaisdell Friday, April 13 from noon to 7 p.m.

Since the show’s premiere, Milani has been coined with the name Lucky Leyla, a nickname she embraces.

“I’m lucky 13 and I’m actually one of a few models who have my same number,” says the Toronto native.“A few of the models move around sometimes, but since the pilot I’ve always been No. 13.”

In fact, Milani’s most memorable moment on the show was with a superstitious contestant from Chicago who was deathly afraid of No. 13.

“She was very superstitious, and she kept saying that she’s afraid of No. 13. So finally, the very last case before she ended up walking away was my case, so she picks my case,” explains Milani. “I felt so bad because you really get nervous because you don’t want to mess it up for them. It breaks your heart. There’s a lot of pressure. So she had this lucky charm bracelet, and I asked her to give me her bracelet for good luck before I opened it. I ended up with a penny in my case, and so her deal went through the roof and she ended up walking away with a lot of money, and she was very happy.”

Milani, the other 25 case models and, of course, host Howie Mandel spend about 17 hours two to three days a week on set filming.

“It can get pretty hectic, but we try to keep it cool on set and luckily all the girls get along,” says Milani, who coincidentally graduated from the same high school as Mandel. “I think the contestant really makes the show because if someone has a great personality and is really out there, then we definitely have a better time, and standing on our feet doesn’t seem so bad.”

And then there’s the big question Milani gets most often, and it’s not “do you know what dollar amount is in your briefcase?” Instead, inquiring minds want to know, is her hair real?

“I get recognized a lot on the streets, and I think it’s because of my hair,” says Milani. “I wear my hair the same way as I do on the show - I think my hair is my trademark. That’s like the No. 1 question, if I wear a wig or have extensions on the show. But I swear my hair in all real, it’s big and crazy like that.”

All hair questions aside - do they know what dollar amount their case holds?

“We do not know what is in our case at all,” says the Persian/Italian beauty. “That’s all through a third party, and they are backstage and they watch us. And we can’t even leave the premises without an escort. They are very strict about that.”

Deal or No Deal, which airs Sundays at 8 p.m. and Mondays at 7 p.m., has become a household name around the world, screened in more than 40 countries. The show’s basic format consists of 26 models holding briefcases, each containing a different amount of money (varying from 1 cent to $1 million). Not knowing the sum of money in each case, the contestant picks one case which potentially contains the contestant’s prize. The contestant then opens the remaining cases, one by one, revealing the money each contains. At predetermined intervals the contestant receives an offer from the “bank” to purchase the originally chosen case. The contestant must then decide whether to take the deal from the bank, or to continue opening cases. And they are finally asked the question, “Deal or No Deal?”

“We definitely get a lot freedom to interact with the contestants, so it’s really up to us,” says Milani.“We really try to make the most out of our couple of seconds on air and say something witty, and hopefully you don’t bomb.”

Milani is certainly not camera-shy, as she has already appeared in a Budweiser commercial, made appearances on Showtime’s Sleeper Cell, the series Las Vegas and FOX’s Stacked. And she recently finished filming two independent films, El Mascarado (The Massacre) and The Girls & Boys Guide To Getting Down, which are scheduled to release at the Toronto and L.A. film festivals later this year.

The Boys & Girls Guide To Getting Down is a parody on the L.A. party scene, and I was like a clone of a fake Paris Hilton,” says Milani. “I just had such a great time playing her character because it’s such a far stretch for me. Contrary to popular belief because of my appearance, I’m not a party girl and I don’t go out every night. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. Like that’s just not my thing.”

What Milani is most recognized for is her appearances on WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), where she claimed the runner-up prize for the WWE RAW Diva Search 2005, beating out 8,000 other contestants. The eight consecutive weeks of competition attracted millions of viewers worldwide and built a fan base for Milani that has Internet users hitting her website,, thousands of times a day.

Before WWE, Deal or No Deal and her various other on-screen projects, it was all about fashion design for Milani. After high school, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a fashion design career and attended L.A.‘s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

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