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HIGH LIFE

Three's Company : Monica, Leanna and Joy Creel May Look Alike, but These Triplets Are Trying to Break the Mold

January 02, 1988|JENNIFER MOULTON | For The Times and Jennifer Moulton is a senior at Sunny Hills High School, where she is an editor of the student newspaper, The Accolade, plays varsity basketball and enjoys political science and history. and

Even if there weren't three of them, each of the Creel sisters would be considered a unique girl.

After all, it isn't every day that a champion track athlete makes her school's homecoming court, or a budding actress remains as friendly and down to earth as the class clown.

But to most people, their friends included, the only thing unique about Monica, Leanna and Joy is that they are identical triplets.

"When we shut our mouths, dress alike and do our hair the same, people cannot tell us apart," said Monica, the youngest of the three by six minutes. "They tell us there is not one difference in the way we look."

Joy, 17, agrees that most people, including some of their closest friends at Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton, can't tell which sister is which. But the ones who can, she said, are the ones who care.

"The people who make an effort to know us as individuals are the ones who can tell us apart," Joy said.

Leanna, the oldest and most assertive of the sisters, said it "isn't fair" that people are constantly watching and comparing her with her sisters.

"No one understands what it's like to share your reputation, your identity, with two other people," Leanna said. "I've had to really fight to stand out, to be my own person, because we do have the same basic personalities and a lot of the same characteristics."

One area in which the triplets don't mind being one another's clone is in show business. In the summer, when Joy was a foreign exchange student in Denmark, Monica and Leanna taped an appearance as twin cheerleaders on the ABC TV series "Growing Pains."

"Leanna and I had a good time doing the show," Monica said.

"It wasn't that stressful of a job actually," she continued, making reference to their characters, the Schwartz twins, who made two brief appearances, during which their only lines consisted of high school cheers.

It wasn't the girls' first appearance before the camera--all three were in a Nissan commercial a year ago and before that, they spent more than 200 hours each acting in a Cal Arts student film--and it won't be their last.

The triplets are taking acting lessons and attending workshops in preparation for roles in a Walt Disney Productions made-for-TV movie.

The Creels, realizing their fortune in missing out on the endless job hunting and interviews that the average young actress goes through, are thankful and point to a higher source.

"God has just set everything up for us," Leanna said. "The parts we got just turned up, we didn't go searching for them. And the (movie) company we've had to deal with doesn't ask us to sacrifice our values. It's as clean-cut as we are."

The marketability of triplets is another reason for their success, and this is not lost on the girls.

"It's really just because we're a novelty," Joy said. "If we weren't triplets, we wouldn't be making it."

Leanna explained that the family had been approached by agents when the girls were younger, but their parents, Christine and Winston Creel, wanted them to "be normal."

"If we've turned out semi-normal, it's because of our mom and dad," Leanna insisted.

Until the Creels' agent decided the girls should get the same haircuts, their mother had always tried to dress them differently and give them different hair styles.

"All through this Hollywood thing, we told them that even though they have to look the same on the outside, they can be as different as they want on the inside," Christine said.

All three sisters are outgoing, friendly and extremely talkative. Joy said they were obliged to develop the latter quality at a young age, fighting for their parents' attention.

"I'd come home from school and say, 'Mom, guess what?' like all kids do when they want to tell about their day," she said. "But my mom, who'd just seen Leanna and Monica, would say, 'I already know.' So we all talk a lot and very fast."

Getting attention is one thing none of the Creels are shy about, which helps them when they're in front of the camera.

"Acting is something that fits all our personalities, and I like being in front of the camera and having the attention focused on me," Joy said. "We all do."

The Creels also get along better when they are acting because they all play different roles and can help one another.

"If we go into the studio fighting and yelling, we always come out laughing and talking," Leanna said. "It's brought us closer together."

When it comes to dating, however, the Creels' tastes are far from close.

"I date mostly surfers, the laid-back, athletic type," Leanna said. "You can't categorize Joy's boyfriends. She just wants to have fun, and she goes out of her way not to get serious. But Monica follows her heart, she really falls in love."

Athough Monica can see "some truth" in that statement, she insisted that she doesn't fall in love blindly. "I like a guy who has some inner qualities, some moral beliefs," she said. "He has to be sensitive and dedicated to something."

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