Diora Baird is out to prove that hot girls can be smart and funny. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. By Rhonda Reinhart

DON’T CALL DIORA BAIRD A MODEL. Yes, she was a Guess girl. (And -- gulp -- she even posed for Playboy.)In fact, her mom was a model, and she was named after designer Christian Dior. But despite her pedigree, Baird shuns the label. “If anyone calls me a model,” she says, “I become Exorcist. Like, my head starts spinning around and I’m spitting up pea soup.”

That’sbecause the 25-year-old (pictured above, left) is working hard to proveherself as a serious actress. But those modeling gigs, coupled with herracy appearances in films such as Wedding Crashers and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, have earned her a less-than-wholesome image. She (very happily) reports, though, that the preppy character she plays in My Best Friend’s Girl, which opens September 19 and stars Kate Hudson and Dane Cook, is a major departure from her previous roles.

What was it like working with Dane Cook?It’s just ridiculous how funny he is. I was not a fan of him beforehand. I never really took to his comedy. I thought he was alittle obnoxious. But it’s not the case at all. He’s really a very talented guy, and I hope people see that when they see this movie.

How is this character different from roles you’ve had in the past?This character is different in the sense that she is not sexual … orstupid. It was nice to not have to worry about shaving my legs.

Do you feel like you’re breaking away from that stereotype?Yeah, I totally feel like I am. It’s still a struggle because that’show people see me due to the projects I’ve been attached to and how I’ve presented myself. The producer [of My Best Friend’s Girl]even told me, “You weren’t supposed to be funny. When you walked in theroom, everyone had these expectations that you would not be funny.” Butin a way, I kind of don’t mind that, because that means I can justprove people wrong. And I did. I completely proved them wrong.

Are there any actresses you would like to model your career after?I think Naomi Watts is one. I like her pattern as far as choicesbecause they’re always a little offbeat. And she started out kind ofsimilar to me in that she was modeling, doing commercials, and doingtons of independent films. Of course, none of them really got any attention, but she just kept working and was very diligent about it. And all it took was one movie, Mulholland Drive, and all of a sudden, she was everywhere. I like that it was an offbeat movie like that and not a blockbuster.

What’s on tap for 2009?Star Trek is coming out in January, I believe. That’ll be interesting. I signed my first Star Trekposter this past weekend, and it was just so weird. People are fanatics about it. I’ve never seen the show. And I was on set, and I keptcalling it Star Wars. I just knew there was Star in it somewhere.