From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Michelle. La Belle. These are words that go together well. The lady is a genetic masterpiece, the definitive American beauty. Her 31-year-old body is gym-trim yet subtly voluptuous, her face a sculptured meadow of delights: elegant jawline, eyes like wet sapphires, bee-stung lips to die for. But for almost a decade, Pfeiffer has labored to conceal her looks and reveal her talent. In Scarface she offered herself as a decadent rich bitch who, as one reviewer put it, "powdered her nose from the inside." In Married to the Mob, peering through a big, black giggle wig, she displayed a neat knack for peppery punch lines ("Everything we wear, eat or own fell off a truck!"). And in Dangerous Liaisons, playing the victim in an age d'or drama of serial seductions, she presented a portrait of impassioned purity that won her an Oscar nomination.

It was only in 1989, skills secure and talents approved, that Michelle the sex bomb decided to detonate. Cast as a small-time chantootsie in The Fabulous Baker Boys, she slipped into a blood-red, thigh-slit velvet sheath, slithered onto a gleaming black grand piano and, buttocks fired up to a slow, rolling boil, writhed through a rendition of "Making Whoopee" that well and truly blistered that piano lid. Michelle wore knee-pads in rehearsal and reports, "My elbows were bruised, and I always had to think about not flashing." But the effect is sizzling. Baker Boys certified the lady in red as 1990's best bet for superstardom.

Heady prospects for a kid who grew up in Midway City, Calif., "singing to the garden hose and pretending I was Elvis Presley." In her teens, she recalled, "I was the beach bunny...into all kinds of drugs." Now she's obsessed with work. Russia House has not yet wrapped in London, and already Pfeiffer is prep-ping for an interracial romance called Love Field. Success has enhanced her professional confidence ("Now I can have blowups on the set") but not her intimate encounters. The love life of the love goddess is a sometime thing. Since her divorce from actor Peter (thirtysomething) Horton, she has lived alone with her two dogs, Ben and Sasha (shown here). "Dating is like a disaster. I'm all or nothing." With John Malkovich, her co-star in Liaisons, it was all. Now it's something undefined with someone unnamed. "What makes me happy," Michelle once explained, "is to be loved. But it's hard to achieve." Go figure.