By Jessica Whitby
Cash-strapped students are comfortable taking their clothes off for the camera to participate in Playboy magazine’s 50th anniversary Playmate search. The 50,000 dollar US prize is definitely an incentive.
This summer on June 4 and 5 at the Sheraton Centre, Playboy magazine held a 20 city nation-wide search for Miss January 2004. Among the strippers, receptionists, models, York University students and actors lining up were two Ryerson students trying to make their naked ambitions come true.
“I have always wanted to be in Playboy. I really like the magazine,” says one Ryerson student who wishes to remain anonymous.
For some of the women in the waiting room, they feel this opportunity could lead to their big break.
When someone new walks through the door, everyone’s head turns to size up the competition but the women still support each other. One cartoonish looking female with a bad bleach job and dark roots stands out from the bunch. Her humongous double F breasts look out of proportion.
“I really like Playboy. I wanted to pose in it for a long time. I have some Playboy style photos of myself in my portfolio. Hopefully, my photos will help me out,” she says.
Someone inquires about her photos and she doesn’t hesitate to bring them out. Inside her portfolio, there are naked images of herself in various lewd poses. In one, she is bent over smiling and leaving nothing to the imagination. In another, she is posing spread eagle in the shower. Everyone is stunned.
“Yeah. Ahh, nice photos,” someone comments.
“Very interesting,” another person stammers.
Everyone is straight faced which only makes me want to laugh harder. Obviously this girl doesn’t know what the magazine is about.
Each woman is quite different from the one beside them. Skinny, overweight, flat, voluptuous, bespeckled and all are waiting in white bathrobes to have their photos taken. After the two day shoot only about eight girls will get a call back. So, what does it take to be a Playmate?
David Rams, one of Playboy’s lucky photographers knows exactly what to look for. He got his start as a Playboy photographer when the magazine noticed him at a fashion shoot.
“The girls have to be physically fit. You can’t be a slob. You have to be pleasant looking, proportioned and have the right attitude,” he says.
Rams says luck also plays a part in it.
“A lot of times it takes being at the right place at the right time.”
Those who are shy or unable to come to auditions can mail their photos to the Chicago head office. It will still take four months before the selected women are contacted.
Tailor James, the June 2003 playmate got her start that way. James had been working since she was 17-years-old as a full time model in Mississauga. She did mostly glamour and swimsuit modelling. Like many Playmate models, she had a little help from her friends in being discovered by Playboy.
“A [photographer] friend sent out my headshots and they contacted me. Soon after I became a Cyber girl,” she said.
Playboy then sent her on a test shoot in Los Angeles to see if she had potential. She was chosen almost immediately. While her family was supportive of her career decision a few acquaintances were hesitant about seeing her pose nude.
“We fought for our right for so many years. This is my right. I don’t believe it is degrading to women if you look at the magazine,” James says.
With Playboy having mostly American Playmates, James is lucky to be one of the only Canadians to make the cut. Now she is using her experience and name as a stepping stone for starting her own natural cosmetics business.
Back at the auditions the women are primping, powdering and pouffing their hair before they go in. Some are in a last minute scramble. When they do come out after having their photos taken almost all of them say they feel liberated. I put my name on the list, fill out the necessary forms and wait for my name to be called.
I find myself feeling a little queasy. There’s something unnerving about posing for a complete stranger. To maintain journalistic integrity and because I never brought a bikini to wear (a necessary requirement unless you want to go totally nude) I keep my jeans on with my bra.
My name is called and I step into the room. Rams smiles and gives me a laugh. He remembers that I interviewed him an hour before. When he sees what I am wearing he’s amused. I look like a prude.
“Alright, position your hips this way. No this way. Really low,” he says. He positions me into place but I shift slightly right after. He fixes me again. I soon find out that I can’t take directions very well.
“Excellent. That is nice. Very good,” he says. I start to loosen up and actually enjoy myself. I’m getting the hang of this. Or so I thought. When I see the polaroids I’m not pleased.
There I am- my hair frizzy and dark against my pale skin. My eyebrows look like two ugly caterpillars crawling against my face. What’s worse is that there’s dust on the camera that left a big black dot between my eyebrows but a little higher up.
I thank him and put my shirt back on. When I leave the room the other women ask how it went. I think about telling them the truth, yet I can’t really say anything bad. As far as finding out if I will be contacted in four months, you won’t find me waiting by the mailbox. Instead, I say goodbye and mumble something about it being liberating before heading out the door.