It starts here—for some—at a massive casting call (180 girls on a Tuesday, nearly as many Wednesday) at a Lake Shore Drive luxury hotel. The women pay for the privilege (there are three pricing levels), but they get pro-quality images to keep for a tiny fraction of booking their own shoots. If all goes well, those with the look will get a proper photo shoot, a pictorial, then a Web presence: Big names will have to maintain a Twitter feed and host parties at Wet Republic—they join the jet set, but also the keeping-close-to-fans set. A Playboy model will have to blog, appear on Web chats, do radio, do events, and interact—telling fans how much their digital presence means, how hard you work, how great the last shoot was, what you had for lunch, how happy/sad/tan/drunk you might be....
But in the meantime, they’re here, women, fans of the brand—good lord, do these women know the brand. What do they have in common, the 18-year-old, the Harvard grad who strips in Vegas and the 37-year-old mom? Big dreams, a desire to escape the humdrum, and some idea that Hef and the bunny brand are their big ticket out of boredom... Or, in the case of one fan I talk to, they’re just here for the T-shirt.
Playboy travels around doing these about once a month; Chicago hosts one about once a year. I talked to a random sampling of women at a Playboy casting call earlier this week about what had enticed them to come down and take off their clothes for a stranger with a camera.
Viktorija Lopatkinaite, 20, originally from Lithuania but lives in suburban Buffalo Grove
Time Out Chicago: Is this your first casting call?
Viktorija Lopatkinaite: Yes, first Playboy casting call.
TOC: When you heard about it did you think, This is something I want to do?
VL: I think it’s the way I am, my attitude and my personality. I am very comfortable with my body. I am also very easy to work with and I am fun. I have always liked the magazine, and I have enjoyed watching The Girls Next Door.
TOC: Can you picture yourself having a long-term career in modeling?
VL: Yeah, modeling definitely, but I also go to school for business. I want to open up my own spa. But model I can see myself doing for a long time.
TOC: What did you do to prepare yourself for today? Anything mental? Did you go to the gym?
VL: No, I don’t need to go to the gym, I am naturally skinny. I eat a lot [Laughs]. I didn’t really do anything; I just was ready to go. I am very excited. At, first I was a little nervous, but right now I am ready to shoot.
TOC: Have you ever posed for anything like this before?
VL: No, I have never done nude photographs, at all. I am ready though.
TOC: Have you told your friends or family? Is it a secret?
VL: No, I told my mom and she was okay with it. She was kinda like, “Oh, cool. Show what you got.” I have a cool, young mom, who is all about me doing it. I have a couple other friends here too. Some of them I haven’t told yet, but if I am going to make this, they will found out. Right now I will just keep it a secret.
TOC: There is a lot of sex and sexuality in the culture today. Has it made Playboy old fashioned? It’s kinda charming, right?
VL: That’s what I like about it. It keeps its own style, the way they were from the beginning. The girls aren’t doing anything nasty in the pictures, it’s just you naked. It’s a very classy magazine. That is why I want to shoot for them.
Terrina Coleman, 21, Ironwood, Michigan
Time Out Chicago: How did you hear about this?
Terrina: I have family that lives in Illinois who heard about it then contacted me. They have been trying to convince me to do it for a while. I was too nervous, but I did it and now I am here.
TOC: Did you grow up being a fan of Playboy?
TC: Oh yeah. It’s tasteful, so I was a fan. I am obsessed with the shows about it on TV. I am from such a small town. Our population is 1,818, and it’s such a small area that half the people there are my family. I just wanna get away.
TOC: So this is your ticket out?
TC: Well, I am in school too.... Being from a small town, this is the biggest accomplishment. I love Playboy, I love the tastefulness of it and its real beauty too. It’s not like most magazines. Being from a small town, it’s cool to even have this experience.
TOC: What’s your hometown like?
TC: We just got our first mall. It’s not even a mall, it’s a Wal-Mart and we just got it in February. And we have a McDonald’s. Everybody knows each other, everywhere you go. Everybody knows each other in the classes in high school, too. I have eight sisters, and say one of them is a senior, my best friend’s sister is in her class. Hurley, Wisconsin, is right next to my town, and that is part of town too. There are 32 bars on one strip. People come there in the winter because we get so much snow. Snowmobilers come there all the time. So, it’s a tourist area.
TOC: You mentioned you find Playboy tasteful and that’s it about natural beauty.
TC: I think it’s not like most magazines. Like Hustler, guys look at that. Playboy, both sexes can look at that and it’s interesting for both sexes. That’s the biggest thing, it’s tasteful and it’s real beauty and girls like to look at it too. Because then they can see the potential they have to look like that. It’s not all airbrushed on.
TOC: Have you ever posed for something like this before?
TC: No, never.
TOC: Are you still nervous right now?
TC: Yeah, I am nervous. I don’t know what to expect. My senior pictures are the last time I posed for pictures. [Laughs]
TOC: What are you going to school for?
TC: I just graduated in May from a two year, with a degree in criminal justice. And I am transferring to Northern Illinois and majoring in criminal science. I am hoping to be a crime-scene investigator. I got my criminal-justice degree and nothing to do with it. I toured a prison and never have been so scared. I am glad I got to do it, but I wish they did it the first semester, not two weeks before we graduated.
TOC: What prison was it?
TC: Ojibway in Marenisco, Michigan. It’s a maximum-security prison.
TOC: So it sounds like you wouldn’t have kept this a secret from your friends and family. They were kinda like—
TC: I brought it up before I decided to do it, and they were like “Oh my God, do it! Just do it!” I am from such a small town that there are 40 girls I compare myself with. Then I got here and I am like “What am I doing here?” It’s scary.
TOC: It’s the big time, right?
Lela McCoy, 37, raised in Chicago, lives in Benton Harbor, Michigan
Time Out Chicago: How did you decide you wanted to come down today for the casting call? How did you hear about it? What happened in your head?
Lela McCoy: I have always wanted to be a part of the magazine, and I have been a fan of the name brand and the TV shows. My brother saw this [casting call] on the Internet and let me know that there was going to be one close. I am from Chicago and I am in the process of moving back here, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to start a new lease on life. I have raised four boys, and they are all pretty much grown. I have one graduating this year. So, I am just starting a new beginning, so I thought now would be the time to start to follow my dream of something that I always wanted to do. I had to make such sacrifices in my life to raise my kids. Now that they are grown, it’s a new lease on life. I am not that old and I can still follow my dreams.
TOC: Have you ever posed for something like this before?
LM: This is my first time posing anything like this, yeah. But I have taken photos before.
TOC: I talked to a few people here who told me they were nervous, but confident at the same time. Do you feel like—well, you’re confident enough to come down here, but are you a little nervous too?
LM: Yeah, but I think that is with anything. But you just gotta take a deep breath and I am able to exhale now. What I feel on the inside and the passion I have will outshine my nerves.
TOC: When you think about Playboy, what’s your association or image? I have had a lot of people throw terms at me today.
LM: What’s my image of the magazine?
TOC: I have been talking with other girls about how much sex is in our culture now; in some ways Playboy is this comfortable sex thing that we have known for a while. In some ways it feels safer in a good way. But not boring. People are more comfortable with things that might be less glossy and more explicit.
LM: My thing was that I was more intrigued with Hef and his life and how he came to be what he was today. How he had his insecurities and how he was considered a nerd or whatever. To me, that just exudes how you can beat the odds or what other people think. If you have flaws or may not be the most beautiful person, if you follow your passion, you can make it happen. I feel like the magazine is more classy and sexy. That’s how I like to be, classy. Not trashy. I would rather be a tease than a sleaze.
TOC: That’s my philosophy too! That’s a good one. I’ll have to remember that.
Rebecca Hernandez, 39, suburban St. Charles and Stephanie DeLuke, 27, Madison, Wisconsin.
Time Out Chicago: Rebecca, how did you hear about this and decide to come down?
Rebecca Hernandez: I subscribe to the cyber Playboy and I just have seen the casting call videos and I have always wanted to do it. Haven’t heard that one before?
TOC: No, I haven’t. So what do you do when you are not doing this?
RH: I am a clinical drug resistance specialist for viralogy. I play with the HIV virus.
TOC: My wife is a pharmacist who works with HIV drugs.
RH: Oh, really? That’s what I do. I come up with different measurements through salvage therapy.
TOC: It’s sounds like you are a fan of Playboy. Can you describe what you like about Playboy and how it fits into culture as a whole?
RH: Well, I grew up in St. Charles and we actually learned about it from a corporate standpoint in my high school. We learned about the different companies around our area. And I being a female, and having lots of family and brothers, that one appealed to me. They kept the socialization very clean and acknowledged problems the old Playboy had. They supported the corporate America aspect and teaching us about it in school and showing us that there are all different types of businesses. I was attracted to the entrepreneurial aspect.
TOC: Stephanie, how did you hear about the casting call today?
Stephanie DeLuke: My mom heard about the casting call and she said I should do it.
TOC: Did you guys tell your friends and family? Or did you keep it a little secret?
SD: One side of the family. I have nine brothers, so I was pretty sure my posse of brothers would come after me. But one knows.
TOC: Are you guys more confident or more nervous? Or a little bit of both?
SD: Both, but a little bit more confident because of my age.
TOC: What else do you do?
SD: I go to school for nursing.
TOC: Do you have boyfriends or significant others?
RH: I have been dating the same guy since 12. He actually isn’t too thrilled I am doing this.
TOC: How about you, Stephanie? Is there anyone you are keeping this from?
SD: Yeah, my dad’s side of the family doesn’t know that I am doing this yet. I think that they would be accepting because I was telling her earlier, my dad used to be a bouncer at a strip club [Laughs]. I think he would kinda have to be okay with it.
RH: I'm here for the T-shirt. It says "I posed for Playboy today."