Playboy is more than just skin deep.
It’s Bunny logo is one of the most identifiable hallmarks of the sexual revolution, and the magazine’s founder, Hugh Hefner, has been a large player in the U.S. social activism sphere.
But given some of the content in his magazine — typically three pictorials of nude models — Playboy has raised a few eyebrows.
I’d like to undress some of those social stigmas and flesh out Toronto’s role in the Los Angeles-based, via Chicago, empire.
Many from the GTA, such as Nadine Glenn, Katia Corriveau, Zdenka Darula, Rachelle Wilde and Tailor James have appeared in the pages of Playboy.
And where North York meets midtown, you’ll find 32-year-old entrepreneur, Anissa Holmes, working hard with colleague Rachel Bowman for Iris Blu National Event Staffing.
In 2007 Holmes heard Playboy was coming to T.O. for a casting call. Though she was working in the office of Ontario’s Attorney General at the time she acted on a bucket list wish, and auditioned.
“It was just something in the back of my mind that I always wanted to do, but I never thought about a career in Playboy or modelling,”she says, sharing her experience through Skype, with her curious 2-year-old son, Kiran, clamouring to have a look-see.
After a quick wave, he’s off, and Holmes continues with her whirlwind travels with Playboy.
Her audition was a success. She had a photoshoot, with Toronto-based photographer Paul Buceta, and her pictorial was used in 11 issues, with three covers to boot. She admits her focus then, at the age of 27, was to advance herself as an entrepreneur.
“I was really trying to figure out what was the best way as a person to brand yourself, while always maintaining you’re not just that girl that posed nude,” she says.”It’s not just all about the sexy pictures.”
Many of the models who have posed,have moved on to successful careers. Kelly Gallagher, now Kelly Wearstler, is a well-known interior designer. Victoria Zdrok is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. Even Canadian models like Darula and Elle Patille have pursued careers in photography and philanthropy respectively.
Still, the transition to businesswoman post-Playboy, was tough. Holmes was worried she had to cover up her past while auditioning for acting gigs. She went as far as to drop the Holmes surname and take up her middle name, Marie, in order to secure some roles.
“There isn’t anything negative about Playboy but there are so many stigmas and impressions other people have — people really just assume things without really, really knowing,” she says, a hint of frustration exposing itself. “It makes it that much harder for women who have done Playboy to move past that and to betaken seriously as businesswomen.
“In my view, I never looked at Playboy as a parallel to Hustler or Penthouse. Those two never connected for me,” she adds. “It was just always beautiful women in really classic, beautiful poses.”
I’ve always perceived Playboy pictorials as the modern-day version of Peter Paul Rubens’ work, just with a different canvas for the art, and different zeitgeist of beauty. But not everybody shares that opinion. Former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese once set out to shutter Playboy. And when I was a teen my mother would often search my room for contraband. And then toss it. Even before I had a chance to read the Major League Baseball preview or 20 Questions feature.
Regardless of the perceptions of others, Holmes has benefitted from her work with the magazine both on a professional and personal level.
There’s a sisterhood among the models, she says, especially at the local level.
“I have made some of my closest friends through Playboy,”she trills.
Winnipeg’s Candace Rae, Torontonians Patille and Wilde, as well as Sudbury native Lana Tailor are some of the names she rattles off as good friends.
“There’s this stigma that really shouldn’t be there anymore because these girls, in Toronto and across Canada, that I know personally, are amazing girls,” she says. “They’re hardworking, and for the most part entrepreneurs.
“They’re not just the kind of flaky, flighty models that people perceive.”