Playboy Magazine Features UTEP Coeds
by Mary Johnson
Posted on April 25, 2007
After a short break for a late lunch, a new crop of buxom blondes and brunettes are seated in the makeshift waiting room. Formerly suite 1405 in the Camino Real, the corner rooms have been temporarily transformed into a pornographic platform, a springboard for those aspiring toward centerfold-dom. As each girl proceeds from waiting room to dressing room to audition room, clopping around in sky-high heels and various stages of undress, they are systematically evaluated and photographed and sent on their way. The view across Downtown E¬l Paso is fading to black, and the last hour or so has yielded little. The three-person crew is tired. They slouch in their respective sofa chairs and reflect on a hard-day’s work. Sifting through dozens of scantily or not-at-all clad UT¬P coeds, they have spent this crisp October day taking hidden fantasies from innocent to erotic. What can they say? It’s good to work for Playboy.
But this first day of auditions for Playboy magazine’s “Girls of the Conference USA” photo spread, set to run in May 2007, isn’t over quite yet. The two-man, one-woman crew (Kim Mizuno, photographer; Richard Higashi, Mizuno’s assistant; and Linda Kenney, wardrobe and makeup) is just waiting on one more audition. Her name (for the sake of this article) is Marisa, and she has just poked her head of long brown hair in the door. In jeans and a T-shirt and platform patent leather heels, she is the picture of Playboy. Full of confidence, smiles and sex appeal, the 25-year-old could quite easily be your naughty neighbor in the next dorm room or that hottie one row up in statistics.
Marisa takes a seat and starts to fill out the requisite questionnaire full of drab, superficial inquires like major, hobbies, height, weight and measurements. If Marisa is selected, the questions will become much more juicy. She chats and laughs as she scribbles on her clipboard, a stark contrast to the girls who filled the room earlier in the day. Just as they sat nervous and silent, shaking crossed legs or fiddling with Playboy pens, Marisa sits comfortably calm, pulling out pictures from a past modeling gig and a few apropos costume changes (lingerie, swimsuit, etc.), proffering a personality as icing on her good-looks cake. “These are just a commercial that I did,” Marisa says as she hands her photos to Kenney. “Nice patent leather,” Higashi says as he eyes her fierce footwear. “Oh thanks,” she replies with a big, white smile.
The crew checks her ID and discusses time commitments and her schedule. Marisa assures them there’s definitely room for Playboy—what better way to use those sick days?—and then tackles the question of nudity. She has three options: clothed, topless or totally nude. “Topless,” she says, loud and clear. She grabs her outfit—a pair of white boy shorts and a cropped UT¬P football jersey bearing the number five—and heads into the dressing room. The real audition is about to begin.
Pairing her barely there outfit with her patent leather heels, Marisa enters the audition room. The setting seems a bit risqué—what with a big bed right in the middle—but the hotel room staple was an unavoidable amenity. No part of the audition requires getting on the bed, Mizuno assures as he guides Marisa to the far corner of the room.
The first shot is mandatory: a photo of Marisa smiling as she holds up her questionnaire. “Are you chewing gum,” Mizuno asks. “I have a habit,” she says. “I have to chew gum with everything.” The photographer runs to get a tissue as Marisa takes out her minty fresh security blanket. Now, with nothing to mar her striking smile, nothing to mask any nerves, they can shoot.
Her hair extending almost to her white boy shorts, Marisa begins to shift from left to right, rocking from one side to the other with the tilt of her head and a toss of her mane. She starts to loosen her grip on her inhibitions, and her smile grows wider and more seductive, her poses more exaggerated and suggestive.
“Those are cool shorts,” he says. “Give me a back shot there.” She turns around to flaunt the rest of her assets, contorts her body in a few seductive ways, then spins around for a few more front shots. “Great smile, good,” Mizuno says. “Nice, great…looking great.” Marisa flips her head forward and then arches back, her hair streaking in an arc above her. Mizuno wants more. “Play with your hair again some more,” he says. She’s looking “very sexy,” says our photographer, Diane. “I try,” she replies with a laugh.
Now, they are going to try a few topless shots. To protect Marisa’s privacy (she might not be selected, and random people don’t need to see her bare breasts unless the rest of America can), the extraneous personnel in the room (namely us) leaves the room. A few minutes later, Mizuno emerges and shouts for Kenney to come and weigh in. “Well, this is a good sign,” she says, “when he brings me in.”
Back in the room, Marisa remains in the corner, her jersey back on. Kenney needs to see her figure, needs to know what she’ll be working with, so she asks Marisa to take it off one more time. Over her head the jersey comes, and there Marisa stands, partially exposed in a room of four total strangers.
“Always lift [your chest] up,” Kenney says, as she gives Marisa a quick modeling how-to. As she stands, her back arched, her chest up, Kenney eyes her like a jeweler inspecting a precious stone. She turns to Mizuno and gives him an approving nod. Marisa has made the Conference USA cut.
“OK, great!” she exclaims, her breasts still exposed as she reaches for her jersey. “I’m excited!”
“The biggest joy of my job is telling a young lady that she made it,” Mizuno says. “When [Marisa] walks into the room, the room lights up…That’s what we look for.”
Two days later, suite 1405 has transformed yet again. Still temporarily the property of Playboy, the rooms are now dominated by Linda Kenney, Playboy makeup and wardrobe. A rack of clothes lines one wall, and open suitcases dot the floor, spewing their racy contents onto the floor around them. Kenney is running around barefoot—long day, lots of girls—and she is just finishing up with one college coed when Marisa arrives.
A few days have passed, and she is still ready and willing to pose. Her boyfriend is thrilled, she says, that his “girlfriend is Playboy material.” Her mother, however, is less than thrilled. When it was just an audition, she was excited for her daughter. But now that selections have been made and Marisa has made the cut, she’s a little “irritated,” Marisa says, “And she’s like, ‘I’m not mad. I’m not mad.’” But she is; Marisa can tell.
Marisa wants to appear topless, Kenney recalls, “so really all I have to worry about is dressing you from the waist down,” she adds with a laugh. Kenney pulls out a brown halter bathing suit for Marisa to try. She wiggles into the thong bottoms and fastens the top as Linda prepares a Polaroid camera (to remind her of which looks she likes on which girls). “Are you nervous?” Kenney asks, spotting patches of red on Marisa’s neck. “Yeah, I always do that,” she replies with a smile.
Her camera at the ready, Kenney begins to coach Marisa through several poses. “While we’re doing this, I’m going to give you some tips that models automatically do,” she says. “You know, even Playmates go through all this too.” Turn your hips away from the camera. Always be conscious of your posture. Pull your upper body up from your ribs—it “gets you tall and automatically flattens your tummy,” she says.
At Kenney’s instruction, Marisa unties the top of her bathing suit and gives a topless shot a try. Kenney’s not thrilled, so they try a few more pieces—lingerie, mini skirts, boy shorts—most of which leave Marisa’s bust partially or completely uncovered. When she’s not posing or changing, she clasps her hands together, her arms bent to cover her breasts.
As the women debate styles and colors to complement Marisa’s skin tone and the shape of her curves, they weed through piles of clothing purchased by Playboy. Marisa pulls a tiny, white, ruffled skirt over her hips, but it’s not quite right. “We have to get a little sexier, a little more suggestive,” Kenney says. “I want you to give me a Wonder Woman pose, a bigger-than-life pose.” Marisa lifts her shoulders up and back. “Good?” she asks. Getting there.
As Marisa slips in and out of a few more matching bra and panty sets, the television is on in the background, tuned to Law & Order: Criminal Intent. The volume has been turned down, and the characters are producing little more than a dull, inarticulate hum. It’s filler noise, just something to ease the silence of several long pauses, and it completes a scene that has been the total antithesis of the Playboy stereotype—no 1970s skin flick music getting the girls in the mood, no lecherous photographer leering through his long lens. From start to finish, it is a professional process, allowing of-age females to earn a little cash while exercising their exhibitionist urges. The environment is clean and safe, and all members of the crew are seasoned veterans. “It’s never old hat,” Mizuno says of his 22 years photographing naked women for Playboy. Kenney’s been with Playboy for 27, Higashi for 10 (as Mizuno’s assistant). “But I think it’s something I had the talent for naturally...I think I’ve always the eye for beauty, even as a young kid.”
Marisa was not the only girl Playboy selected, and the next few days take the Playboy crew all over town on different photo shoots for different girls. Time is limited, and they must get the best shots they can before it is time to hop on a plane and head back home. They have been on the road for a month, tasked with discovering Playboy’s next big pin-ups at Rice University, the University of Houston and Southern Methodist University, and 30 days deep in the heart of Texas have left their memory cards nearly full, their makeup stash depleted and their wardrobe selection thoroughly worn out. On Saturday, the day of the final shoot, the crew and the chosen ones are gathered at Aceitunas Beer Garden, fighting off the slight chill in the air as Mizuno prepares his lights and his cameras for action.
Kenney appears a little stressed, still drinking coffee at 2 p.m. and darting in and out of the bar area-turned-dressing room. Makeup and wardrobe have been tackled for the day, save for a few minor lipstick touches, but she’s spent all morning shredding UTEP T-shirts into makeshift bikini tops and perfecting eyes, cheeks and skin.
Mizuno has taken over a corner next to a cement pond, and the girls are grouped opposite him, some sitting and some standing as they giggle and chat. From the waist down, coverage is minimal. Some sport g-strings, some microscopic mini-shorts, some plain old panties. On top, shredded UTEP gear momentarily shields their chests. Marisa is back in her audition ensemble—white boy shorts, mini-UTEP jersey—but it doesn’t really matter. Most of it is coming off soon anyway.
The girls are in position, just fidgeting with what little they have on. One girl lifts the cheeks of her rear onto the railing behind her, checking her stomach to see how that makes her look, and another girl laughs as she gives her elevated backside a playful slap. The rest, a mixture of long-haired blonds and brunettes, fiddle with thong strings and smooth their hair. If they weren’t half-naked, they could be getting ready for the prom.
“This is the crazy part,” Higashi says as he fine tunes the photographic details. “Everyone look happy, make some noise,” Mizuno shouts to the girls. “You guys are a quiet bunch of girls.” Mizuno starts snapping photos, and the girls continue to giggle as they move ever so slightly from shot to shot. A hair toss, a shift of the hips, an arch of the back—the moves are subtle, but they are just warming up.
“Let’s start revealing ourselves here,” Mizuno says. “Kim, you want them all the way or partly?” Kenney asks. “Uh, partly, he replies as he stares down at his camera.
The girls follow instruction and start peeling away their slivers of clothing. Marisa has pulled her chest up through the top of her jersey and has now gone as far with Playboy as she had hoped—second base.
The shoot progresses, and partially nude gives way to fully nude for some of the girls. At the bar, some Aceitunas staff sit unfazed, reminiscing about ex-girlfriends who allegedly graced the inner pages of Playboy years ago. Back outside, Mizuno is coaxing seductive looks and poses from his inexperienced models. “Move around a bit more for me,” he says. “Sexy. Look at the camera…Smile everybody! You’re having a good time!”
As the girls twist and turn, smile and smolder, two Budweiser delivery men have snuck through the doors and into the patio area, smiling fiendishly as they crane their necks for a better peek. Mizuno is on it in an instant, signaling to Higashi to escort the curious young men back out to their trucks. Music is blaring over the radio outside—hip hop is the music of choice—and the girls are oblivious to the momentary intrusion, lost in their 15 minutes of fame. As Mizuno pauses for a quick break, the girls loosen their grip on their ab muscles and let their shoulders droop. Marisa flips her long hair back and smiles as she chats and laughs with the girls around her. Even if it’s just for the day, they are bound by their journey to the top of the magazine rack.
To contact Mary Johnson e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared in the May 2007 issue of El Paso Magazine.
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