Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Timeless Beauty? Passing Fancy?

It's been a couple of weeks since Valerie Mason made her debut in the pages of Playboy. You may recall that I've been awaiting her appearance for quite some time, and went so far as to say that she might be the savior of this rather disappointing Class of '08. It hasn't just been me that's been catching the wave of hype; plenty of fans on the message boards and in the Playboy world have been awaiting her appearance for a long time. I first mentioned Valerie back in March, when she appeared on The Girls Next Door on TV. Back then, she looked real good at her photo shoot, and ever since, people have been speculating as to which month would go to this hot southern cutie.

Now, she's Miss September, and it all comes into plain sight: Valerie isn't the girl we've been waiting for. Maybe the "it" girl is down the road in the next three months of the year, or perhaps the "it" girl was Juliette Frette. However, it's not Valerie. Valerie may still be a contender for Playmate of the Year, but she's not the bust-out bombshell that I thought she could be. We can, of course, blame all of this on Playboy, not the model herself.

I've recently been exposed to some criticism about the fact that I've given certain fan favorites low marks although they were stunning girls, but this is not because of the models themselves. We've just had the unfortunate bad luck of having a year where most of the Playmates have suffered from a lack of imagination and production quality in their pictorial sets, pure and simple. A model is only as good as her material, and Sandra Nilsson, Michelle McLaughlin, Kayla Collins, and Laura Croft have been incredibly sexy... but where's the goods?

Valerie Mason takes that concept and runs with it. She is obviously a stunningly beautiful girl, and I'll go as far as to say she is perhaps the prettiest girl so far in 2008. She is just so adorable, and she has a very unique look that brings back a little 60's flair, complete with dark bangs and a bright smile. On the other hand, her poses fall flat, and there's not a whole lot of creativity to her pictorial like there was in Juliette's a few months ago.

Valerie starts out introducing her pink lingerie, and you can immediately notice her eyes and smile. She just captures the camera very well with her innate beauty, and it's something that is refreshing so far in this year. One of Valerie's tradeoffs is that she's very plastic in some scenes, and I wouldn't completely attribute this to production and airbrushing. Sure, there's some of that, but Valerie seems almost lifeless in some shots, and although she's a pleasure to look at, you almost wish there was a little more to her that made her seem "real." It pervades in the magazine pictorial: an image that pleases at first, but fails to stick with you due to its lack of any passion.

Still, in a straight up beauty contest, Valerie wins hands-down. It's hard to beat an angelic, almost flawless face like hers, and it's tough to argue that her body isn't curvaceous and strong enough to be one of the year's best. Wherever Valerie tries to inject a bit of sexuality, it usually doesn't come off very well, and she just has such a playful, carefree attitude that her "bad side" comes off as more forced than she wants it to seem. One thing I like is the way Valerie looks towards the end of her pictorial, where the photographers try to make her moves more subtle and less in-your-face, transforming her into almost a blast from the past. She has that old school look of the mid 60's down, and that classic face and haircut make it all the more believable.

The bottom line...

Ultimately for me, Valerie is probably the biggest disappointment so far in 2008. Here's a disclaimer to that: I still think she is the most gorgeous girl to contend this year, and if she's got some hidden talent left in her that she hasn't shown us, she absolutely deserves a shot at PMOY. That said, I don't think she's got the talent. In 28 photos and a (pretty decent) centerfold, she's shown some pretty dull posing that is simply a waste of her breathtaking beauty. She has wowed me with her looks, and her pictorial was fun to see once or twice, but it's not the sort of thing that sticks to you, and that doesn't make a PMOY.

So there we have it, another girl, another hope that October, November, and December salvage this down year for photography. I'll attribute all of it to Playboy, since all the ladies this year have been stunning, but just haven't been able to express it quite so well. Next month's Kelly Carrington is starting to surprise me by being a bright little firecracker, and I do have some high expectations for her. She kicks off a three month stretch into the holiday season, which is historically a great time for Playmates. I'll be crossing my fingers.

Consensus... B

Valerie Mason
Miss September 2008

On a more optimistic side note, we've got some real hotties stepping up to the plate for a real promising few weeks to come. Jia Lynn has kicked off her Cyber Girl of the Month reign, and I have been floored by just how sexy she is. We might have a brand new CGOY contender on our hands there. Also, Stephanie Strong is Cyber Girl of the Week, and might have the best CGOW pictorial I've seen since Trina Marie way back when. It looks like the Cyber Girl stars are beginning to align for one fantastic finish to the year. Oh, and I'm really hoping for Linsey Rene to take next month's Coed of the Month crown!

Friday, September 5, 2008

55th Anniversary Playmate Candidates

Every five years since the beginning of the Playboy name, 1954, the magazine celebrates by naming the first Playmate of the year in January the "Anniversary Playmate" of that era. Becoming an Anniversary Playmate is something of a marathon competition: there is an extensive search all over the country complete with several casting sessions and auditions for thousands of talented ladies.

Having an operation this big for finding the lucky girl lends itself to disappointment. You just can't survey so many women and find someone who will tickle the fancy of each and every Playboy fan. However, Anniversary Playmates include lovely ladies like iconic 20th Anniversary Playmate Nancy Cameron, golden year Playmate Candy Loving, or 45th year girl Jaime Bergman. Then we have the other end of the spectrum, with the most recent search for the 50th Anniversary girl, who was anticipated to be a huge pick due to the implications of a whole 50 years of Playboy. After an extensive search, we were left with a boring, forgettable Colleen Shannon.

So this year, Playboy is trying to get it right. The 55th Anniversary Playmate is slated to become Miss January 2009, and she's bound to be one for the books. Playboy has already initiated new and creative ways of looking for the lucky girl, including a YouTube contest where thousands of contestants have submitted videos and six women have already been chosen. Playboy isn't saying whether the 55th Playmate is absolutely coming from this final pool of six, with various casting calls taking place and a plethora of beautiful Cyber Girls who could very well be candidates. Right now, things are up in the air in terms of rumors, but anything is possible.

In my opinion, the final pool of six winners from the YouTube contest will likely yield the final girl chosen, since it's just such a structured competition that can't just lead to nothing. Otherwise, perhaps the final girl can come from a recent Casting Call, or maybe one of the overlooked Cyber Girl of the Week candidates we've had recently. Now, I'll assess some of the girls and their chances of making it to the coveted title.

Ashton VerrengiaYouTube Finalist (pictorial)
  • Why She'll Win: Ashton is one of the YouTube finalists, so she's got an upper hand there. As the first YouTube finalist revealed, Ashton's got a lean, hard body that's sinewy and long, despite her short height.
  • Why She Won't Win: Ashton doesn't have nearly what it takes to become the 55th Anniversary Playmate, and if she won it would be a major upset. Her face isn't the most photogenic of the bunch, not to mention she looks like just another Plain Jane.
  • Odds: 1 in 30
Autumn AdeleYouTube Finalist (pictorial)
  • Why She'll Win: Autumn is a tall drink of water with long legs and sizeable features, with an eye-catching set of proportions and a cute face. She's also got a bit of talent in the posing department, which is always a plus.
  • Why She Won't Win: Autumn's chances of winning are slim, to say the least. While her short hair and unique face set her apart from Playmates of recent times, she suffers from a bit of an aged look, and her body is way too tall to proportionally fit most of her pictures; she just looks oddly sized in some photos.
  • Odds: 1 in 25
Jamie BradfordYouTube Finalist (pictorial)
  • Why She'll Win: Jamie is different from the other three YouTube blondes chosen, since she's a baby-faced cutie with a really photogenic feel. Jamie is a sight to behold with those blue eyes and pearly whites, not to mention her voluptuous body and DD breasts. Simply put, she's nice to look at. She also fits the common mold of Anniversary Playmate because of her outward appeal and star-power.
  • Why She Won't Win: When it comes down to it and you get past the glitz and initial polished exterior, you can't help but think that Jamie is like all the others in her sameness. She doesn't really leave any lasting images, although she "wows" from the start. If Hef had his way, Jamie would be strongly in the running, but since fans have a bit of a say, she's got trouble.
  • Odds: 1 in 18
Mary PiemonteYouTube Finalist (pictorial)
  • Why She'll Win: Mary is a home run hitter, pure and simple. A real fan favorite at the moment, Mary is very unique in appearance. She has a calm, almost sarcastic face that's a fresh breath of air when compared to all the cookie cutter blondes of late, and would make a real statement about the direction that Playboy is trying to go toward in 2009. Her body and breasts are outrageously sexy, and her thick thighs and squint-eyed grin are parts of a winning formula. If the 55th Anniversary girl is coming from the YouTube finalist lineup, Mary is by far the strongest of the bunch.
  • Why She Won't Win: Mary may not be the "archetype" of what Playboy wants for a 55th Anniversary Playmate. They may just be picking Mary to put out a diverse group up front only to choose someone like Jamie. However, there's not much to dislike about Miss Piemonte besides the radically different look and a bit of an oddly proportioned body compared to the Playboy norms.
  • Odds: 1 in 5
Amy Lynn GroverYouTube Finalist (pictorial)

  • Why She'll Win: When Amy arches her back and lays out on the bed, those long legs spread out, few can deny her posing ability. She knows what looks hot. Her body is really well-toned and slim, too.
  • Why She Won't Win: Even though Amy is a YouTube finalist, I think it would be quite an upset if she won. She and Ashton are probably the weakest of the bunch, and there are plenty of girls outside of this competition who would be far better qualified. It was fun while it lasted, Amy.
  • Odds: 1 in 30
LaurenNew York Casting Calls (feature)

  • Why She'll Win: Lauren's combination of classic New York sass and a girl-next-door sparkle make her a good choice, and she translates that energy into making great photographs.
  • Why She Won't Win: Obviously there's the lack of leverage of a YouTube nomination or a Cyber Girl spot. Also, Lauren could suffer from the fact that she might find it easy to get lost in a crowd, which plagues most women trying to become an Anniversary Playmate; you need to be quite a special girl.
  • Odds: 1 in 40
StephanieColumbus Casting Calls (feature)

  • Why She'll Win: Stephanie has one hell of a cute face and a sort of youthful vulnerability that makes her very appealing.
  • Why She Won't Win: It's like running for President: you need credentials, and for lack of better wording, "experience." Well, if that's the case, Stephanie's like the mayor of a tiny town. Just being in a casting call isn't enough... oh, and she's got very small breasts.
  • Odds: 1 in 55
Dana DicilloCyber Girl of the Week, March 17 (pictorial)
  • Why She'll Win: Remember Dana? She's still one of the most popular girls to come around this year, and she didn't even win her month as a Cyber Girl (Heidi Wheeler took that spot)! Don't let that take anything away from Dana, who's shown how gorgeous she is, and had only 15 photos to do it. Fans are craving more of Dana's silky smooth body and exotic looks, not to mention her wealth of deep nude posing talent.
  • Why She Won't Win: Unfortunately, Dana's chances of getting to January might be slim. She didn't even get the nod for Cyber Girl of the Month, and might only be able to hope for a Cyber Girl "Xtra" bid in the near future. There aren't a lot of rumors flying around of a possible Playmate appearance for Dana, let alone the Anniversary Playmate slot. Still, she's a fine woman for the job, far better than most of the YouTube winners, anyway.
  • Odds: 1 in 35
Jia LynnCyber Girl of the Month, September (pictorial)
  • Why She'll Win: Like Dana, Jia is a Cyber Girl with a chance at striking it big. Jia, unlike Dana, won her month's title over her competitors, and is the current Cyber Girl of the Month. Although her pictorial isn't as polished as her weekly entry, you can bet Jia's got the qualifications, just take a look at her first video. Jia takes absolutely stunning pictures, and has a soft face combined with the right bit of lighting makes her positively angelic. She has a sleek and trim body that just looks great nude. She'd make a perfect Playmate.
  • Why She Won't Win: Jia's already won the CGOM nomination, so she's got that out of the way. Now, she's got to make the case with it. Jia needs to have a strong showing and shore up her accomplishments, and then there's a possible chance of her getting a back road to the Anniversary Playmate title. However, I wouldn't bet on it, since the YouTube girls still hold a strong presence and are the likely nominees.
  • Odds: 1 in 27
Tasha NicoleCyber Girl of the Week, June 23 (pictorial)
  • Why She'll Win: Tasha is a singular fan favorite who hasn't yet conquered a tough month for winning CGOM, but she is predicted to win. If she does, she'll have a chance as good as Jia to reach January. Tasha is really a fine display of female beauty, with a very exotic and sultry look and a Euro-Asian face that has a mean stare that captures the scene without fail. Add to that her slim-but-curvy body and photogenic perfection, and you see a girl who's got all the stars lined up for a potential CGOY run and a shot at Playmate.
  • Why She Won't Win: If Tasha doesn't win her month, she'll have trouble just like Dana in proving herself. She's got to beat out a couple tough contenders, like Lexi Lombardelli, but in the end Tasha should prevail. If she does, she's still got the disadvantage of being a Cyber Girl looking in to a sea of competition.
  • Odds: 1 in 32
Linsey ReneCoed of the Week, August 14 (pictorial)
  • Why She'll Win: I might be going out on a limb here, but this is a girl I strongly believe in. Linsey is HOT, and should easily win Coed of the Month. Hell, if there was a Coed of the Year title, she'd take that, too. Linsey is better than her inexperience would hint at; she's spunky, gorgeous, and has the "it" factor it takes to be a Playmate. Although anniversary Playmate might be a long way away, she certainly deserves to compete on Playboy's biggest stage in the near future.
  • Why She Won't Win: Linsey's been Coed of the Week. Despite her extensive posing talent, she's no pro. She's got to win her month, and even then she's got a ways to go against all the stiff competition in this. Still, she'd be a wise, albeit odd, choice.
  • Odds: 1 in 60
So there you have it. There are plenty of other names floating around, so I'm asking my fans to list some of the names that you think should be mentioned in this race for the 55th Anniversary girl. I honestly feel like Mary Piemonte will be the eventual winner, but it'll be an exciting few months of speculation before that decision is announced.