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!

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