Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Miss Enigmatic

So here we are, with 2010 winding down. We've got yet another Playmate class almost complete, with all the bells and whistles, props and hairdos. One thing is for sure - the variety in girls in recent years, especially in the past five or so, has been staggering. Playboy reaches out all over the globe to bring girls to their flagship American product, and they do so with often very good consequences.

For this year, they've done exceptionally well. As 2009 was a deep class, the same can now be said for 2010, which has officially become almost as deep with talent. This is due to a strong finish, with Francesca Frigo, Claire Sinclair, and now, Shera Bechard, who comes in as Miss November.

As I've made clear, the upper echelon so far in 2010 consists of Amy Leigh Andrews, Katie Vernola, and Jamie Edmondson. Amy was just a stellar all-around talent, Katie's posing skills were possibly the best all year, and Jamie's unique looks set her apart. The middle of the pack has been good, but ultimately has lacked the intangible qualities to set them apart. Shera, on the other hand, breaks that trend a bit.

Shera is, first and foremost, very tough to figure out. I'll elaborate on this throughout, but let's set it clear that this Canadian beauty queen is not a typical Playboy nude, of modern times. She doesn't have the rounded frame and buxom curviness that manifests itself in girls like Amy or Katie. She's not overtly sexual, bending over and exposing her genitals or getting into pornographic positions to get a kick out of the audience. Instead, Shera is very old-school, with a bit of lingerie model in her. The best way I can put it is: if Victoria's Secret were to issue a nude catalog, this is how they'd shoot it, and Shera would be the kind of model that would be featured in it.

From the onset of her pictorial, you can tell that Shera is a professional model that's not used to doing nudes. However, this sets her apart, showing off an elegant, refined model that's in a whole different element than she is used to. In her first few shots in sexy white lingerie, which I think are the finest of her pictorial, she gives off an angelic appearance that is very fashion model-ish. Her long legs and blond hair combine with a wistful look that really transports you, and shows you the little details that Shera brings to the table.

You see a few things with Shera that are interesting here. She's obviously a bit uncomfortable in the nude, as this is far out of her normal setting as a fashion model, which is her profession. She can get a little misguided with her posing here and there. On the bright side, this discomfort is very endearing, as you realize that here you're witnessing a statuesque beauty that is usually fitted with a babydoll or brassiere, and rarely do you get to see that raw sensuality of a shower scene from this one. It's very candid, and with artful shots like this that complement the model, you have some winning stuff.

The pictorial, though, is definitely not without its faults. Although it starts out well with some candid shots of Shera with simple outfits and minimal makeup, she later gets the full Playboy treatment, looking like any other run of the mill Hefmate blond. This is pretty disappointing, and although she still is innately stunning, with that gorgeously angular face, she almost blends back into the pack with each shot. And, here and there, the photographers throw in another "artsy" shot that tries to complement Shera's pro model background, only to have it flop and look contrived and needless.

You truly realize it by the end of her pictorial - this is a girl with infinite potential, but she's someone that Playboy has blurred into anonymity. In this great photo, she looks fantastic and goddess-like, but also looks completely unrecognizable as her previously innocent self. It's puzzling, since the pictorial gives you such a mixed image of Shera, it's difficult to make up your mind about whether she truly is a contender in this year's PMOY race. How can someone go from this to this in one set of photos, and still carry on a consistent showing of who she really is?

  • Face: A-
    One of Shera's greatest strengths, her face has a lot of definition, with high cheekbones, penetrating eyes, and the look of a veteran model. It's interesting, though, to see her look completely different in separate photos due to the level of makeup the editors choose for her. Au natural, she's stunning.
  • Body: A-
    Shera's body is well-balanced, without a doubt. There's nothing overly special about any part of her, but when you see her photos, her lack of colossal features helps her be the overall stunner that she is. Her breasts can look a bit odd in side shots, however.
  • Talent: B+
    In her photos, Shera shows off her professionalism with convincing prowess. She moves gracefully, and knows how to deliver a good pose. On the other hand, sometimes she seems lost in her pictures, and her posing is not always consistently active.
  • Pictorial: B
    Playboy really does a disservice to Miss Bechard by turning up a pictorial that plays very poorly to her strengths. Although they mean well by trying to introduce more complex and artful photos, they ultimately fail by not realizing how to deliver a model as nuanced as Shera to the audience.
  • Centerfold: B-
    Although Shera looks pretty, as usual, in her centerfold, it's extremely uninspired, and fails to show off enough of her excellent body.
  • Overall: A-
    Shera probably could go down as one of the most memorable models of 2010. At first, I had high hopes that she would come in to be a real game-changer in the Playmate race, and she actually is, in a lot of ways. She definitely has increased the level of depth in the field this year, and has raised the bar as to what risks Playboy should take in photographing their models. Shera seems to be a rather unimposing figure at first, but she's a deeply complex and nuanced model, with greater facial definition and emotional capability than other girls this year. It's difficult to shoot a woman who is rooted in professional modeling for something that is so different, since nude modeling requires a sexual energy on a different level altogether. She did a great job, however, and sits as a contender for Playmate of the Year 2011. Although there's some stiff competition, Shera should carry fans through her refined posing, albeit a weak pictorial.