Monday, February 28, 2011

Kicking It Off

It's March already, which means that we need do round up some Playmate reviews for the first girls of the Class of 2011 already. I've been behind in my patented reviews, and so it's time to catch up. We've had two girls so far, with another one on deck shortly, so let's go through Misses January and February to get current.

The first girl of the year was Anna Sophia Berglund, a voluptuous Californian blond with a Swedish heritage that shows through in her photos. Anna has a definite Scandinavian look: the tallish frame, the soft facial structure, and of course the long shiny golden strands of hair. Anna is a nice girl to look at from afar, but when you get through her pictorial, you start to realize that she's hardly Playmate material.

To get to the positive point, Anna is definitely a pretty girl, and there's no doubt about that. She has an engaging presence and a lovely aura about her, and that sparkling smile helps, too. In addition, her body is deceiving, as it's curvy as much as it is slender and lean. You can get an idea of the bottom-heavy shape of her body here, where her thick thighs really show. Her body isn't as toned and hard as most great bodies these days, but it's attractive in its unconventional shapeliness.

Still, the few positives of her attractive physique aside, Anna is an abysmally boring and untalented Playmate. She either makes clown-like faces at the camera, or has no facial expression at all, leaving you wondering where her personality has escaped to. Her face isn't all that memorable, either, and her pictorial doesn't help matters - it's riddled with random poses, and has absolutely no cohesiveness.
  • Face: B-

    Anna's face isn't ugly by any means, but it has no distinguishing features, and she often wears a bored, nonchalant look. Certainly her biggest weakness is her inability to convey emotion.
  • Body: B

    Anna's biggest strength is still nothing to shout about. Her body is curvaceous and her breasts ample, but her unbalanced size makes her legs look a bit large, and her pale skin doesn't come across well in photos.
  • Talent: B-

    She simply lacks any notion of what looks good in front of the camera, and fires off some very odd poses, looking awkward in almost every one. She has a sparkling aura that never quite reaches its full potential.
  • Pictorial: C+

    The pictorial is well below Playboy's standards, looking like a hasty mess. There is almost no production value or cohesiveness; the whole thing is a train wreck.
  • Centerfold: C

    The centerfold is horribly done, with only a partial view of Anna's body, and doing a terrible job of enhancing her skin tone with a bright background and anonymous setting.
  • Overall: B-

    It could have been worse, but Anna Berglund's appearance as Playmate was a disaster in many ways. She is a beautiful girl in many ways, but seems very out of her element as a Playmate. The stage almost seems too large for the young lady, whose talents are very limited and whose physical gifts are better suited for the Cyber Girl class, which she could easily have become a frontrunner in.
Next, we find the famed February Playmate, who always carries the responsibility of being the representative for the "month of love." This time, we don't come across your typical V-Day Playboy model, but instead see a real curveball in Kylie Johnson. Kylie is the first black Playmate since 2008's Ida Ljungqvist (PMOY 2009, of course), and one of the most exotic and intriguing Playmates we've seen in some time.

Kylie is indeed a different type of Playmate. Gone is the era of the clean and bubbly blond month-in and month-out, and now we're seeing more aggressive moves by Playboy to find some edgier stars. When it comes to an edgy look, Kylie certainly does deliver, for the most part. She sports a sharp, tight body, an impressive set of moves, and a charismatic and intriguing look that is worth a second viewing.

Of course, as I mentioned, Kylie's body is the prime attraction here. She's cut and trim, and her body is busty and sexy in its toned nature. Although she very oddly lacks much of a butt, she makes do with her frontal features, with a visibly tough set of abs and a sexy, curved back. Obviously her greatest asset, her body carries her through a so-so pictorial. It also makes up for her rather unusual face, which is a hit-or-miss affair. She can shoot off a sizzling, unique stare in pictures, or can give off a toothy grin in other photos that is simply not attractive.
  • Face: B-

    Certainly Kylie's major issue is her face, which is angular with a large jaw. She has some seductive eyes, but that toothy grin is what makes her look downright awkward in many photos where her body tries to make up for it.
  • Body: A-

    Although it's sadly tainted by some tattoos, Kylie's body is smooth, sleek, and finely tuned. It's not perfect by any means, especially with an undersized butt to go with her very large breasts. However, the tone and curvature make for a nice viewing.
  • Talent: B

    Kylie is a mediocre poser, in general. While she has her moments, they can be more attributed to her great physique than her natural abilities.
  • Pictorial: B

    Again, Kylie's talent goes hand in hand with her pictorial, which is nothing to shout about. It is consistent with a nice wintry vibe, but some stupid, wasted shots (like the ones through the cabin window) make you wonder what the editors were thinking.
  • Centerfold: B+

    It's simple, to the point, and conveys Kylie's persona pretty well. It also does a good job of lightening her skin tone, which is well done throughout her photos. The golden brown color of her body is quite attractive.
  • Overall: B

    Kylie is one of the better black Playmates we've seen in the past 10 years, mainly due to the unique intangibles that set her apart from the others. Whatever it is, it's a bit difficult to figure Kylie out. She is a very interesting entry early in the Playmate of the Year race, but I wouldn't expect her to be a major contender at the end. Kylie is a one hit wonder, and a pictorial that doesn't really go for the jugular is unfortunate for a girl with glimmers of talent here and there.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

2011 Playmate of the Year Candidates

After a bit of a hiatus, I now take a look back at the Playmates of the past year, as I do annually at this time. We had a very diverse, varied class of girls last year, and as usual, you have to give Playboy some props for innovating and looking for new and unusual talents. This year, I gave out my first "A+" award in years, and saw some other talents that were extraordinary. Even compared to 2009, which was a high point in recent years, 2010 might be formidable, albeit a little top-heavy when it comes to true talent. And now... the countdown!

Shanna McLaughlin - Miss July
Age 25 | 34DD-26-36 | 5'8" | 123 lbs

Shanna won a contest that put her in the position to become a Playmate, coming through above some not-so-great competition. She was given an opportunity that so many others should have had, and Playboy squandered it with every shot. Shanna is a complete non-talent, and one of the very worst Playmates I've seen in years, perhaps even a decade.
The Good: There isn't a whole lot of positive to say about Shanna. She has a decent smile in some photos, and looks pretty decent with her clothes on.
The Bad: Where does one start? Shanna's body is abysmal, with drooping breasts, a lack of a butt, and a softness and edgy quality that looks terrible in photos. She looks downright aged, and has absolutely no talent to offer. Her hair is frizzy and unattractive, and her photographs are of poor quality. She isn't even worthy of a spot as a Playboy girl of any sort, let alone a spot as a Playmate of the Month. An absolute travesty.
Face: C
Body: C
Talent: C+
Pictorial: D
Centerfold: C
Overall: C-

Heather Rae Young - Miss February
Age 22 | 32C-23-33 | 5'7" | 102 lbs

Heather came about in the beginning of the year, and brought about a shift to the Playboy norms: a buxom blonde with spacey eyes and a lack of emotion or talent. An ultimately forgettable entry for 2010 and beyond, Heather is completely inconsequential to the PMOY race.
The Good: Heather's sole redeeming quality is obviously her physique. While not having the most balanced and proportioned body ever, it is tough and chiseled. She's not very busty, but her body is attractive and golden tanned.
The Bad: From the body onward, it all goes downhill from there. Heather just has zero talent, period. She has the oddest facial expressions towards the camera, and has no idea how to show emotion in any way. Her face isn't necessarily unattractive, but she just has no comfort level to show. Her awkward posing makes it painful to look at her, and you can only wonder how much more potential she had, and what she could have shown if she only tried a little harder. All in all, a strikeout, and a wasted opportunity once again.
Face: C+
Body: B+
Talent: C+
Pictorial: C
Centerfold: C+
Overall: C+

Kyra Milan - Miss March
Age 20 | 32B-24-33 | 5'7" | 120 lbs

Easily one of the most hard to place and enigmatic Playmates of 2010, Kyra's performance uncovered her inconsistency as well as her immature posing style. Although she has her moments of real artistry, it is covered up by her lack of posing knowledge.
The Good: Unlike the other girls mentioned so far, Kyra has moments of brilliance. Hence, she will be a fan favorite in many cases, because of this presence of talent. Kyra is very youthful and vibrant, looking fresh and beautiful in many of her photos. Her wide-eyed stares, mixed with the young sensuality, make her attractive. She can pose in spurts, but only when the production is good.
The Bad: It's difficult to say what exactly it is that makes Kyra just not work as a Playmate. She is simply ranked so low on my list because she lacks many of the intangibles that makes a good Playmate. Her body isn't all that to shout about, and looks awkward in many positions. In general, she does not have an idea of how to pose her body to photograph perfectly. In fact, she wastes many opportunities trying to contort her legs in ways that make her lower half look strange. Her biggest issue is with her face, which does not always look attractive and youthful, and instead sometimes looks folded and angular. It does not always photograph well, and this is an item that is a major flaw in her physical appearance.
Face: B-
Body: B-
Talent: B
Pictorial: B
Centerfold: B+
Overall: B-

Olivia Paige - Miss September
Age 19 | 36C-24-36 | 5'7" | 120 lbs

Olivia was similar to Heather in her appearance - part of the blond bombshell class of Playmates with typically large bustlines and pouty lips. Olivia, however, came on with a bland pictorial, but with a body that pushes her higher on my ranking. Although she'll still be one of the most forgettable Playmates this past year, she's still easy on the eyes.
The Good: One good thing that comes out of Olivia's plastic image is her body, which is an ideal "hard-bodied" look. It's slim, chiseled, and curvy in many of the right ways. Although it's not truly spectacular in any way that would make it unique, it's still gorgeous in its pure hardness. Probably the finest abs of the year.
The Bad: Again, very similarly to Heather Young, after you get past the hourglass body, the rest is not on par at all. Olivia's face is empty of expression and without thought, delivering a pictorial that you can go through in seconds without caring. The pictorial itself feels like the same photo over and over again. And to top it off, Olivia's great physique comes with the fact that she has that Barbie doll persona that makes it hard to give her high marks on being a truly natural beauty. She almost looks like a computer generated model at times, which is her biggest issue.
Face: B-
Body: A-
Talent: B-
Pictorial: B
Centerfold: B
Overall: B

Kassie Lyn Logsdon - Miss May
Age 23 | 34C-25-36 | 5'7" | 125 lbs

Kassie was not a big hit with the fans, but had some redeeming qualities that certainly gave her credibility as a Playmate. Her defining trait is her thin frame, with a skinny body type that underlies a very pretty face.
The Good: Athough Kassie's body type is not for everyone, she is undoubtedly pretty gifted, and has a silky smooth complexion that is amazingly photogenic. Her face is also one of the best looking in pictures by any Playmate this year, with a veritable 'baby face' that compliments her understated body features very nicely. If she was a buxom woman, it just would not work so well. Kassie also has a nice sense of her sexual limits, and she pushes them as far as she can in every photo.
The Bad: Again, the issue that most fans have with Kassie is with her body, which is simply too thin for most. Offsetting her pretty face, too, is a pretty sizable forehead that her hair doesn't do a good job of covering up all the time. It's a major drawback in photos that brings her down a few notches. The cherry on top is her pictorial, which starts abysmally, and stops any chance for her to really show her true potential.
Face: A-
Body: B
Talent: B
Pictorial: B-
Centerfold: A-
Overall: B

Shera Bechard - Miss November
Age 27 | 34D-26-36 | 5'6" | 116 lbs

Shera initially intrigued me, coming in with a classy sense of her own sensuality. The oldest Playmate so far on my list, Shera showed a maturity in her posing that gave her a different dynamic than most of the other girls in the 2010 class. However, for the fans, she flopped miserably, and just lacked the sizzle to vault her over the top.
The Good: Shera's sexy poise and understated sexuality make her very intriguing at first. She has the body to back it up, with a tall frame and ample breasts. Her angular, more defined facial features also complement her mature posing nature, making her look significantly older than the other ladies of 2010... but in a good way.
The Bad: When you get past the tangibles, Shera hits rock bottom. She has very few other redeeming qualities, including the most important one of all: the talent. Shera may have talent, who knows? Her pictorial is flat and boring, and barely scratches the surface of who Shera may actually be as a model. She comes off as a very intriguing, clean-cut girl, but all the great paradoxical Playmates like her usually flip a switch and turn on the sex charm... and she did nothing like that at all.
Face: B+
Body: B+
Talent: B
Pictorial: B-
Centerfold: B-
Overall: B

Ashley Hobbs - Miss December
Age 21 | 34C-27-32 | 5'6" | 120 lbs

The year's closer was an interesting choice, and one that many did not see coming. The Hawaiian beauty is a certain favorite for many fans to win it all, but the lack of a real intriguing presence and an below-average build bring her down significantly.
The Good: Simply put, her face. Ashley's deep green eyes are spectacular in photos, taking center stage in many photographs and becoming the focal point for her entire pictorial. Pair them with a soft, young facial structure and a beautiful head of dirty blond hair, and you have one heck of a top half. Her face alone brings her up a few notches for the year, and her posing talent is there too, albeit nothing to scream about.
The Bad: Aside from the gorgeous mug, Ashley's physique leaves a lot to be desired. Her body is soft and angular, and does not have the smooth, sleek tone that many of the other ladies possess this year. It's a major drawback on an otherwise striking girl, since her posing is decent, and she is quite photogenic. However, the lack of a solid physique is a drawback that's hard to ignore, considering the competition.
Face: A
Body: B-
Talent: B
Pictorial: B
Centerfold: B-
Overall: B

Claire Sinclair - Miss October
Age 19 | 36D-24-36 | 5'8" | 125 lbs

One of the year's biggest surprises was the way Playboy introduced fresh new talent, and mixed it up in different ways. Claire was part of this experiment, and one that brought on great results. Claire is a throwback Playmate, with a physique and posing style similar to the dark haired, light skinned bombshells of the 50's and 60's. Claire emerged as a huge fan favorite, and may contend for Playmate of the Year against some heavy competition.
The Good: One thing to get straight - Claire is no gimmick Playmate. Sure, she focuses her persona on a characterization of Playmates of decades ago, but that isn't all. She is a poser with talent, with a knack for the camera. She looks great in all processed photos. In addition, her body is great. While not very lean, she is still quite tall, and has a voluptuous build on top of that fact. It all makes for an out-of-the-box Playmate that really mixes it up with an engaging smile and great talent. Claire just demonstrates the depth of the top of the year's Playmate class.
The Bad: While Claire's success is no coincidence, there are several factors that keep her from being a truly great Playmate. The main thing, of course, is her body, which is tall and curvy, but not necessarily toned and perfect. She also has a very pale complexion, which isn't everyone's cup of tea, but may appeal to some. Again, her retro look can both appeal to some and look dated to others, depending on perspective.
Face: B+
Body: B+
Talent: B
Pictorial: B+
Centerfold: B-
Overall: B+

Francesca Frigo - Miss August
Age 24 | 34D-24-34 | 5'5" | 115 lbs

No year is complete without its obligatory Latina firecracker; Jessica Burciaga set the tone last year, and the style is alive and well with Francesca Frigo. It's that butt-shaking, high energy pictorial combined with a busty body and pulsating, active posing that makes a girl like this. Francesca has that, and it's endeared her to many fans and put her in the forefront of the PMOY race.
The Good: It's that simple formula of throwing subtlety to the wind and taking on a larger than life persona that makes Francesca so great. She's an absolute pleasure to look at, with her wildly curvy body and infectious smile. Her bright, enthusiastic eyes and gyrating motions are exceptional, and she really is a gifted poser when she really gets her chance. Her greatest strength comes when she is just allowed to move, with no gimmicks or overprocessed, overthought pictures. Instead, just letting her body do the talking, Francesca does a great job. Her legs are some of the sexiest we've seen in forever, and the tone and hardness of her body rival that of any girl of the 2010 class.
The Bad: When you get past Francesca's rock hard body and impressive moves, she does lack a certain "it" factor, and it can mostly be attributed to a relatively weak pictorial. It has its flashes of brilliance, and she does shift themes smoothly and show her versatility, but it never really captures the intangible qualities that you know Miss Frigo has. It never really makes a case for her PMOY candidacy, and that is sad, considering her immense potential. While having the physical goods, she never truly pulls through and closes the deal, like similar Playmates like Jessica Burciaga or Monica Leigh did.
Face: B
Body: A
Talent: B+
Pictorial: B+
Centerfold: A-
Overall: A-

Jamie Faith Edmondson - Miss January
Age 31 | 33C-24-35 | 5'8" | 125 lbs

2010 definitely started with a bang, and a very intriguing one, at that. Here came 31 year old Jamie Edmondson, by far the oldest Playmate of the year, considering the decreasing average age of Playboy's classes. However, Jamie introduced some things that these young guns couldn't come close to: the intangibles. Jamie was not only a woman with a sizzling body, but someone who exuded every bit of sexual confidence that comes with a Playmate of the Year contender.
The Good: Jamie is a spectacular girl with some real talent for the camera. She is incredibly photogenic and youthful looking in her physical appearance, while still flaunting that mature poise and sophistication that makes her stand apart from the other girls of 2010. She has a great eye for the camera, and an incredible size that makes her photogenic with her height. Her pictorial, while having its weaknesses, does a great job of mixing in some color and great costuming to complement her height and persona. Her beauty is understated, but her awesome posing talents give you multiple perspectives on who she is, without ever giving up too much.
The Bad: Jamie doesn't have any fatal flaws, but her pictorial does leave a bit to be desired. It never really takes off to another level, but it does do a more than decent job in showing off her portfolio of physical features. Still, you almost wish for a handful of truly defining shots, but they never come, and that's ultimately what keeps Jamie from vaulting to #1 for the year.
Face: B+
Body: A
Talent: A
Pictorial: A-
Centerfold: B
Overall: A

Katie Vernola - Miss June
Age 18 | 34D-26-35 | 5'8" | 125 lbs

In a year full of unexpected stars, Katie certainly was the most out-of-nowhere girl to really impress. One of the youngest Playmates in years, Miss Vernola was a seemingly good summer Playmate selection who turned out to be really amazing. For such a young new talent, it's uncommon to display such poise, but Katie was probably the most talented Playmate of 2010, and that's no stretch. Going from the oldest to the youngest, my #2 really shows off the diversity of the class, and the strength of the top 5.
The Good: Where do you even start with a girl like Katie? She is everything you could hope for in a new young talent, and then some. She's incredibly physically gifted, with an angelic face and a truly spectacular aura in her photos. Her body is voluptuous and fitting for a modern girl, with hourglass curves and flawless skin. Her hair is golden brown with the bright streaks complementing her golden tan beautifully. But what really makes Katie awesome is her posing, which is some of the best of 2010, without a doubt. She moves and contorts herself with great precision, nailing shots that always look amazing in still photos. She has a sense for what makes for great nude shots, with great instincts. You would never know that she's only 18 with no nude posing experience, considering how well she holds her posture and croons for the camera. She's the wholesome, all-American girl that makes for great Playmate material, and she surely is a major contender for PMOY.
The Bad: If there's anything that drags Katie down a notch, it's her body. She absolutely knows how to use it, but the only issue is her weight, which creates an issue with the tone of her midsection. She certainly is gorgeous, but her breasts and curves look a bit sloppy in second looks, making it not so perfect.
Face: A
Body: B+
Talent: A+
Pictorial: A+
Centerfold: A
Overall: A

Amy Leigh Andrews - Miss April
Age 25 | 34D-24-36 | 5'2" | 110 lbs

One of the best stories of the year was of a girl who ran the gamut of Playboy's veritable "rags to riches," starting off on the lowest ladder on the way to Playmate, the Coed. Amy's debut as Coed of the Week in August 2008 was not without its hype, and she showed her prowess as a radiant girl, but with a bit to work on here and there. After a COTM stint, my personal expectations weren't so high for her Playmate appearance, considering that she could use a bit of trimming down here and there, in addition to a sharpening of her skills. I was more than pleasantly surprised to see that she surpassed my wildest dreams. Amy came in with one of the hardest, leanest bodies of the class, showing off her hard work with impressive skill.
The Good: Amy earned my first "A+" rating in years, and for good reason. She unveiled a new, retooled body in her Playmate appearance, trimming down on the love handles and sloppy appearance of her past. The drastic change includes a spectacularly toned set of abs, a great, curvy midsection, and a butt to boot. Her breasts seem to have remained perfectly portioned, and her body has the appearance of looking long and lean, despite her diminutive size. On top of that, her face is beautiful as ever, with smoky, sexy eyes and a great smile. To top it all off, a masterful pictorial shows off an amazing spectrum of talent, from passive showcasing of her physicality to a full-on set of active skills. She moves with grace, and her enthusiasm makes her a great Spring seasonal Playmate. All in all, she is almost as picture perfect as a blond girl can get, and has an all around awesome resume.
The Bad: Miss Andrews leaves very little to be desired. To be particular, she could use a bit more contrast in her pictorial, showing off a darker side to her sexuality. Also, her pictorial could be a bit longer, but that just tells of how great she is.
Face: A
Body: A+
Talent: A+
Pictorial: A
Centerfold: B+
Overall: A+

There you have it, from 12 to 1! And now, some annual awards:

Best Pictorial: Vernola

Honorable Mentions: A. Andrews

Best Centerfold: Vernola
Honorable Mentions: Logsdon, Frigo, Andrews

Best Body: Andrews
Honorable Mentions: Frigo, Edmondson, Paige

Best Face: Andrews
Honorable Mentions: Vernola, Hobbs, Logsdon