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Senior’s Playboy debut gets mom's approval, sparks debate

It's a Tuesday afternoon, and a passerby is asking senior Candice Maria for a smoke. But Maria has far more to reveal than a box of cigarettes.

"Do you want to see my boobs?" she asks the passerby, responding to his inquiry about the content of the magazine open on her lap.

Not accustomed to Duke women making such offers just outside of Perkins library, the perplexed passerby inevitably accepts, prompting Maria to hand him the magazine-Playboy's 2009 "Girls of the ACC" issue, released Sept. 11.

"That's me," she says, pointing to a photograph of a tall blonde woman exposing her bare breasts.

For the last 33 years, Playboy has published a college issue featuring a nude college pictorial of students from different conference schools. This year, the issue features 13 women from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Aside from the University of Maryland, which has three, and Boston College, which has none, each school in the ACC has one representative in this year's college issue. Maria represented Duke.

"I just think [Playboy] is a really classy magazine, everything is done tastefully," she said. "A lot of celebrities have done Playboy. It's kind of something I wanted to do growing up."

In the September print issue, Maria is nude but only exposes her breasts, but online, she displays all of her intimate parts.

Maria said although she told the photographer she preferred to be featured only topless in the print edition, retrospectively, she would not have qualms about posing fully nude.

The spread showcasing the collegiate women is always one of the most talked-about features in the magazine, Playboy Junior Publicist Tina Manzo said. She attributed much of the pictorial's popularity to its emphasis on "the girl next door" type of look.

"It's like someone you could bump into at a bar or sit next to in a math class," she said. "Someone down to earth, laid back, but still beautiful who has the extra 'oomph' with extra sparkle that makes her stand out a little bit…. And that's the same for Candice."

Any female who was at least 18 years old and enrolled as either a full- or part-time student in an ACC school was eligible to audition,  said Playboy Junior Publicist Liz Sablich, who works as Maria's personal publicist. The auditions were held in the Spring at locations near each of the campuses, which included the Durham Courtyard Marriott. Although Sablich said between 50 and 150 students tried out from each school, The Chronicle reported in April that only 15 Duke women registered for test shoots, and even fewer showed up to the actual audition.

After reviewing the pictures taken at the audition, Playboy staff selected girls based on their test shoots. The girls were then flown to either Miami, Atlanta or Chicago for the pictorial.

Throughout the process, Maria said her family and friends have been supportive, and even people who were initially skeptical agreed that the published photo came out tastefully. Maria said her mother had actually encouraged her to audition, and made the salespeople at Barnes & Noble dig out a copy of the "Girls of the ACC" issue before it was released to the public.

Junior Aliza Lopes-Baker, treasurer of Blue Devils United, said the way in which Maria went through the process was empowering. It is impressive that Maria is so confident about her body when many women on campus have such negative views of their own, she said.

Maria, however, is not the first Duke student to have posed for Playboy. Leah Aronin, Trinity '04, said she chose to audition for the "Girls of the ACC" issue back in 2004 because she was in good physical shape and thought the experience would be entertaining. Even though Aronin's photographs were not featured in the magazine, she found posing for Playboy to be fulfilling.

"I grew up being the ugly duckling and to be chosen to have a photo shoot for Playboy, it was such an ego boost," Aronin said. "When I was little, I got teased for being short and skinny and scrawny. And now I was chosen for Playboy. It was awesome."

Jacqui Detwiler, a graduate school alumnus who was featured in the 2004 "Girls of the ACC" issue as an undergraduate at Florida State University, is also pleased with her decision. Detwiler said that for about a month, she felt like a minor celebrity, and received invitations to parties from people whom she had never even met.  

"Some person in like Alabama invited me to his birthday along with like Britney Spears and all these other celebrities," she said.

Since then, Detwiler said posing for Playboy has been a fun secret to have, and may have helped dissuade male cops from arresting her for throwing a party in her apartment her senior year of college.

"Degrading"

Other students, however, did not have such a positive opinion about posing for Playboy. Instead of serving as an enriching experience, they said such an act was demeaning, and demonstrated a lack of respect for one's body.

"I kind of figured someone from Duke would audition," said sophomore Heather Dyer. "At the same time, I think it's degrading to women… just the concept of having naked women for entertainment. It basically just makes women into sex objects."

Last semester, The Chronicle reported that Panhellenic Council President Erika Manderscheid, currently a senior, told Duke's sorority presidents to discourage their members from posing for the magazine. If members did pose, Manderscheid said they should have been instructed not to discuss their greek involvement. Maria is not a member of a sorority.

Even so, many said while they, themselves, would not have posed for Playboy or did not think the magazine was respectable, they would not discourage others from doing so.

"I have my own personal preferences and thoughts as to which magazines are contributing in a positive way, but I also believe strongly in free speech," said Sue Wasiolek, dean of students and assistant vice president for student affairs. "We are here and allowed to make our choices. We can choose to pose or we can choose to purchase, or neither."

Practical Considerations

Sophomore Harrison Friedman said there is a more important reason than moral concern as to why Duke students should forgo posing for Playboy: they are not making an adequate use of their education.

"I think people at Duke can get into better publications," he said. "If [tuition] is what you consider an investment for the future and that's the path you are going to take-it seems like a waste."

In addition, some expressed concern over how having their picture in such a magazine might affect employment prospects.

Wasiolek noted that employers look at Facebook, and how individuals represent themselves on the site does have an impact on hiring opportunities. Posing for Playboy may have an effect as well, she added.

Because she was concerned about her future, Aronin said she opted for implied nudity-in which she was naked but concealed her intimate parts-rather than full nudity, in her photograph shoot.

Detwiler, on the other hand, said she had no such reservations. Having posed fully nude in only shoes, a belt and a hat, Detwiler said she knew she would never go into a career such as politics or law in which her decision to be showcased in Playboy would impact her in any tangible way. Currently, Detwiler works as a travel magazine editor in New York, and before that she had wanted to pursue neuroscience.

"It was kind of a funny idea to be the neuroscientist who posed for Playboy," she said. "It's not a very common thing."

Posing for Playboy should not be seen as a setback to students' futures, Manzo said, because it is a personal decision and should be seen as separate from professional ambitions.

Maria expressed similar sentiments, choosing not to use her actual last name so as to keep her work with Playboy separate from her school life. Nonetheless, she said she would probably not want to work at a place that would not hire her because of her involvement with Playboy, adding that many "beautiful women of status" such as former actress, singer and model Marilyn Monroe and former model Cindy Crawford have also posed for the magazine.

Aside from considerations of morality or money, some students said they would not pose for Playboy because they do not wish to openly display their bodies.

"I'm not that comfortable," freshman Sidney Johnson said. "Plus, I don't have boobs."

But Maria, who described herself as having small breasts, has demonstrated that bust size is not necessarily a limiting factor.

"I always thought I would have to get implants to make it in Playboy, but I'm pretty glad I can do it without altering my body," she said.

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