Show Skin for Cancer Research

by Heather L. Mueller

These girls haven’t gone wild, but they do intend to bare some skin for $300 and to encourage donations for breast cancer research.

Campus Girls USA, a Web site run by an Los Angeles-based photography entrepreneur, is calling on voters to choose the top-12 contestants among the 24 student finalists for their first-ever University of Minnesota 2008 swimsuit calendar.

Between March 14 and May 2, weekly videos will air introducing three contestants. Voters will decide which of the women they like the best.

Organizers plan to give away 100,000 calendars around campus this fall. Recipients are asked to donate money to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Nine other state university calendars are in production for 2008.

The contest, which offers a $300 prize to the 12 winners, began in January with about 150 women submitting online applications and sample photos to the Campus Girls USA Web site. Thirty-two received callbacks for a professional photo shoot held in The Library Bar and Grill’s lower level.

The women chose their own suits, did their own hair and makeup and struck a pose for photographer Trevor Debth, president and creative director of Campus Girls USA.

“These are girls that are across the dorm room hallway, or sitting two rows in front of you in class or sitting right next to you ordering a drink,” Debth said. “I mean, they’re not paid models in Los Angeles. They’re not superstars. These are just normal, everyday girls.”

The women, most of whom had never modeled before, were allowed to bring friends or family to the shoot for support.

Music performance and anthropology senior Katie Mohlenhoff sat through Erin Broberg’s shoot for support.

“Unless you’re the most confident person in the world, it’s pretty hard to get up in front of a room full of people in a swimsuit,” she said, adding that Broberg’s decision to model in a bikini is unlike her “hippie” personality.

But there is another school of thought on the matter.

Anthropology junior Amanda Polvi said the University-geared calendar depicting women as objects perpetuates the idea that a woman’s worth is determined by her physical appearance.

“If you want to be respected and not treated like an object you shouldn’t put yourself in that calendar,” she said. “You should expect guys to treat women with respect and not as objects, too.”

But contestant Anne Marie Rooney, a first-year student who has modeled since age 14, said the calendar isn’t risqué or provocative.

“I don’t think it’s objectifying women when they are voluntarily entering into it,” she said. “It’s fun.”

Breaking the stereotypes of a college calendar has been difficult, Debth said.

“We would never do nudity. Our boundary is definitely keeping it very tasteful. We’re not going to have girls in G-strings, slathering up in oil, slappin’ up against each other. Our goal is to keep it as artistic and tasteful as possible,” he said.

First-year student and contestant Arline Morales is proud of her photos and this opportunity.

“It’s not like it’s Playboy or anything,” she said.

Political science first-year Sarah Wall checked out last year’s calendar before entering and liked the Campus Girls USA style.

“It’s a classy, respectable representation of the beautiful girls at the University of Minnesota trying something new who want to represent their school,” she said.

Wall said she hopes people read her biography and consider her personality before voting or passing judgment.

“I hope that people wouldn’t judge who I am as a person after one picture,” she said.