Playboy auditions held atthe U

Fifteen University girls auditioned to be in the “Girls of the Big Ten” Playboy pictorial.

Andy Mannix

As “Brook” approached the doors to a Minneapolis hotel Tuesday afternoon, the realism of what was waiting inside finally struck her.

A little bit nervous, but still retaining the excited confidence of her spontaneous decision, she marched in.

Walking toward the room, she could see the rabbit insignia on the black and white poster peering through the solid, cherry double doors of the suite and she knew she was in the right place.

“Brook” is one of 15 girls who answered the audition call for the University’s segment of Playboy’s “Girls of the Big Ten” pictorial this week – a special issue featuring girls who attend colleges in the Big Ten conference.

The “Girls of the Big Ten” is one in a series of special college issues Playboy releases twice annually and has been among the most popular since its debut in 1973, Tina Manzo, Playboy spokeswoman, said.

“Men like to look at college girls,” Linda Kenney, hair and makeup freelancer and 28-year Playboy veteran, said laughing. “It sells.”

The traveling Playboy trio, made up of Kenney, photo assistant Richard Higashi and photographer Kim Mizuno, tour around the country from school to school holding auditions for the issue.

Girls choose to audition fully nude, partially nude or implied nude – where they are still covered up, Mizuno said.

After auditions, the trio decides who will move on to the actual photo shoot that takes place in the days following.

As for who makes the cut, there are no set criteria, said Mizuno.

He is stern and expressionless, though not without a certain charm that comes with more than 20 years experience with the job.

“There is no adjective,” he said about the girls he chooses. “You could say beautiful, but beauty is so subjective.”

After the shoot, Mizuno sends the pictures to his editor, who ultimately decides who will be featured in the magazine. All girls who make it past the audition get paid, he said.

Then the trio packs up and starts over again at another school. Next on the schedule is Penn State.

Mia Ljung, faculty adviser for the Women’s Student Activist Collective at the University, said Playboy targeting college girls is problematic.

“To portray college girls in a sexualized way is like kind of cutting off their brains and just showing their bodies,” she said.

In Playboy’s use of the classic plaid-skirt college girl image to re-enact “an old man’s wet dream,” the girls end up only reinforcing a negative stereotype, Ljun said.

Ljun said the glamorous, quasi-celebrity recognition that Playboy allows is one possible reason girls might be intrigued to audition.

“It’s just kind of unfortunate that that’s the way that women sometimes choose to be recognized,” she said.

“Brook,” a sophomore majoring in kinesiology, said she heard about the audition Tuesday and made a spur of the moment decision that landed her in the waiting room only one hour later.

“Brook,” who auditioned for implied nudity, said she wanted to be in Playboy to be able to look back at an exhilarating experience.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said. “So it’s definitely different, but it’s exciting.”

“Brittany,” a second-year graduate student studying veterinary medicine, said she had been planning on auditioning for a year.

“It would mean a lot to me,” she said about being chosen from the audition. “I love Playboy and I look up to the girls as something to aspire to.”

To ensure the girls’ age and Big Ten status, Kenney verified their driver’s licenses and student identification cards.

Girls who did not attend the University were allowed to audition, though not eligible to be featured in the Big Ten issue.

While filling out personal information forms before the auditions, Kenney advised the girls to come up with an alias.

“It’s really just kind of a general safety issue because of how accessible people are now to find,” Kenny said. “We don’t want that weirdo out there locating anyone we publish.”

“Brook,” one of the girls said after only a quick second of thinking, as if she had the name stored away for just such an occasion. “I’ve always thought I looked like a Brook.”