Playboy model hopefuls from as far as Florida and Canada line the halls of a Crossroads Arts District studio, fanning themselves, trembling in their silk robes and waiting for their moment with Jodi Vander Woude.
By JACKIE HOERMANN
The Kansas City Star
I promise this will be painless, Vander Woude assures them.
Vander Woude is a photographer for Playboy Enterprises. Every month, she travels across the country doing casting calls, this month at the StagePort KC soundstage. She shoots preliminary photos for the magazines bigwigs, helping to find Playboys next generation of models.
Originally from Topeka, she earned her bachelors degree in graphic design with an emphasis in photography from the University of Kansas. In 1992, one week after graduation, an acquaintance called and told her Playboy was hiring in Chicago. She landed an art assistant position.
I made coffee and copies, she says of her first month on the job. I really did start at the bottom by getting my foot in the door.
She has lived in Chicago, Las Vegas and northern California working as a senior designer and a producer, which has included directing shoots and applying the models makeup. Shes now based in Kansas City.
At the casting calls, her biggest challenge is the art of relaxation.
A woman walks in. The first thing that needs to go is self-consciousness, but usually its the robe.
You look fabulous, Vander Woude says, You really do.
Great butt great smile great legs. Do you run?
From behind her Canon lens, she searches for the most beautiful feature on every model. But dont they all look the same: thin, leggy and well-endowed?
Not at all, she says. Thats the beauty of Playboy. Weve had 5- to 6-foot Playmates, from boy body types to voluptuous. There isnt one type, other than beautiful.
There is, however, a philosophy in play. Playboys theory behind what makes a woman attractive is simple, she says: It all goes back to the girl next door. You want them to be soft, you want them to be pretty, and its always classy.
Vander Woude does her best to bring out these qualities by asking ordinary questions while shes shooting. She asks a model at the Kansas City casting call where shes from, about her tattoo and her hobbies. This one likes roller derby.
After 15 minutes of small talk, background music and a little ego-padding, Vander Woude finishes the session with a simple request: Say yes. A shy, flattered yes tumbles out, and she gets the final shot with a sincere smile.
Vander Woude is one of only two female photographers working for Playboy. She makes light of being surrounded by male colleagues, but she also considers it an advantage.
They tend to send the extremely nervous girls to me, she says. I think they like that Im a woman.
At work, shes warm and talkative. She eases models through the shoot, even showing them how to pose.
Afterward, its time for the computer editing wand. Vander Woude insists, though, that heavy retouching is a misconception. She says her goal isnt to change the models bodies but to perfect them by removing bruises, veins and other blemishes.
And yes, she has been to the Playboy mansion and met the man behind the empire, Hugh Hefner.
He has a true presence, and he always has an entourage, she says with a grin. Although she hasnt met Hefs most recent ex, Crystal Harris, she has worked with another ex, Holly Madison. She has also worked with Jenny McCarthy and several Playmates of the Year.
Vander Woude will continue to hit the road for Playboys casting calls, but these days shes spending most of her time in Kansas City.
Ive traveled all over, she says, but I love that I have a base now and a studio. Im just so happy to be here.
To learn more about Vander Woude's Kansas City studio, visit www.photostudiob.com.
To reach Jackie Hoermann, call 816-234-4767 or send email to email@example.com.