Bunny in the Big Ten
Student one of two MSU seniors set to be featured in Playboy magazine
Communication senior Hanna Root, who is set to be featured in the October 2012 issue of Playboy, discusses the process of posing for the magazine.
Dolled up in a white sweater, pleated skirt, knee-high socks and black pumps — a full “school girl” ensemble — Hanna Root stood nervously before a photographer, hoping for a little direction and assurance.
The communication senior said the photographer occasionally would guide her and give her encouragement, saying, “soften your face” or “shake things up a little,” making her feel as comfortable as if she were “doing dishes,” she said, giggling to herself while recalling the process.
It was not that she’d never been in a photo shoot before; she had posed as an amateur for her friend photographers, but never professionally.
But on this particular day last April, on all levels, the shoot was different.
This time, Root said she found herself scantily-clad standing in an aisle of Curious Book Shop, 307 E. Grand River Ave., in downtown East Lansing, knowing all the while in the back of her mind that within the next few hours, she would be standing completely nude, exposed and smiling for a camera for an internationally recognized magazine: Playboy.
Communication senior Hanna Root poses with her Playboy shirt inside the Curious Book Shop, 307 East Grand River Ave., the same store her Playboy photo shoot was held. Root will be featured in the Girls' of the Big Ten issue of Playboy, which comes out Sept. 21. Julia Nagy/The State News
Root was posing for a photograph slated to be featured in Playboy’s Girls of the Big Ten issue, which is set to hit stands Friday.
She described the whole ordeal as an act of good timing and spontaneity — only hearing about the audition, auditioning, getting cast and posing — on the same day.
“It’s so exciting … I feel kind of like a little celebrity,” Root said. “I never thought to pose nude beforehand. I had some girlfriends (and) we were just talking, ‘Oh, how fun would that be?’ but you’d never think that (it) would happen.”
To be a part of Playboy
An issue featuring college girls isn’t anything new for the iconic magazine.
Theresa Hennessey, a spokesperson for the magazine, said Playboy has been running college pictorials for the past 36 years, rotating through the conferences about every four or five years.
The college spread usually is featured in the October issue, and the last time the magazine featured “Girls of the Big Ten” was in October 2008.
Hennessey said Root was one of two girls from MSU selected to be in the magazine, along with another communication senior, who goes by the stage name “Bailey Kay.”
She said the girls appealed to editors with their down-to-earth charm.
“(She’s) someone sitting next to you in English class or someone who lives down the hall from you in the dorm or in your apartment,” Hennessey said. “They are both beautiful and they really have that college look.”
Hennessey said the issue rotates through college conferences each year, giving girls an opportunity to be a part of the iconic magazine’s history — an opportunity Root said she just couldn’t pass up.
“‘You only live once’ — that’s what my mom always told me,” Root said. “I mainly did it more for the memories and to look back, to know that I had fun in my youth.”
After telling her mother, Kris Root, and the rest of her family members, she said she found they were more than supportive, although a little surprised at first.
“This whole thing has given Hanna the confidence that all girls look for,” Kris Root said. “It’s going to probably, I’m hoping, not let her be as insecure as girls have a tendency to be.”
Smart, pretty girls?
Root said there is a stereotype: “If you’re pretty, you’re just dumb,” — something she said Playboy’s college issues aim to prove wrong.
She said it was nice to know she was chosen not only for her looks, but also because she was a college student and is pleased to be one of the few handpicked to represent that demographic.
“(The girls) have a very positive message: that you can have brains and can aspire to have a career outside of (only) modeling,” Hennessey said. “You have a choice, and this pictorial is an example that you can have beauty and brains.”
Jayne Schuiteman, the interim director of the Women’s Resource Center at MSU, said although the issue featuring the beautiful, educated women is a nice gesture, she feels there is more to the story.
Schuiteman said the fact is, for the most part, women are objectified for their bodies regardless of intellect.
No matter how classy the magazine is compared to similar publications, the idea behind it still is the same, she said.
“The objectification of women’s bodies is an age-old issue,” Schuiteman said. “We are valued for our bodies (rather than) for our intelligence or abilities.”
Schuiteman said the reasoning behind choosing to pose nude is a very personal one, but an individual should be aware of the effects of posing nude in any type of publication can have on their image and potentially, their future.
Robert Kolt, an instructor in the Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing Department in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, said in this sort of a situation, where the name of a larger institution is involved, in this case MSU, there are absolutely no negative ramifications to its reputation involved.
But he said there is a large risk to a person’s personal image and reputation — something an individual should consider before making a potentially risky decision.
“I would tell any student at Michigan State to never make a decision on a whim that could have a negative impact on your job future,” Kolt said. “If you’re going to do something, give it some thought and (ensure) it guarantees value.”
Despite possible negative ramifications, to be featured in a magazine with such prestige as Playboy, and with the type of women it often features, Root said she felt very special, confident and sexy during the shoot.
“It’s nice to have someone to sit there and give you compliments every 10 seconds,” Root said. “It’s just a huge ego booster.”
Root, who is planning to graduate in May 2013, said when she was deliberating on whether or not to accept Playboy’s offer, the possibility of negative effects on her future was part of her thought process.
Especially as a communication major, Root said she would not want this to come back to bite her when applying for a job.
But the thrill and the opportunity of such an experience was worth it.
“I just feel like if this is a new time, and depending if someone is going to hold that against me, I probably don’t want to be associated with you, so that’s kind of where I went with it,” Root said. “It doesn’t define my character.”
Although Root doesn’t know where her path will lead, whether she will use this opportunity to pursue modeling or leave her posing days behind for a career in communication, she is, above all, happy to have been a girl of the Big Ten.