When Playboy visited Tucson to look for models for an upcoming "Girls of the Pac-10" pictorial, the Tucson Weekly sought out Juliette Fretté, who first posed for Playboy while attending UCLA as a women's studies student. She is now turning her honors thesis—"Posing for Playboy From a Feminist Perspective: How Media Images Impact Women's Empowerment"—into a book. She went on to become Playmate of the Month in June 2008. Visit her Web site at www.juliettefrette.com. For a report on Playboy's Tucson tryouts, visit The Range at blog.tucsonweekly.com.
What got you interested in posing for Playboy?
I never thought that I would pose for Playboy. Up until about age 20, I thought of Playboy as off-limits for me. I was already a women's studies major at the time, and I grew up with the idea that it wasn't a respectable thing to do. But I thought that it could be fun, and it would be a really interesting feminist experiment to pose for Playboy as a feminist researcher, and keep a journal about how I felt about the experience, and use my insider/outsider perspective to analyze all sorts of different social/feminist issues in a more modern context. It was to try something fun and new and violate previous notions of respectability and challenge my own belief system.
How did posing change your life?
It's been quite a rollercoaster. It's brought my attention to a lot of different subject areas I normally would never have really understood, like respectability and social taboos, along with body image and pro-choice issues. What it really did was take black-and-white theories about what was empowering about women into a very gray area. It made me realize that empowerment can sometimes be found in the most unlikely places, and that working for Playboy can actually be a really cool and fun thing. But in our culture, there are a lot of people out there who still discriminate, whether they want to admit it or not, against someone who would pose for the magazine.
What makes some people judgmental about posing for Playboy?
People who read it simultaneously would not want their daughters to be in it. They like it; they like the idea of celebrating bodies; they like the idea of celebrating sexuality; but they are afraid of being judged by other people for it.
Playboy seems very tame compared to what you find on the Web these days.
Absolutely. As for celebrating women in the nude form, it's one of the better things out there. Not only do we have this sort of appealing pinup portrayal; it's classy, and it's sexy, and Playboy celebrates a variety of different body types and different kinds of women. You have women of all races, and you have women with different body shapes. ... In that way, Playboy is actually a lot healthier for body image than the fashion magazines that put forth emaciated, Holocaust-victim runway models.
What does feminism mean to you?
There are all types of feminists out there, and we don't all agree. But I think that what most feminists can agree upon is that we seek equality and equivalency and women's empowerment. And there are so many different ways that we think we can find it. And we're not always right, but we're trying to find the best way to help women and society. Feminism is about the pursuit of social, political and economic equality. I think the common thread is freedom of choice. Now more than ever, I feel like that's something that's a hallmark of the feminist movement. ... It's the choice to be CEO; it's the choice to pose nude; it's the choice to be a stay-at-home mom.
What advice would you have for girls who are considering posing for Playboy?
Playboy is not something to be taken lightly. It will change their lives, in ways they cannot even imagine right now. Even if they never become a playmate, people will look them up on the Internet, and they will be known for it. This is both good and bad, depending on what they are looking to do. There are people out there who feel morally self-righteous, and they might find out about it when a girl applies for a job. ... But a lot of people are going to think it's really cool as well, and it might actually help them in some other ways if they want to go into the entertainment industry. It's a really cool, fun thing, and I'm glad I did it.