Rochester — September 2011
Jessica Zelinske, Rochester resident and Kasson native, lands her dreams (and a magazine cover]
Rochester Magazine: You recently became a Playboy model. You're on the cover of Playboy's current Hot Housewives issue. You just won a trip to the Playboy mansion. Are you wigging out a little bit?
Jessica Zelinske: It’s surreal. I wake up in the morning and I just… honestly…. I feel like I’m living a dream. This has been a dream of mine for so long, and I didn’t think I could ever achieve this. Small town girls don’t get into Playboy.
RM: What was your first big break?
JZ: I was at a club in the Cities with some girlfriends. It was a lingerie night, and we were just having fun. This photographer, Lew Vividere, approached me and said, “You need to be in Maxim.”
Of course, I thought, “This is a scheme.” But I did some research and I saw that he had actually photographed many Playmates. We set up a time for me to see his portfolio… and I was in awe. It was beautiful to me. It was a work of art. There were Playmates from the 70s to now, to Crystal McCahill, who is this beautiful brunette. Seeing her photo, I just fell in love with it. I asked Lew, “Is that achievable? To be in Playboy?” And he said, “Baby steps.”
We did a photo shoot and Lew submitted [the pictures] to Maxim. I ended up being in the March 2006 issue, Hometown Hotties.
RM: And the next stop was Playboy?
JZ: Not yet. I started doing other things. I moved to Albuquerque, where I was a stay-at-home mom to my daughter, Kayli. I had friends of friends who were fighters or boxers there, and I got to be a “ring card” girl for some of those events. It was a rush. Every time I did it, it felt like I won.
RM: And then what?
JZ: I moved back to Minnesota 2-1/2 years ago. I really concentrated on my career (I work full time in marketing sales) and my daughter. I’m a single mom, and my daughter is the most important thing to me. I started doing a few modeling gigs, too—the downtown fashion shows, the bridal wedding extravaganza. It made me realize I might want to get back into [modeling].
RM: Which brings us back to Playboy.
JZ: One day, I was looking at the cover of Playboy and I thought, “I’m going to do this.” So I Googled Playboy and saw there was a casting call coming up in Chicago. This was just in April of this year. I signed up for the casting call and thought, “I only live once.”
RM: What was the casting call like?
JZ: I remember seeing all these girls in the lobby, and thought, “Oh gosh, this is not good.” The girls were just beautiful—blonde and typical Playboy models. I thought, “I’m such a small-town girl. This is never going to happen for me.”
RM: But you stuck it out.
JZ: Yes. I decided I was just going to be myself—a 31-year-old mom—and not some-one I’m not. When my session time came, I signed in and they called my name. A woman named Susan brought me to a booth they set up for Playboy’s mobile campaigns. She said, “We want you.”
RM: Were you shocked?
JZ: I thought, “I don’t get it. This is a joke.” I tried to figure out what I did that they noticed. And then I realized that it was my personality—I wasn’t trying to pretend.
They took me into a test room, and we did bikini test shoots. During the shoot, Susan left the room. When she came back she had six more people with her. They said, “We’re taking you away now.”
RM: What were you thinking?
JZ: It was 11:30 and I had to catch my train at 2. I said, “I can’t miss it! There’s only one train that comes back into Minnesota!”
They said, “We’ll get you there on time. We promise.”
They took me across the street to Playboy Enterprises. It was just beautiful. Everything’s classy and tasteful. Everyone was congratulating me and I didn’t even know what was going on.
RM: What was going on?
JZ: More photo shoots. I ended up being in the Top 10 out of 418 girls for the entire casting call. They said they were looking for models for [special issues], and that it would take three to six months to get a call for a specific project.
Back at my hotel, I got in the elevator and I started crying. I kept thinking, “What just happened?” I was trying to call my family, my parents, and I couldn’t dial. I got to my room, and I just screamed.
RM: When did you find out about the magazine?
JZ: Two weeks after the casting call, an editor from Playboy called to tell me I got a photo shoot. The next week, I went to Chicago and did several shoots [for different potential magazines]. It’s extremely professional.
Then, at the end of June, the photographer called and said, “You made a magazine!” He couldn’t tell me which issue—but he said he had a surprise and it started with a “C.”
A few weeks later, I get an email. It’s the cover of the Hot Housewives issue. I just kept saying, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh! How does this happen?”
I called up the editor and said, “Is this real?” She said, “Absolutely. You are on the cover of the Hot Housewives edition for September/ October 2011.” It was released August 2.
RM: How has life changed since then?
JZ: It’s been incredible.
In August, I was at the Playboy golf tournament in Des Moines. It was two days of awesomeness. Two teams from my hometown, Kasson, won trips to the Finals [that will be held] at the Playboy mansion in March. I was so excited.
[At the end of the event], the players voted on the girls—with the Top 3 girls also winning trips to the Finals. I couldn’t believe it when I won. I get to go to L.A. next March with everyone from Kasson who was there!
RM: What has the reaction been like?
JZ: People are coming up and congratulating me—even at Kayli’s daycare. The acceptance feels really good. I didn’t say much after I did this. I didn’t know how people would perceive me. But everybody’s been very supportive.
JZ: When I first told my parents, they were a little shocked. [Laughs.] But they’ve been great.
RM: What about your daughter?
JZ: She’s seven. She knows that I do modeling as a side job. That’s all she needs to know right now. She thinks I’m a celebrity. [Laughs.] My biggest fear in doing the Playboy thing was Kayli—I didn’t want her to be left out. She’s my pride and joy. I owe her a lot.
RM: There were some negative online comments.
JZ: The Post-Bulletin did a story on me, and I was really happy with it. But one particular woman wrote in the online comments that it was low-class and trashy that the PB would “glorify Zelinske” for [these] achievements. The thing that killed me the most is when it said something about my daughter.
RM: The anonymity of online comments allows people to write things they otherwise might not.
JZ: Exactly. And I cried. But I understand a little bit. It’s not [this woman’s] dream, and that’s OK.
RM: So what's next?
JZ: I’ve been asked to participate in events— such as welcoming home Marines [on August 20] in Kasson. I feel really honored to be asked. Also, I’m going to be in an episode of “Bad Ass,” which is a show on Playboy TV. Basically it’s a rendition of Fear Factor for Playboy models. They’ve already jumped out of airplanes, raced cars, and swam with sharks—so I can only imagine what’s going to happen in my episode. Terrifying! [Laughs.]
I realize Playboy doesn’t have a long life. It’s a year maybe, give or take. So I’m letting it come to me and I’ll go from here. I’m still concentrating on Kayli and on work.
RM: What's been the biggest surprise?
JZ: Playboy has been so wonderful to me. If I don’t like something they ask me to do, all I have to say is “No, I’m not comfortable with that.” If there are days that aren’t convenient for me, they work with that. I couldn’t go to a photo shoot because my daughter had a soccer tournament, and they moved [the shoot] to a different date and time. They always put family first.
RM: And, of course, I have to ask: Have you met Hef?
JZ: I haven’t yet. But he should be at the golf Finals in March—so maybe then!