From Manuels To Melrose: Stephanie Branton’s Campaign For Playmate Of The Year
In 1953, Hugh Hefner founded Playboy in Chicago- the industry he helped pioneer has changed incredibly in those 62 years, but the brand is still popular and deeply engrained in American pop-culture. Its battle with censorship and criticism came in the late 20th century, a time when values were being reshaped and redefined in America. Despite controversy, the magazine has consistently published important models and writers.
Whether posing or prosing, being published on Playboy’s pages is an incredible distinction. Marilyn Monroe was the first cover girl, its first interview was with jazz master Miles Davis and the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut and Jack Kerouac have all been published in its pages. The magazine pushed the boundaries of what print was capable of, it’s alumni became infamous.
Only three Newfoundlanders ever made the cover of Playboy: Shannon Tweed, Danielle House and Stephanie Branton.
Tweed was named Playmate of the Year 1982 and Playmate of the Month in November 1981.
House was the second Newfie to get a cover in December 1997. House was Miss Canada International, but was stripped of her crown. After winning the contest she was convicted of assault after knocking the daylights out of another bar patron at the Breezeway in St. John’s. House’s cover had her posing cheekily with boxing gloves.
But recently, the emerging Manuels River (C.B.S.) model Stephanie Branton is making her own mark on the magazine. In September 2014, Branton became the third Newfoundlander to be picked as Playmate of the Month when her Southern Belle shoot was selected — and this put her into the running for Playmate of the Year 2015.
“I can honestly say that I’ve wanted to be Playmate my whole life, I don’t know if that would mean more to anyone else.” Branton says. “I told Playboy, I want to make them money and help build their brand. I want to be a representative for them and I just think that I would kill it. When I go on jobs for them, I’m always trying to be the best that I can be and I know I won’t let them down.”
Branton has always been fixated on modelling for Playboy; growing up in C.B.S., dreaming of it as a possibility. But now she’s living it out as a full-fledge Playmate at the Playboy Mansion West, in the affluent Holmby Hills of L.A. With hard-work, dedication and smart networking Branton made her way, travelling from Newfoundland, to Toronto and eventually L.A. all in pursuit of the ultimate goal.
“In Newfoundland I was working on my portfolio because there are some really good photographers in Newfoundland. I was able to get some photos there, so when I went to Toronto I had a little bit under my belt. There are things you can do in Newfoundland to prepare and practise, you should start from home and then eventually go elsewhere,” says Branton.
The modelling industry naturally thrives in major urban centres like Toronto, Montreal, L.A. and New York; models are able to find work because there are more agencies and more jobs. It goes without saying that C.B.S, with a total population totalling 25 000, isn’t exactly the land of milk and honey for aspiring models. And so, after spending time working in Newfoundland, Branton believed she had gained enough experience to take a leap of faith and move to Toronto to pursue her career.
“[In Toronto] I was doing promotional modelling and that sort of thing. Mostly just commercial modelling and that kind of stuff. There are so many agencies in Toronto — definitely a lot to choose from and see.” says Branton. “You can make some money going to Toronto for modelling because they have an industry for it. That’s what I did to get my foot in the door. I think that’s what girls should do, in the United States it’s New York or L.A. that you would go to. So when I went to Toronto that where it started.”
After working and networking in Toronto for roughly a year, Branton and her friend decided to travel to the Playboy Golf Tournament event in Los Angeles.
“I came on vacation to do a Playboy Golf Event. They don’t have the tournament anymore, which sucks, because it was a great way for Canadians to come out here, but my girl-friend was coming out here so I came out. It was the last year that they had it,” says Branton. “I was approached but it was just for an online thing, not Playmate or anything. I didn’t want to continue doing online things because being Playmate was my ultimate goal.”
Until this point Branton had been working for the commercial and promotional side of modelling — a far cry from Playboy. Her first Playboy gig was an online gallery for their Northern Star series. The series was a showcase of amateur Canadian models trying to break through at Playboy.
“It’s such an iconic magazine and I feel privileged to be a part of it. The only company I’ve ever shot nude for was Playboy and that’s the only company I ever would shoot for; the magazine is looked at in a higher regard and it’s looked at as a good thing.” says Branton.
Once her foot was in the door, it didn’t take long for Branton to be further recognized. But without an American work visa, there was only so much she could do. After two years of trying, Branton was granted a work visa and it only took one test-shoot before she was chosen as the Playmate of the Month for September.
“When I got the opportunity to become Playmate, I jumped at it,” says Branton, “I love modelling. I feel like you can kind of be somebody else, you can go into character. It’s almost like acting and it’s definitely empowering. It makes me feel confident and pretty. Everyone on the crew makes me feel so good.”
“I think there is definitely gonna be people who don’t think it’s a great line of work just because it is nude. I think it’s super tasteful and it’s just such an iconic magazine that I feel privileged to be part of it.”
To make it in her industry while ignoring all criticism takes incredible determination and now that she’s become successful, things are moving fast for Branton. In February she starred in a Super Bowl commercial for Mercedes Benz alongside American football hall-of-famer Jerry Rice. She also featured in an ad for a collaboration between Playboy and street clothing brand Joyrich back in September.
“I got the job through Playboy, they sent me an e-mail asking me if I would be available for a job — I said yes. I had to do an audition tape, then I found out I got it. After that I got fitted for the the black bunny outfit which you normally only get to wear when you’re the Playmate of the Year. It was really cool to have my first chance to wear that outfit and have it fitted for me. I was really excited when I found out it was with Jerry Rice and that it was for Mercedez Benz,” says Branton. “It was my first big commercial and I’m just ready to continue to do more stuff like that now. I got the bug, the acting bug. It’s just really fun to play a character and I want to continue to do that sort of stuff. But for now, I want to be Playmate of the Year.”
Voting for Playmate of the Year began on February 5th and runs until early March. Ultimately, it’s Hefner and the Playboy staff who have the final decision, but every vote will improve Branton’s chances. Her hard-work and determination have taken her to Hollywood for a brand new beginning in her promising career.