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Mon, February 18th, 2008 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jorge Khoury, Columnist

BEAUTIFUL GIRL - An Interview with Tiffany Fallon

Try asking anyone what art is exactly and you will hear a different answer at every single turn. Experience has taught me that real "art" is anything that inspires, angers, delights, frustrates, consumes and provokes us - although not always necessarily all at same time. It's something emotive, something that's different and unique from person to person. Then there are those that simply say art (as Paul McCartney would put it) is anything that doesn't hurt your head. Regardless of a definitive definition, it seems like nothing can trigger more human response than that unassuming piece that touches your heart and doesn't let go. A sentiment that "Playboy" magazine's art direction has captured quite often since Hugh Hefner founded his landmark magazine in 1953.

Photo © Playboy Enterprises.
The February 2008 issue of "Playboy" features 2005 Playmate of the Year Tiffany Fallon posing on a cover that's destined to be a classic image from one of the last true remaining giants in American periodicals. This playful picture - shot by Arny Freytag, the ace photographer of the magazine - is a joyful homage to comic's greatest heroine, Wonder Woman. Although the photo certainly has arresting sex appeal, it is a pretty innocent image that's obviously a well intended nod to comics' acceptance into mainstream culture. And any recognition from this men's magazine is notable because of the sophisticated taste it has shown over the years with its fine articles, top notch fashion sense, insightful interviews and, of course, its staple pictorials of female celebrities and those "Girls Next Door."

In some ways, this latest cover brings the magazine's relationship with comics full circle. Since the day he started "Playboy," Hefner (a lifelong comics enthusiast) has always had a good eye for strips and illustration and has showcased some of the comic field's best, such as Jack Cole, Harvey Kurtzman, Art Spiegelman, Gilbert Shelton and Gahan Wilson. As he indicated in the introduction to "Playboy's 50 Years of Cartoons," "Playboy's visual humor has helped to define the magazine - its lifestyle and its sexual politics - for a half of a century." And with the recent "Wonder Woman" cover, one can note that the editorial tradition remains constant to the present day.

Wonder Woman is a character beyond any sexual naivet. She's a fictional heroine that is sexually assured, strong-willed, and self-reliant - she has to be if we're going to believe that a woman in basically a one-piece swimsuit can succeed in the macho world of superheroes (and hang alongside Batman and Superman).

Now, taking this character seriously is a mistake because she wasn't designed to carry the weight of the world or other realistic issues. It defeats the character in being overprotective of her and the symbolic image that has seemingly been built. If the heroine inspires anything in women around the world, it's that a woman with self-confidence is a woman with true power. If the character were real, I highly doubt she'd have a problem with the way she was portrayed on the cover of "Playboy." But if you need a real role model in feminism, there are plenty of amazing and inspirational real women that work endlessly to remain true to themselves and those around them. Those are the true beautiful girls and you can find them all around you, in all shapes and sizes and ages.

A lifelong fan of the star-spangled heroine, Tiffany Fallon is a bit of a wonder herself. Ms. Fallon's determination, wit and elegance have made her a Playmate of the Year, a second-runner up in the Miss USA pageant, a successful television host and personality, and a participant on "Celebrity Apprentice." Currently, she's preparing for motherhood, her biggest project yet, with the pending arrival of her child. Last week, I had the chance to speak with her about the recent cover and her affection for her favorite superhero.

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How did the idea of the cover come about? How did they present it to you?

Well, I'm not sure how it happened on "Playboy's" end, but I know, personally, I've always shared my love of Wonder Woman and Lynda Carter with Hef [Hugh Hefner] and Holly, his girlfriend, and she's now working at the studio. And so they presented it to me right when I began filming "Celebrity Apprentice" in October, and I said, "This would just be an amazing honor for me." Considering I have yet to get a cover for "Playboy," and it was such a big issue on my end, and I thought, what a great way to have your first cover, and maybe my only cover with "Playboy," but to represent someone I truly admire.

What does Wonder Woman mean to you?

I'm 33 years old, so I grew up watching the TV show with Lynda Carter and I just always admired her, her sense of sexuality. It was so subtle, and she just had so much power and so much esteem that she carried with her. And, of course, the outfit was very popular. When I was young, I always made my own cuffs out of tinfoil and had the Underoos and was just a longtime fan, and really didn't understand that people felt the way I've felt, and have been for years and years and years, until just recently. And, of course, after shooting the cover, I know there's been a lot of rumbling among the comic book fans, whether they like it or whether they don't, but for me it was just an honor.

Well, it's a very playful. Wonder Woman is sort of this character that you (almost) don't see sexuality in, because she's a very confident character, she's above that kind of thing.

It's very subtle. She brings it across very subtly. And you know what? "Playboy" actually did their job. I mean, they got people speaking about their cover, which we necessarily haven't done in years and years and years. So I've gotten a lot of feedback, a lot from women, just saying how much they felt it was a very capable cover, and yet it represented one of their heroes, literally and figuratively. And I take pride in that, and anything where I can just be part of something larger than me. I mean, Wonder Woman is such a great example of women in general that it was neat to just be a part of something that was spoken of so frequently and so passionately.

Did you have fun doing that session? I mean, even though it is body paint, still, you have to be the character when you're doing it.

Sure, sure. I mean, you transform into the character, especially when you're body-painted, because it's like you're in armor. It's not like clothes that you've put on, or a costume that you could definitely take off. I mean, it takes four hours to put on, and it took all night to take off. So it does become a part of you. And, at the time, I was two months pregnant.

Photo © Playboy Enterprises.
Really? Doesn't pregnancy give you an added confidence?

You know, it did add a different perspective on being that strong, confident character that she is, and knowing that you can go out and be a strong woman and carry on your daily activities. But the funny thing is, I hadn't told anybody at "Playboy" that I was pregnant, so it was my own little secret power, I guess. [laughs]

It makes you more self-aware, doesn't it?

It does and I wasn't feeling the best, but this, to me, was such an honor to be a part of that I just, I didn't care how I was feeling, what I ate that day. I just wanted to be part of something bigger and something better than I had known in a long time.

Was this your favorite shot from that session?

Actually, I didn't even see that particular shot that made the cover, and it ended up to be one, yeah, my absolute favorite, because I just think it was very subtle and there's still obviously a sense of sexuality and it hit all the right parts. I was concerned, at first. I wanted the outfit to look exactly like Wonder Woman, and, of course, they were smart enough to know that if they did that, then they'd have Warner Brothers down their throat. And, of course, I said, "Can we throw in a lasso? Where's her golden lasso?" But in some countries they wouldn't be able to sell the magazine if it had replicated anything with bondage, so to speak. Even the presence of the lasso would be considered bondage to some countries. So you had to be very careful, and it was very well thought out. It was "Playboy's" representation of what a modern day "Wonder Woman" might wear.

This was also kind of a result of superheroes being a sign of the times nowadays, too, right?

I think people really, really are so very attracted, and are drawn to superheroes, and obviously Spider-Man is doing very well, and Superman. And I know that Wonder Woman has always been a fan favorite, and the likes of its movie or TV show has always been in the rumblings, but it's been put on the shelf for a while. Just meeting with the Warner Brothers people, just to casually say, "Hey, listen, I can do it. I know I can do it. I can be the next Wonder Woman." But the longer they put it on the shelf, the older I get, so I don't know if that would ever happen. [laughs]

I liked your cover a lot, because I think it means a lot. Despite what you hear from some of the comics fans, it's sort of a nod to comics, like this is finally part of the mainstream consciousness.

Sure. And you know what? As much as there are rumblings, there's not that much thought that goes into doing something like that. I mean, people don't sit there and, like, "Well, what if somebody says this? Or what if somebody says that?" This is the kind of behavior that "Playboy" loves, the fan reaction. And I've read some comments here and there that said I was not worthy, or, "How could you dare put somebody like Tiffany on the cover to represent…?" "Lynda Carter would be so dismissive and not happy about it." But, to be quite honest, since I've been a huge fan of hers, I'm a well respected woman in my own right, and you know what? It's art.

I don't think you would have too many problems with her. She comes from a similar background. She was even a Miss USA, too. [Note: Ms. Carter was Miss World USA in 1972.]

Oh, really?

Yes, I know you were into pageants, as well.

Yeah, well, I did the Miss USA Pageant one year, and she's always been on my top list. I think it's on my MySpace that I've always wanted to meet her.

Yeah, and the fact that you're confident in your own sexuality [image], that's part of what Wonder Woman's about in the first place.

Yeah, and you know what? I can understand why some fans think it's a little tawdry or whatever, but, in this day and age, with all the mainstream actors and actresses, it's about sex, it's about power, it's about confidence, and that's what "Playboy" represents, and hopefully that's what I've brought to the table.

Related
SUFFERING SAPPHO! A LOOK AT THE CREATOR & CREATION OF WONDER WOMAN

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