Miss January 2012
It started off, however, more on the predictable side of things. In came Heather Knox as Miss January, starting things off. Heather is a bit more of a prototypical Playboy blonde, with bright blond locks and a busty body. Her physique is of most interest here, since Heather is an otherwise bland model with little to remember. She is a bright personality, but it's definitely her body that stands at center stage.
Heather is voluptuous (5'4", 125 lbs) and short, with a boxy frame holding on to a set of massive DD breasts that really are a sight to see. She's no hourglass, with not much of a butt to balance it out, and not a very tight waistline either. But it's just this that makes her an attraction, with pure, busty volume making her really pop in photos, like this one, that would otherwise just be inconsequential. While Heather has a more mature face and intense features, she doesn't have much to distinguish herself, as she's pretty but mostly forgettable.
Heather's pictorial is also a major disappointment, with nothing to separate her or make it unique, and instead taking some safe shots that contain her in a domestic setting that never really catches on. Some shots of Miss Knox prone on the bed are her greatest hits, since this really exposes her huge chest and does an excellent job of highlighting her thick but sexy torso and thighs.
Like nearly every Playmate last year, Heather simply never shows enough to truly entice the audience, never allowing her legs to spread quite too far, but teasing with some frustrating poses. While her body is a plus, you can surely bet that this won't be a girl who's in the running for PMOY in 2013.
- Face: B
While Heather's beautiful eyes are a saving grace, she has some well-defined features that give her face angles that do not endear her to the camera. With a softer camera view, her face looks far more appealing, but the Playboy editors miss on this one.
- Body: A-
Heather's physique lacks the balance and slim, sleek contours that define girls of the current Playboy generation, but that doesn't stop Heather from being a unique figure. Her massive breasts are part of a thick, boxy frame that is actually quite the spectacle in her photos. Although never used to her potential, Heather's imposing stature makes her worth a second look.
- Talent: B+
Although Miss Knox is given a raw deal on the pictorial, she does show flashes of greatness here and there, and has a great understanding of her own strengths and limitations. She keeps her posing simple, but does so with enthusiasm and great posture that adds to the pleasure of her great body.
- Pictorial: B
Heather's pictorial never gets off the ground, or really ever comes close. Showing minimal skin once again, we find a lame, cookie-cutter pictorial getting in the way of what would otherwise be a successful model.
- Centerfold: B
Her centerfold is about as sterile and uninteresting as her pictorial, but on top of that, some of the glittering sheen that is Heather's forte in her photo series is unfortunately missing.
- Overall: B
Heather does bring something to the table to kick things off in January. Ultimately, though, as Playmates go each year, she should fall into the average middle of the pack. While Heather is a beautiful woman with some definite strengths, first of all being her excellent and photogenic body, she also suffers from many of the same problems we saw in 2011. Heather's pictorial is dismal, and leaves a bad taste in the eyes of Playboy voters. Add to that a lack of aggressiveness in her posing and a real dearth of style and creativity, and what you have is a Playmate that won't really be talked about as much as she probably should have.
Miss February 2012
Moving on to the current Playmate, and sharing the January-February double issue with Heather, we find Leola Bell, a 27 year old African American bombshell who could be a real game changer in the 2012 class. Leola's performance is a real sight to see, as she has more talent under her thumb than many of the ladies we saw in 2011, and then some. Add to that a killer body and a penchant for posing, and you have a contender.
Leola's strength comes from two things: her body and her sense of style. The former is undeniable - a quick perusal through her pictorial will bring on a sense of surprise and astonishment. You could compare Leola's physique with some of the more recent curvier body types we've seen in the past years, but Miss Bell possesses a subtle difference that sets her apart. For starters, Leola has a great full-frontal shot, with strikingly flat abs and a smooth, strong frame that gets the point across.
When I looked through Leola's pictorial, I was struck by the poise and grace with which Leola poses with - just take a look at this photo, which was one of my true favorites. Here, you get an idea of Leola's great silhouette, which adds to her posing presence simply by having her do nothing at all. Then, she can flip on a switch, with truly aggressive, sexy posing that really looks fantastic on camera.
Then, you get to her sense of style. Leola's confidence and sexuality hearkens back to the great black Playmates of the past, and names like Neferteri Shepherd even come into mind. When she gets actively sensual in front of the camera, it's really something to see, with her amazing costuming and penchant for the camera really coming out. Playboy really gave Leola the star treatment here, with a pictorial that seems to be a complete 180 from the ladies of the past several months. It's both a product of the model and the editing, but boy are these photos something to see.
As you get deeper into her photos, you really get a sense for the talent you're seeing here. Creative poses such as this one, or a subtle look that can really tone down the momentum of the pictorial, are brilliantly executed. All in all, the rest of the 2012 class could take a hint from Miss Bell.
- Face: B
Leola's facial features are unique, and offers a uniqueness that is both endearing and exotic. Although she might look inconsistent in her expressions, this aspect of her is entirely a matter of personal taste.
- Body: A
While almost everything is subjective in the world of Playmates, it's hard to deny that a body like Leola's is a once-a-year experience. Her stunning figure and awesome silhouette makes for a wonderful subject in a great pictorial. Her buxom body is backed up by the numbers: she has the lowest waist-hip ratio since 2009's Dasha Astafieva, and it shows. Her amazing breasts are the precursor to a flat, powerful core, leading to some amazing, sleek legs.
- Talent: A-
Owing somewhat to her great body, Leola uses it to her advantage, and does it extremely confidently. Her sense for the camera is unique, and she varies her posing with great ease, with a physical, risk-taking style that's easy to appreciate.
- Pictorial: A
Leola's pictorial is the real attraction here. With a dynamic set of gorgeous costumes and a great flow from beginning to end, it stays interesting and fresh by giving the model room to be creative and to be herself. With an intimate bedroom backdrop to allow Leola to get subtly seductive, it's a home run.
- Centerfold: B+
While not offering anything revolutionary, Leola's centerfold follows the intimate "Valentine's" theme of her pictorial, and is a good depiction of her amazing physical qualities.
- Overall: A-
Early on in the year, Leola Bell brings a freshness and invigoration that could really supercharge the Playmate of the Year race moving forward. Although there's no "race" yet per se, we'll surely remember Miss Bell as the year comes to a close. She has such a perfect mixture of skill, attitude, and outright physical spectacle, it's tough to deny that what we're seeing is an early game changer here. Leola brings an infusion of talent that really has been lacking in recent months, but could turn the tide and up the ante as much as Tiffany did last year. Unless we see a truly revolutionary class, Leola should easily end up in the top 4 or 5 Playmates towards the end of the year, but that's all left to be seen.