While the sporting world is typically dominated by male athletes, there have been many female athletes throughout history that have proved that playing sports does not mean that you have to be manly, or that the sporting industry stops female athletes from acknowledging their feminine side outside of their profession.
There has been a long history of women that have not only taken their professions by storm, but proved to the world that they can have the best of both worlds as an everyday woman with extraordinary bodies by posing partially, or completely unclothed for men’s magazines, including Playboy. Over the years, Playboy has made it easy for female athletes to show off their less aggressive side, by taking women from around the globe from their sports and given them a laid-back, fun and sexy shoot to embrace the wondrous image that is the female body. Female athletes have become endless stories of unique role models and fascinating obsessions, all of which are mainly based around their diversity; how they can be tough, strong and athletic, yet sustain a soft, feminine and beautiful side to them.
While some have focused solely on their profession to prove what they’re worth, others have taken a more risqué decision by showing off their fun and sexy side and becoming a playmate. In many instances, these decisions have actually boosted female athlete's confidence and empowered them, as well as proving that they’re are much more than just their sporting professions. Many of these successful and inspiring athletes have rather appeared in Playboy magazine’s before their athletic careers or after their competitions had been completed- mostly in an effort to avoid controversy.
Whether it has been for publicity, woman empowerment or athletic inspirations, here are the top 15 female athletes that have posed for Playboy.
Track and field’s Amy Lyn Acuff, along with competing for the United States in five Olympic Games in 1996, 2000, 200, 2008 and 2012, posed nude for Playboy in 2004, the same year that she placed fourth in her division at the Summer Olympic Games. Acuff appeared in the issue alongside many other highly successful athletes, which was heavily noted for its high inclusion of female Olympians for Playboy's special edition issue of the magazine, “Women of the Olympics”. The issue included a twelve page spread of many female athletes, whilst Acuff was honored on the occasion to grace the cover.
Better known as Sable to the wrestling world, Rena began her WWE career way back in 1996 and is considered to be one of the most popular Divas of all time, even to this day. Though she began strictly as a valet, she then began to perform in the ring, even winning the WWE Women's Championshi when she defeated Jacqueline for the belt. She has since retired from in-ring action, but is married to one of the biggest stars in wrestling, Brock Lesnar. In terms of Playboy, she's been on the cover on three occasions, twice by herself and one alongside another WWE Diva in Torrie Wilson. Her first appearance in a Playboy magazine, back in 1999, was one of the highest selling issues of all time.
Although many could argue that LaTasha Marzolla is known for being a Playboy Vixen before an MMA fighter, Marzolla has proven to be extremely capable of being both an impressive fighter and an irresistible Playboy model. Since first appearing in 2002’s Playboy Voluptuous Vixens, Marzolla has been on the covers of many Playboy magazines and is a prime example of a healthy model image. Considering the kick-boxer is a model first and athlete second, she has not only graced the covers of the sexiest magazine in the world, but set an example for fellow models wanting to break away.
At the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships, Nicole Reinhardt has won six Gold Medals, as well as a Gold Medal at the Summer Olympics in 2008 in Beijing. Reinhardt was seen as one of the most attractive females of the Olympic team, which naturally caught the eye of Playboy. With that said, after Playboy asked her to appear in the issue, the Champion kayaker agreed to pose nude for the German edition of Playboy magazine.
Anita Marks was renowned for her five years as a professional footballer, where she was a force to be reckoned as a quarterback for two women’s professional football teams (the Florida Stingrays and Miami Fury). However, in 2002, the world saw the footballer in a different light, when she agreed to pose in a centerfold shoot for Playboy magazine. Upon the acceptance of posing in the nude, Marks insisted that her reasoning for the piece was to prove that“some of the women who play in the league may be appealing to those who read Playboy,” and to argue that it is acceptable to be attractive, sensual and play professional football.
Due to her success as a professional beach volleyball player and well known fitness guru, Gabrielle Reece appeared on the cover of Playboy, where she was able to embrace her athletic, yet feminine body. Apart from her athletic background, the professional volleyball player made an appearance in Elle Magazine, where she was named one of the top five most beautiful women in the world in 1989. In 2001, Reece posed completely nude for Playboy, to prove that athleticism does not take away the beauty in the female body.
Two-time Olympic Gold medalist at the Olympic Games in 1994 and 1998 for her admirable skills in ice dancing, Pasha Grishuk posed for Playboy just after her first year as a gold medal Olympian. Grishuk, along with her partner, Evgeni Platov, is a three-time European champion and four-time World champion in her athletic profession. Her Playboy appearance was shot for a Russian issue of the magazine, where she was not afraid to bare every inch of her body to embrace her feminine side. In the shoot, Grishuk also brought along a pair of ice-skates.
Joanie Laurer is famous for her time in the wrestling world, where she spent her career known as Chyna and was declared by WWE as the Ninth Wonder of the World. Laurer was a force to be reckoned in her athletic profession as a pro-wrestler because she was willing to take on the men, as well as the women, in the ring. Although Laurer is commonly noticed for her tough, muscular build, she was offered to make an appearance in Playboy two times in 2000 and 2002, where she proved to the world that although she's incredibly strong, the pro-wrestler could pull off a sexy, feminine shoot.
Another professional wrestler and female athlete extraordinaire, Torrie Wilson has posed for Playboy twice. Wilson’s athletic career began as a fitness model, where she had won the Ms. Galaxy Championship in 1998 before becoming a professional wrestler; therefore her body was noticeably fit and naturally sexy. In her first appearance on the Playboy cover in 2003, Wilson posed alone and showed off her feminine curves. However, her second Playboy cover was an even greater joy for wrestlers fans, as she posed with fellow wrestler, Sable, in the special Playboy edition of March 2004.
Katarina Witt is considered as one of the greatest figure skaters in history. Before posing for Playboy at the age of 33, Katarina Witt became a six-time European Champion, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and four-time World Champion for figure skating. The German figure skater suggested that her decision to pose nude for the Playboy magazine was to change the idea of female figure skaters being cute and princess-like. Her cover shoots were noticeably popular, as the athlete’s nude pictorial in the Playboy issue became the second ever to be completely sold-out.
Maria Kanellis debuted in the WWE in 2004 after finishing fifth in the Raw Diva Search. By 2005, despite her low finish, Maria was already being viewed as a successful professional wrestler in the WWE. Her sexy persona caught the attention of both the audience, along with the keen eye of Playboy Magazine. Maria posed for Playboy in 2008, receiving the cover and showing her already beloved athletic body to the eyes of people all over the world.
Known as one of the most notable female fitness personalities in the world of sports, along with being a force in her athletic professions, Kiana Tom agreed to pose for Playboy in May of 2002. Despite appearing in several of her own workout series and having a body that most women envied more than anything, Kiana Tom was initially hesitant to appear in the Playboy issue, supposedly because she did not feel as if her body was one-hundred percent ready.
At the age of 14, Olympic Gold medal swimmer, Amanda Beard broke two world records in the 200 meter backstroke and became the second youngest swimmer to win a gold medal in the Olympics. Along with competing at the Olympics on four separate occasions, where Beard won at total of seven medals, the successful Olympian posed for an issue of Playboy. This caused plenty of controversy, despite her intentions of changing the stereotypical view of women by displaying the meaning of feminine power for not only fellow female athletes, but women around the world.
After Ashley Harkleroad made it onto the WTA tour, she also became the first ever professional tennis player to pose for the Playboy magazine in an August issue in 2008. The athlete’s highest ranking of her career was No. 39 in 2003 and unfortunately she never won any renowned international tennis tournaments. Nonetheless, the tennis professional announced the decision to pose for the magazine after playing in the 2008 French Open and admitted in an interview that her decision to pose for Playboy was based on the inspiration of fellow athlete, Amanda Beard, who had also posed for Playboy before.
Not only is Mia St. John an impeccably skilled boxer and highly trained in Taekwondo, she also used her athletic background to portray herself on a sexy, eleven page spread in Playboy magazine. Her boxing themed pictorial was released on November, 1999. She wanted to use a boxing theme to remind her beloved viewers that despite her ability to be laid-back and alluring, she was an athlete first. Throughout her career, St. John wont numerous accolades, including the WBC International Female Welterweight Champion at the age of 40.