In the early days, Playboy sought out models, but as the magazine gained traction, it was the models that pursued the magazine. The models know that they will be seen by millions of people and that it is a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
Playboy was able to boost its profile by having famous stars like Jayne Mansfield, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren and Tina Louise pose in the buff. Of course, the very first centerfold was Marilyn Monroe. It continues that tradition today with celebrities such as Pam Anderson and a slew of others.
It’s not uncommon for female celebrities on the downsides of their careers to attempt a last effort at rekindling their fame. Washed up stars such as Belinda Carlisle, Tiffany Darwish, and Tara Reid, among many others, have been immortalized in the pages of Playboy.
There have also been some very high-profile and gorgeous female athletes that have agreed to bare all. Some do it for the money or to boost their sagging careers while some do it to make a statement. Either way, fans of the magazine are more than happy to take a peek at the latest offering.
With maybe the exception of ‘wrestling Divas’, there have really been a limited number of female athletes that have posed for Playboy which makes them a rare and highly anticipated commodity. Here are 15 female athletes you didn’t know did Playboy.
15 Gabrielle Reece
While Gabby Reece was majoring in communications at Florida State University, she was showing off her athletic skills as a star volleyball player. She had a great career in the sport while she boosted her profile through modelling. In 1989, Elle named her one of the five most beautiful women in the world. Gabby pleased her fans when she appeared in the January 2001 issue of Playboy magazine. Tastefully baring it all, the 6’3” blonde attracted a new generation of fans and boosted her celebrity status.
She has gone on to work in television, as well as adding the title of ‘author’ to her long resume. She remains involved in fitness with her creation of HighX, a training and conditioning program designed to maximize the body’s ability to burn fat and build muscle. At 46-years-old, Gabby maintains the hot body that she showed us in that 2001 spread.
14 Amanda Beard
With seven Olympic medals under her belt, the beautiful Amanda Beard is one of the sexiest female athletes of all time. She got global attention when, at the age of 14, Amanda won three medals at the 1996 Olympic games. She was a fixture through the next three Olympics but her run came to an end when she failed to qualify for the 2012 games. She still trains hard and hasn’t given up hope of returning to compete in the Olympics.
Amanda has been featured in many magazines but her most revealing appearance was in the July 2007 issue of Playboy. Unfortunately, despite baring a little T&A, the photo shoot holds the distinction of being one of the tamer Playboy pictorials. Still, a little bit of something beats a lot of nothing.
13 Kiana Tom
Nothing could cure a hangover like tuning into Kiana’s Flex Appeal. Her hypnotizing exercise routines could easily calm those waves behind our throbbing eyeballs as she bent over, stretched, and worked up a glistening sweat in her revealing work-out gear. She was a key part of other fitness shows such as Kiana’s Too Fit 2 Quit and Hot Summer Nights with Kiana.
Her fans had a pretty good idea of what Kiana had underneath her tight top and tiny shorts but she showed us anyway when she posed for Playboy in May 2002.
As suspected, Kiana’s naked body was just as fine as most people had imagined. She showed the world that it is possible for a woman to have great tone and muscle while being 100% feminine.
12 Ashley Harkleroad
After a career in professional tennis that netted her over $1 million and eight singles titles, Ashley Harkleroad retired in 2012. She achieved her highest ranking in 2003 when she was 39th. Inspired by aforementioned Amanda Beard’s 2007 Playboy appearance, Ashley decided to accept Playboy’s offer to pose ude for their March 2008 issue. She became the first professional female tennis player to land on the pages of the famous magazine and she did not disappoint. Who would have thought that picking up a tennis ball could look so exciting?
11 Katharina Scholz
Those that follow German field hockey should be familiar with Katharina Scholz. Those that don’t follow German field hockey should check out the August 2008 German Playboy Olympic Issue. Katharina is one hot woman and she left her fans satisfied when she posed for this pictorial.
Her blonde hair and piercing blue eyes are just a couple of attributes that really stick out. It’s hard to fully appreciate what a fine figure Scholz has underneath her baggy field hockey uniform but she has some of the finest curves in the world. Katharina is sure to be one of the most talked about athletes in the upcoming Summer Olympics as her team attempts to score a medal.
10 Maria Butyrskaya
There is something intriguing about watching female figure skaters. Perhaps it’s their flexibility? Maybe it’s the choreography? It could also be the way they perform triple Lutzes in those short skirts. During her heyday in the late 90s, Russian figure skater and two-time Olympian Maria Butyrskaya dominated at the World Championships and the European Championships. Sadly for Maria, she never found Olympic success. She did manage to find a bit of fame by posing for the November 1998 Russian Playboy issue. The pictorial is nowhere near as racy as people might expect and it may actually be considered ‘safe for work’. Maria leaves a lot to the imagination but she proves that her body is in top condition.
9 Arianny Celeste
Her resume says that she is a model and an UFC octagon girl. Her bio at UFC.com says that her hobbies include Muay Thai and kickboxing, so we'll say that she has just enough credentials to be considered an athlete. Celeste is best known for her work in the octagon and in magazines. She is the reigning UFC ‘Ring Girl of the Year’ and has been a fixture in Maxim’s Hot 100 for several years. Like many fading one-hit wonders, Arianny appeared in Playboy. In the November 2010 issue, Celeste shows her fans the results of rigorous exercise and a proper diet.
There is no denying that she is worthy of sex symbol status. She keeps herself in top condition as she tries to thwart other young and sexy up-and-comers from claiming her coveted title.
8 Amy Acuff
This 40-year-old track and field star has competed in every summer games since her debut at the 1996 Olympic Summer Games and the high jump specialist is training for the upcoming 2016 games in Rio. Her highest outdoor jump was an incredible 2.01 meters in 2003. Amy Acuff is also a model who has appeared in several magazines such as FHM, Esquire, and Maxim. Amy created a bit of a stir when she appeared in a 2004 issue of Playboy magazine. The blonde showed off her buff and curvaceous figure in several revealing, yet tasteful shots. The UCLA Athletics Hall of Famer’s competitive days are numbered but she still has what it takes to turn heads. Her fans hope that she finds success in Rio and gets inspired to take part in one more Playboy pictorial.
7 Nicole Reinhardt
Sprint canoeing isn’t the most high-profile sport in the world, but with Nicole Reinhardt as one of its prominent faces, canoeing is sure to gain a wider audience. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist just turned 30 but Nicole has a few good years of competition left in her as she strives for canoeing greatness. She was able to boost her profile by posing in a sexy photo session for the 2008 German Playboy Olympic issue. The photos feature a canoe, some paddles and an eyeful of Nicole’s silky skin. She may strike gold at the Rio Olympics but her fans have already struck gold thanks to Playboy.
6 Romy Tarangul
Another beautiful German female athlete is the tantalizing Romy Tarangul. The 28-year-old Romy is an Olympic judoka who competes in the 52 kg category. She is also one of the gorgeous German female athletes to pose for the 2008 German Playboy Olympic Issue. She told interviewers that she “can beat up men with her sport” and that she can be good at judo without being an “unfeminine muscular amazon.” She is probably right on both counts.
She shows viewers that she has tremendously tanned skin and contours that will drive many guys crazy. Some people might be tempted to thank her after taking one of her kicks to the face, just as we thank the photographer for showing us how stunningly sexy Romy Tarangul is.
5 Christy Hemme
A self-described “tomboy,” Christy Hemme is a model, singer and now retired in-ring wrestler. She has confidently displayed her incredibly physique in many magazines such as Maxim and Rolling Stone. Let’s not forget the great work she did for her Playboy spread in the April 2005 issue. In that issue, Hemme appears in a bubble bath, on a bed, and she seems to suffer through a wardrobe malfunction as she walks a red carpet flanked with ogling photographers.
Her days of implementing her signature split-legged sunset flip appear to be over but she still has plenty of projects on the go and she remain a ring announcer for TNA. She can add the title of ‘mother’ to her list of accomplishments after giving birth to a daughter in January 2015.
4 Leeann Tweeden
She loves dirt bike riding, reading classic literature, impressionist art, traveling and music, so television personality and fitness model Leeann Tweeden is much more than just a pretty face. She has taken her naturally good looks and charm and parlayed them into a nice career. She was a correspondent for The Best Damn Sports Show Period before moving on to hosting Poker After Dark. She has done bits of work with Fox Sports doing pre-game and post-game interviews at Anaheim Angels games, as well as working on UFC Tonight. Don’t forget the athletic fitness modeling.
Some of this ex-Hooters girl’s finest work is in the December 2011 issue of Playboy where she spends a hot day at the beach before heading to a clam bake. She shows off a pretty varied repertoire of poses on the fine white sand and in the crystal blue tropical water. Surprisingly, she doesn’t go all the way, but viewers will be satisfied with how far she went.
3 Katarina Witt
At the age of 32, Katarina Witt tired of the “cute, pretty ice princess” image of female figure skaters and she set her mind on changing the perception (even though we're pretty sure Tonya Harding already changed that clean image a few years earlier). In any event, her course of action was to appear in the December 1998 issue of Playboy. It was obviously a well-received decision. That issue of Playboy became just the second issue to ever sell out, as the East German Olympic gold medalist bared it all to the delight of her many fans.
2 Mia St. John
Former WBC Super Welterweight Champion Mia St. John is nicknamed “The Knockout.” Her moniker could have been earned due to her 18 knockout victories in the ring or because Mia is simply a knockout in the looks department. Either way, the name “Knockout” is fitting.
Her professional debut was on Valentine’s Day of 1997 and she continues to do battle today at the age of 48. One might think that nearly 20 years in the ring would have a severe effect on her looks, but it simply hasn’t. Mia looks surprisingly awesome considering her line of work.
Mia showed how much of a knockout she is when she appeared in the November 1999 issue of Playboy and what a photo shoot it was. The raven haired pugilist made many guys want to go for a round or two with her as she struck many provocative poses. This pictorial is a must-see and will have viewers itching to see her next fight.
1 Rebekka Armstrong
She is one of the first professional female athletes to pose for Playboy. She appeared in all her glory in the September 1986 issue and got noticed. This bodacious bodybuilder’s life story is filled with drama and sadness. In 1994, Rebekka announced that she was HIV positive. Armstrong guessed that she was infected at the age of sixteen and that she had known about her diagnosis for several years. After discovering her condition, Rebekka went through several painful years of substance abuse, severe depression, and she even attempted suicide.
Thankfully, she got out of her funk and turned her life around. Rebekka got into bodybuilding and has become one of the more prominent faces in the fight against AIDS. These days she is a muscle-bound picture of health that inspires those stricken with the terrible disease. We wish you the best Rebekka!