It's nothing new for female athletes to pose for Playboy (Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard and former volleyball player Gabrielle Reece have both posed), but Ashley Harkleroad is the first pro female tennis player to appear on the cover. Although she may not be well-known, she does rank in the top 100 in the world and recently moved up to 72. Harkleroad decided to pose for Playboy to show that athletic women could be sexy. Um, I'm not sure where she heard that they weren't, but I guess there are worse reasons to pose nude.
Her eight-page spread in the August 2008 issue is causing quite a stir on the tennis scene. She said:
"For me, I have a very natural body. I'm an athlete who is fit and not very big-busted at all. I'm proud of that. I wanted to show that female athletes, who are fit and muscular, can have very beautiful bodies just like regular models. l'll be the first tennis player ever. That's kind of cool."
I think it's great to be proud of your body, especially when Playboy's definition of sexy has traditionally been thin and big-busted ladies. To hear what Serena Williams said in response to Harkleroad's photos and to see the first page of her layout read more.
After hearing about Harkleroad's photo shoot, Serena said, "I can't say right now it's in any thought of my mind to be in that mag, but I'm happy for her if that's what she wanted to do. It takes a lot of courage." Well that's supportive and non-judgmental.
Although this photo isn't very revealing, as you turn the page, there are some topless shots of her on the court. Realistic? Harkleroad said, "I really didn't think it was that big of a deal." Do you admire this tennis player for showing off her athletic body, or do you think she's undermining the credibility of female athletes? Should there be some kind of rule about professional athletes posing nude? Would you want to show off your body if you worked hard to be fit and toned? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. I am truly curious to hear what you all think.