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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Playmate Hopefuls Ready to 'Show It Off'

Not every woman can step off an overnight train from Kiev refreshed, rested and ready to take all her clothes off.

But Liliana Polozova, one of 16 semifinalists chosen to take part in Playboy's first Russian playmate contest, did just that Thursday morning. With her perfectly unsmudged mauve lipstick and her wrinkle-free black suit, Polozova headed across town for her Playboy screen test. To top it all off, she was having a great hair day.

"This is a big step forward for my career," said Polozova, a fashion model for Ukraine's main television station. "But first I have to make it," she added, as if fearful of jinxing her chances to be Russia's first playmate of the month.

Muscovite Maria Tarasevich, 23, is also no stranger to the camera. A big-band singer who performs in Moscow night clubs, Tarasevich has dabbled in modeling and film work, but Thursday was the first time she ever shed her clothes before the camera.

"It all happened so fast, there was no time to be nervous," said Tarasevich.

Besides, if you have a beautiful body, there is nothing wrong in showing it to other people, she said. "On the contrary, I think it is greedy if you keep it to yourself."

"Why did all the painters of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries paint naked women?" Tarasevich added. "There is no shame in it -- especially for such a prestigious magazine."

Tarasevich and 15 other semifinalists were chosen from among 300 contestants who responded from all over Russia, Ukraine and the Baltics to the contest announcement in last September's issue of Playboy, which is published by Independent Media, the parent obvious undesirables, such as the photo of himself sent by a 40-year- old man. After crawling around on the floor long enough, the Playboy staff managed to choose the 16 semifinalists who gathered Thursday for their tryout photo shoot. The winner not only gets to be Russia's first playmate, but she gets a free trip to Playmate Central in Chicago.

"This comes out every month, right? So where are they going to get the other girls from?" asked Kristina Kasparavichute, a contestant from Lithuania, sipping a Starlite strawberry milkshake.

Indeed, none of the contestants seemed to care about winning prizes or trips abroad. They seemed more interested in the Playboy nude centerfold. Or, as one potential playmate called it, that little poster in the middle.

"My friends were against this, and my mother hasn't spoken to me for weeks," said Natalya Frolkova, a contestant from St. Petersburg. "But I decided to come anyway. I like taking my clothes off before the camera. If you've got it, why not show it off?"

The real contest will come down to exactly that -- who can show it off better.

"In the end, I can get every girl nicely on film, but what you need is talent," said Govert de Roos, a photographer for Dutch Playboy, who flew into Moscow to do the photo shoot.

"How much beauty she can give the camera -- that has nothing to do with experience," said de Roos, adding that several of Thursday's contestants had the right stuff to become Playmate material.

"I already have three favorites -- a favorite personality, a favorite body, and a favorite attitude," said de Roos. "I wish I could wrap them all up into one."