March 17, 2011

Clinton native to grace Playboy centerfold

By Avery Yale Kamila akamila@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

When the June issue of Playboy magazine hits newsstands, Mei-Ling Lam of Clinton will join the likes of Pamela Anderson, Anna Nicole Smith, Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe, as a Playmate of the Month.

click image to enlarge

Mei-Ling Lam, of Clinton.

Stewart Smith Photography

The 27-year-old graduate of Nokomis High School will be June's featured Playmate, with a centerfold pictorial spread. She will be the first Playmate from Maine.

"I love to cook and, of course, I love to shop," Lam said. "I love fashion. I love basketball too, and the Celtics. I can't tell you what the theme of my photo shoot was, but it incorporates things I love."

Lam was Miss Teen Maine USA in 2001 and placed 12th in the national pageant, which aired on CBS. Since then, she has attended Husson College and modeled for companies such as New Balance and Hasbro.

Lam said she was unfazed by baring it all for Playboy.

While participating in pageants and modeling, she often has had to strip down and change clothes quickly in rooms full of people. It prepared her for the nude modeling session.

"When I did the shoot, I didn't even think anything of (being nude)," Lam said. "There were about 10 people in the room where we were shooting. Between shoots, I was eating Dove chocolates. I'm very comfortable in my own skin."

Even so, she did hesitate before agreeing to the shoot.

"My concern was, 'What are people going to think of me?' " Lam said. "What are people in a small town and a small state going to say? I'm fairly conservative. I'm a Christian, but I'm open-minded."

Once she considered the boost that a Playboy centerfold could give to her modeling career, Lam decided to go ahead.

And her family is proud of her decision.

"My whole family is happy for her," said her mother, Paula Lam of Clinton. "I don't feel uncomfortable at all with it. I look at it like a painter who would paint a nude figure. I know she's going to be nude, but she's not the first, and she won't be the last."

Lam's love of cooking comes from her parents, who ran Hawaiian Paradise in Newport and were partners in Oriental Garden in Augusta. Her dad, Kam Houng Lam, died in 2002. Her older siblings, Jason Lam and Andrea Lam, live in Clinton.

Lam credits the fashion photographer Stewart Smith, formerly of Portland and now of Boston, with promoting her modeling career. He connected her with a modeling gig for Maxim magazine, and submitted her photos to Playboy.

"She's in great shape, and she's a beautiful girl," Stewart said. "She has an exotic look, and Playboy is kind of stepping away from the blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl."

So far, Lam has taken three trips to Los Angeles for the photo shoot. She must make at least one more trip, to film a video that will be featured on Playboy's website.

Lam has spent a good chunk of time at the Playboy Mansion in recent months, attending the Oscars party and many weekly gatherings, such as movie nights and Fun in the Sun Sundays.

"The Playboy Mansion is not what I expected," she said. "I wasn't sure if I was going to see multiple topless women running around. Instead, it's very warm and welcoming. The staff is really sweet. It's surprisingly a lot like a home."

In December, when she met Playboy founder Hugh Hefner for the first time, the first thing he did was comment on the nor'easter that Maine was having at the time.

"He was very sweet," Lam said. "He's not what people would perceive him to be."

A publicist for Playboy confirmed that Lam will be the June Playmate, but because Playboy has yet to announce her appearance in the magazine, no one was available to comment Wednesday.

The June issue will be available starting May 13. Around that time, Lam will go to Las Vegas to attend a release party for the issue. She said she also wants to host a party in Portland for her family and friends.

Lam doesn't want to make any assumptions about her future.

"I'm praying for more opportunities to come," she said. "That's one of the reasons I did it. But I'm not going to anticipate or expect it."

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