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taking it off.
Beard changes from swimsuit to birthday suit
Theres a lot more of the 25-year-old swimmer on view in the July issue of Playboy, where a topless Beard is on the cover billed as the worlds sexiest athlete nude.
Inside, she takes off her clothes in eight pictures certain to create a stir among rivals and young girls who consider her a role model.
Beard is unapologetic about what she calls her latest outside adventure. After all, shes modeled in mens magazines before, notably a spread in FHM that left little to the imagination. (Editor: The author must not have a very vivid imagination.)
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I really felt excited and motivated to do it, she told The Associated Press, sipping coffee in the sunny backyard of her Venice home.
Im kind of used to people not necessarily agreeing with everything that I do and thats totally fine. This doesnt change my personality or who I am. Its just a business decision, a career decision.
Beard, who previously dated NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, posed in the prime of her career. Shes aiming to qualify for her fourth Olympics next year in Beijing, and is the Olympic champion and former world-record holder in the 200-meter breaststroke.
It may be months before Beard is competing in meets and can gauge the reaction of her fellow swimmers to her magazine spread. She wont begin serious training for the Olympics until later this year, when she plans to give up riding motorcycles, snowboarding and vacations.
It would only feel awkward if they make comments to me about it, she said. Well see how that one goes.
Beard first came to attention at the 1996 Games, where as a scrawny 14-year-old she toted her teddy bear to the starting blocks and won two silver medals. She medaled at the 2000 Games, too.
Theres a lot of debate about whether it demeans women and female athletes, said Dave Salo, Beards coach at Trojan Swim Club. If nothing else, it celebrates the athleticism and takes away from the model-type women.
Beard is aware of the criticism she could get from the mothers of young swimmers and girls. But she points out those are some of the same people who had her autograph FHM when she was in that magazine.
Ive had so many women approach me and say, We love seeing a good, healthy body being portrayed as beauty, she said. Im healthy. I work out like crazy. Im not one of those people thats partying wee into the hours. This, I think, is a better role model than most.
Within her own family, Beard was surprised at the reaction.
My grandma was like, Oh, she doesnt need to do that, but its her choice, she said, adding that her divorced parents backed her, too.
I told my dad that Id take like black tape and kind of mark out certain things, so he doesnt feel awkward looking at it. Hes like, Could ya?
Beard said her agent, Evan Morgenstein, had previously turned down Playboy because she wasnt ready. He points out that she is not the victim.
Beard said she was swayed this time because the magazine allowed her to select the photographer (a woman), the photos that were used and the settings. Morgenstein declined to comment on how much Beard was paid.
The thing I respect most about her is shes always been willing to take the risk and let the chips fall where they may, he said. Shes more of a role model today because shes willing to stand up and take the heat.
Beard is trying to position herself for a career away from the pool, and she sees the magazine spread as a way to attract nonswimming fans.
She envisions developing her own business empire, similar to former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kathy Irelands line of apparel and home furnishings.
She and Morgenstein have hired a licensing agency to help develop products, like fragrances, apparel and home products to be part of a signature Amanda Beard collection. Shes also sorting through TV hosting offers and a movie script.
You have to remember, Im still just a swimmer,
she said. I am living a great lifestyle and Im making
good money, but Im not a basketball player. These deals are not
$40 million deals.
Other female athletes who have posed for Playboy
Beards Playboy cover worth cheering about
Accustomed to taking to the starting blocks in bathing suits that fit her like skin, shes now showing off in her birthday suit in the latest edition of Playboy. So you know that youre going to hear plenty about how the whole idea is demeaning to women in general and to women athletes in particular.
Pay no attention to any of it. Beard is a gorgeous, 25-year-old woman in the absolute peak of physical health and condition. If she wants to show off that body and get paid a tidy sum to do so its for her to decide and those of us who arent cluttered with hang-ups to enjoy.
Shes not a wide-eyed kid who doesnt have the sense to come in out of the rain, but a strong and determined adult who knows where shes going in life and is willing to work her fanny off to get there. As she told the Associated Press, this isnt about narcissism, but business. Her long-term goal, after the 2008 Olympics and perhaps a few more medals to go with the seven (two gold) she has collected since 1996, is to go into business. She wants to have her own clothing line, among other things, and this is a way to get her name, among other things, in front of the public.
Its a good decision, made for the right reasons. And it harms no one, including those impressionable little girls who want to grow up to be great swimmers just like her.
If nothing else, Dave Salo, her swimming coach, told the AP, shes showing off what a real woman looks like, and not what the size-zero-obsessed fashion industry trots down the runway.
Beard put it this way: Im healthy. I work out like crazy. Im not one of those people thats partying wee into the hours. This, I think, is a better role model than most.
If youve got a problem with that, take it to Monica Goodling. Im sure the former Chief Prude of the Justice Department can help you hang fig leaves on the pictures so your delicate sensibilities arent offended and your libido isnt tempted to assert itself.
I know all the arguments against women showing off their bodies. If you want to see them taken to their illogical conclusion, emigrate to Saudi Arabia or Iran or join the Taliban. Once youre decided that the burqa is oppressive, youre just talking about degree of exposure.
The reality is that we enjoy looking at athletes. Every female football fan, if coerced into honesty, will admit that one of the allures of the game is seeing muscular, athletic guys in those bun-hugger pants. And men are far more visually oriented than women. They like to look at physically attractive women.
Without nudity, what would museums do? Since before Praxiteles put chisel to marble in ancient Greece, artists have been celebrating the human form, both male and female.
Whats amusing is that if a nude female is the subject of a painting, its art. If shes the subject of a pictorial in a magazine, its pornography. At least so were told.
Heres where the yes, but comes in, as in, Yes, but isnt it awful that in the first decade of the 21st century, nearly 25 years after Title IX, a female athlete still has to take her clothes off to get noticed? Shouldnt their excellence in the arena be enough?
Forget it. That argument that sounds noble, and maybe in someones idea of Utopia, thats the way it would be. But in the real world, more people pay more money to watch men play sports than to watch women play them.
Thats not universal, though. In tennis, the audience comes to see both men and women, and both sexes rake in the same mountains off cash. In gymnastics and figure skating, more pay to see the women, and there the men lag behind in gymnastics, far behind.
So if you want to say that its not fair that women in, say, the WNBA, dont make the same money and draw the same crowds as the men in the NBA, youll also have to say that its not fair that Mary Lou Retton made way more money than Bart Connor.
Come to think of it, youd also have to say that its not fair that Beard and other athletes who have answered Playboys call Katerina Witt and volleyball star Gabby Reece among them get paid all that money just to take their clothes off, while nobodys offering Michael Phelps similar amounts to shed his Speedo.
Besides, the offer from Playboy is a recognition of Beards great athleticism. If she werent one of the worlds great swimmers, the magazine wouldnt be interested. So she really is being paid because of her athletic ability.
Ive seen her swim at three Olympics, and she and her teammates are a joy to watch in action. The fact shes in Playboy doesnt detract from that. Rather, it adds to it.
So dont call it demeaning. Whats demeaning to women in general and women athletes in particular is imposing your moral and psychosexual hang-ups on them. Beard is an individual who made a perfectly legal and legitimate decision. It may not be your decision, but theres not a thing wrong with it.
If you have a problem with nudity or with tattoos,
piercings, baggy pants, tight pants, no pants do everyone a
favor and keep it to yourself. If you disapprove, dont buy the
magazine. If you do approve, enjoy.