melinda's a nut about health and fitness and a hell of a lot more inspiring than richard simmons
The first time you meet Melinda Mays, she's likely to smile and say in her soft, husky, little-girl voice, "Hey." On the other hand, she might not. Because of pressure from boyfriends who've told her she's too friendly to men ("They say I might give guys the wrong impression"), Melinda is trying to cut down her natural gregariousness. It's impossible, of course. You can see it in her eyes. It's also nearly impossible to interpret Melinda's "Hey" as a come-on: This is one very sweet, innocent (well, relatively) young girl. The kind of girl you want to wrap your arms around and protect for life against all those sleazo guys out there. But then, that's the charm of Southern women. They make you want to protect them. Besides, friendliness has certainly done Melinda more good than harm. It helped her get a job as an aerobics-and-exercise instructor at an Atlanta-area health club, and it keeps her students smiling. Melinda, who was born and has lived all her life in Georgia, is the kind of exercise coach fat folks dread and love at the same time. Her workouts are grueling (take it from us; we saw one) and her attitude toward excess avoirdupois is merciless. "As far as I'm concerned, people are in trouble if they're ten pounds overweight. They may not think they're fat, but I think they are. Of course, I don't tell people that. I just stress the fact that they can lose weight if they really want to. Some women think they look better with a little extra weight. That's fine with me. I just try to help each of my students get his or her body into the shape he or she would like."
Naturally, Melinda has never had to battle the bulge the way some of us have. Not only has she never been fat, she was her high school's prom queen and the hottest thing happening in the small town of Conyers, where she spent most of her teen years. "Hanging out around the ice cream parlor was about the most exciting thing we kids did." Melinda says she was a good student until "I suddenly got distracted by other things. Like guys. I hated boys when I was in grammar school. Once a boy kissed me and I got so mad I cried."
After high school, Melinda eschewed college for employment. While job hunting, she signed up for an aerobics class at the club where she now teaches. "I had no idea how hard it would be," she says. "I teach three 45-minute classes in a row, with 15-minute breaks in between. Often, when I go home at the end of the day, I'm just too exhausted to do anything." However, since she was chosen as a Playmate, Melinda has suspended her classes for a while (sorry, all you fat guys in Atlanta who were ready to sign up tomorrow). She has also gained five pounds. The weight gain is understandable: Melinda can eat. The afternoon we took her to lunch, she had broiled scallops, potatoes, salad, two glasses of wine and a chocolate brownie smothered with ice cream. "Ice cream is one of my weaknesses," she confesses. "I'd say I go to Baskin-Robbins for ice cream at least four nights a week." We proposed that perhaps the best ploy for a guy who wanted to woo her would be to offer her ice cream. "Definitely," she laughed. "And now that you mention it, one guy did just that. One day, I was shopping for clothes, and a guy just came up to me and asked me if I'd like to go get an ice-cream cone. I couldn't believe it. I would have loved to go have one but if there's one thing I love more than ice cream, it's shopping." We suggested that perhaps a better ploy would be to offer her an ice-cream come with a credit-card topping. She laughed again.
Photography by Arny Freytag