bunny-turned-banker venice kong has said her jamaican farewell
The more fun Venice Kong is having, the higher her voice pitch goes. On especially playful days, you're not sure whether it's Venice or Memorex. She's just naturally bubbly and effusive, though you wouldn't have thought so if you'd met her eight years ago. "When I first came to America, I went through a year's worth of culture shock. I stayed in my apartment for one year. I wouldn't venture out. Chicago was too cold, and every time I said something to someone, he would go, 'What?' because I had a very thick Jamaican accent. Plus, in Jamaica, you walk down the street and everyone says, 'Hello,' 'Good morning,' 'Good afternoon.' In this country, you look over your shoulder to see if someone's going to mug you. Getting used to it was weird." When Venice (rhymes with increase) finally ventured out, she found herself at the Chicago Playboy Club applying for a job as a Bunny. She had very interesting references: Both her mother and her aunt had been Bunnies at Playboy's resort in Jamaica. She got the job without any trouble. But Chicago didn't get any warmer. So she left.
Now firmly rooted in Los Angeles, Venice is still struck by the differences between Jamaican and American life.
"When I first went to Chicago, people would ask, 'What are you?' When I said Jamaican, they would say, 'Yes, but are you black, white, Chinese -- what are you?' I just couldn't comprehend that, the prejudice between the races. Jamaicans aren't very prejudiced, because everybody is all mixed up -- you know, half of this, half of that; blacks, Orientals, Indians, whites -- and their motto, which you learn in school, is 'Out of many, one people.'"
Venice remembers her childhood in Jamaica with fondness.
"We weren't rich, but we weren't poor. My father's family owned a bakery and a small market in St. Mary. My mother moved to the United States to find work when I was about six.
"I used to work in my aunt's clothing store. I'd got ten bucks for working three months, and that was a big deal.
"After you graduate from school in Jamaica, there's not much to do, especially in a small town like St. Mary.
But it's a wonderful place to grow up. I'd recommend it to anybody. But it's hard, especially if you want to be a capitalist like me!"
For the past few years, Venice has been making her way in the world of banking and investments. It's a radical change from Bunnydom, to be sure, but she's handling the shift.
"I like to have fun, but when I go into the bank, I'm Miss Conservative. After all, people come to me with the money that they've saved all their lives and want to know it's safe, and I have to give them that impression."
Venice does that in two ways: She tailors her wardrobe to the bank atmosphere and she knows what she's doing. Proving that when you look like Venice, however, is something of a problem.
"It's funny. People come in and ask, 'Where's the guy who works here?' And then I start talking to them and they say, 'Wow, she knows what she's doing.' After that, it's OK!" Venice is counting on banking to become a major part of her career. She'd like to do more modeling but feels her security is in the ledger columns. She's at an age when decisions have to be made.
"I mean, 24 is not the oldest age, but it's kind of a time when you have to start thinking about the future.
"Right now, I think I'm a typical L.A. girl. I talk L.A., hang out L.A. style. But at the same time, I go home and listen to Bob Marley. We eat Jamaican food on Sunday, but I'll still go out for hamburgers. It's fun having two different cultures. I like my life."
Photography by Richard Fegley, Kerry Morris