miss january walked off a college campus and into a modeling career
Sherry Arnett called and asked if we'd like to meet her on her lunch break at Chicago's McCormick Place exposition center. She said she was working a booth at the International Marine Trade Show and Exhibit, but she forgot to tell us which one. We wandered around McCormick Place, which is approximately the size of a small planet, for an hour until we noticed an aisle congested with gentlemen in blue blazers and white deck shoes. We figured we'd found her. Sherry and two other St. Louis models, Kelli Insani and Christine Gardner, were signing posters showing them posed in bikinis around three cans of Awlgrip paint. As the other women leaned over the cardboard table where they unrolled and signed a poster a minute, we noticed that their white shorts carried the words "Our bottoms are as good as our tops" across the derrière. "No, it doesn't bother me," Sherry said later over tuna sandwiches, "because it's really not vulgar. The shorts are long walking shorts, and the slogan makes sense. We're promoting a new protective paint for boats that will prevent crustaceans from sticking to the hulls. That means the boat has less resistance in the water and gets better gas mileage. If they'd asked me to come out here in the bikini I wore in the poster shot, that would have been different. I don't get into that cheesecake stuff." We coughed. "Well, I mean except for you guys at Playboy. If you could call that cheesecake." Sherry's a serious woman. A hard-working woman. A very beautiful woman. The kind of woman who can have a mouth full of tuna, a dollop of mayonnaise on her lip and a straw in her mouth and still look gorgeous. She was born in Sterling, Illinois, but spent most of her childhood in St. Charles, Missouri, where she and her close-knit family (parents and brother) have lived for her whole life. Well, she doesn't actually live in St. Charles now -- she has her own apartment in nearby St. Louis -- but her parents' home is still where the heart is.
"I worry about my parents because they worry about me," she says. "Both of them have worked hard for long hours all their lives for what they have, and they can't quite understand how I can be paid good money for what doesn't appear to be hard work. I don't know if my dad will ever get used to my being a model, but my mom's coming around. I think they'll both end up being very proud of me and my career."
Her parents, you see, wanted her to be a pharmacist. When we discovered her in our search for our second Girls of the Big Ten pictorial (Playboy, September 1984), she was plugging away at pharmacy, with a B average as a University of Iowa sophomore. Since then, things have changed.
"I wasn't really interested in pharmacy," she explains, "so at the end of my sophomore year, I went to St. Louis, walked into a modeling agency and asked if they could use me. They sent me out on a job that day, and I've been working ever since." In fact, in a short 18 months, Sherry has become one of the busiest models in the Gateway city. You've seen her work; those are her baby blues peeking out from all that virginal white lace on our first perfect-bound issue. And now, even as she consumed her last potato chip, a boat-show visitor approached with an October Playboy for her autograph. She finished her inscription just as Insani and Gardner stopped by our table to say it was time to get back to work pushing paint.
When our lunch was over, she had to get back to work. "The other girls and I are signing 2000 posters in two days," Sherry sighs, "and right after that, I'm flying to Los Angeles to shoot my video for The Playboy Channel [look for it in February], then back to St. Louis for another modeling job."
Sherry says she wants to go back to school and change her major to design "after my life slows down a little"; but for now, she's going to see how far she can go on the fast track. "My personal motto," she says, "is that there's nothing a person can't do if she wants it badly enough." That, gentlemen, is the spirit of St. Louis.
Photography by Richard Fegley