The Toast of Melba
playmate reneé tenison is the best thing to come out of idaho since the spud
Last year had its bad news and good news for Reneé Tenison. First came the downer: Just before she was to appear in the 1988 Miss Idaho USA beauty pageant, she broke out with "the worst acne I've ever had. Before I went on stage, I knew I wouldn't win." And she was right. She didn't. But then came the upper: Her boyfriend, bodybuilder Dale Parkinson, who was the 1983 Mr. Idaho, had sent photos of Reneé to us for our 35th Anniversary Playmate Hunt, and the day after the Miss Idaho USA pageant, she received a call from Playboy inviting her to Chicago to pose for our centerfold. By the time she arrived, her skin was clear and Reneé was, as you can see, in top form. Reneé, who grew up in Melba, Idaho, is special for many reasons. First, she's a twin, and her sister Rosie is every bit as beautiful as Reneé. And then Reneé's parents' marriage is interracial -- one of the first such in the state of Idaho, which is not known for its black population. "My mom, who is white, and my dad, who is black, met each other in the Fifties, and they had to go to Nevada to get married, because no one would marry them in Idaho. When they came back to Melba [population approximately 300], they couldn't even go to the grocery together. I really admire them for staying together. There aren't many blacks in Idaho, maybe three thousand out of a population of more than a million." We wondered if Reneé didn't sometimes feel isolated. "Well, I'd rather say I felt special. Being different was an advantage because it made me stand out, and I'd rather stand out than be a wallflower." Idaho, she says has come a long way since her parents were married. "In the last Presidential primary, I was a Jesse Jackson supporter, and I didn't think he had many fans in Idaho, so I was shocked when he did well in our Democratic primary. I think it was because he was speaking to workers, and people in Idaho are hard workers. Also, people here are very religious and they admired what Jackson was doing as a preacher." Since she was discovered by Playboy, Reneé and her boyfriend have bought a house in Boise, where they intend to settle down after they get married. As for her future, Reneé has two fantasies: to design clothes and to make a guest appearance on the television show A Different World. "Perhaps an episode in which the new girl on campus just happens to be a Playmate." Not a bad idea, Cos, if you're listening.
Photography by Arny Freytag