ELKE, ELKE UBER ALLES
miss may, elke jeinsen, is a real deutsch treat
Elke Jeinsen admits she is "a little bit famous" in Hanover, Germany. Which is like saying a BMW is fairly good on the autobahn. In both cases, of course, the secret is high performance. Through hard work and perseverance, Miss May translated her natural beauty into an international modeling career. Representing various German sportswear, swimwear and Unterwear companies, she has graced scenery from Mexico to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, from Spain to Greece to Canada, where she worked in Calgary during the 1988 Olympics. Elke's first career move was a lark. When she was 15 years old, she entered a modeling contest sponsored by a German teen magazine. At the time, her main interests were horseback riding and boys. She thought she'd probably learn a profession one day, but she hadn't given it much thought. Then she won the contest. "They chose me out of five hundred girls for a photo shoot in Munich," she says. Two years later she landed a modeling job in New York. "That was the first time a photographer told me, 'Hey, you have talent.' So I thought, OK, I can do this." Tah-lent, as Elke charmingly pronounces it, earned her the title of Miss Hanover in 1985. She was working as a secretary -- the profession she had trained for after graduating from high school. She quit. Soon after, she appeared as a Playmate in Playboy Germany. "The local newspaper devoted an entire page to me. So in Hanover I'm a little bit famous, you know?" In the media blitz that followed, Bunny Elke, as the papers dubbed her, posed with local notables and caught the eye of deutsch admen. As a result, she worked as much as she wanted. She lived in Milan for a year while starring in a variety show on Italian TV. While there, she learned Italian. Last summer, Elke came to America to model German sportswear in the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. When the job was done, she headed west. "I had five days free and I thought, Los Angeles is close to Las Vegas. Why not go and see?" Since then she has been back five times, spending most of the autumn and winter improving her English in the photo studios and nightclubs of L.A. "I learned formal English in school," she says. Elke hopes to pursue an acting career in a few years, after she perfects her English. "When I first came here, I didn't understand anything. Now I understand ninety percent. When I speak, maybe my grammar isn't correct, but everybody understands." The palmy West Coast welcomed Elke with an open checkbook. "I didn't know that Americans like European girls. That must be true because I get a lot of jobs here. Even though the money is better in Europe, I really enjoy working in the U.S. Everyone here is so friendly and free, and everything is so new. The only thing I don't like is that nightclubs close at two o'clock. In Spain they open at two A.M. and stay open until ten." Elke has kept a small apartment in Hanover, near the building where her parents, an auto mechanic and a secretary, live next door to her brother, who owns a tanning salon. When she's home, she likes to visit with her family and friends and to ride her two horses -- she's been riding since she was 12 -- which she stables outside the city. Sound bucolic? Elke views her newly united homeland unsentimentally. "I miss my family and I miss my animals," she says, musically accenting ahn-ee-máhls. "That's it." In Germany she zips around in her BMW cabriolet, topping 200 kilometers per hour on the autobahn. That's about 125 mph, sports fans. "Here you can't even drive a hundred." She means kilometers -- that's more than 60 mph. No, you can't. Tooling the Los Angeles freeways, the fair-haired Fraulein squirms in her seat. "I have the feeling I could walk faster."
Photography by Arny Freytag