Rhapsody in Brown
miss may makes her move from popcorn peddler to playmate
Cindy Brown is in the middle of a spirited discussion about the environment and destructive human appetites when temptation turns her pretty head. Six Hell's Angels roar up on Rose Avenue, rattling the open windows of the cafe where we sit, just off the beach in Venice, California. "Oh my God," Cindy exclaims, her eyes suddenly gleaming. "I want a Harley real bad!" What? A gas-guzzling vestige of our unenlightened past? "Oh man!" she says, immediately launching into a new story. "I was sitting at Johnny Rockets on Melrose Avenue one night, and this woman drove up solo on a Harley. That's supposed to be a man thing. Everybody gave her respect right away. I'm constantly looking for a way to do things that women aren't supposed to do."
In another day and age, this extraordinary girl-next-door might have been an outlaw or a revolutionary. Raised on a small farm in the desert town of Boron, California, two hours north of Los Angeles, she threw a broccoli stalk into the family works when, at 15, she became a vegetarian. The folks at home had to adjust. "We raised animals -- horses, sheep, goats, pigs, cows, chickens. My dad is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, and he was raising most of these animals for our food. I grew up accepting that, but when I got older I realized that I like feeding the animals more than I like eating them."
Cindy is certain that her Cherokee ancestry, mostly ignored by her parents, guides her environmental consciousness. "I would love to work for the Environmental Protection Agency someday," she says. "I'd like to straighten it out because it's as crooked as it gets. I could help companies clean up their acts." (Note to Al Gore: She couldn't hurt.)
Life is always a little bumpy for a maverick, but Cindy says her mom -- with whom she lives now, along with her stepfather and two stepbrothers -- is her inspiration. "I can't believe how much I've become like her," she muses, smiling. "I'm a very strong and independent person because of her. She's always telling me, 'Sooner or later you're going to be on your own. Your going to have to make your own choices then, so you might as well start doing it now." One of those choices was to pose for Playboy. Cindy and her mom are proud of the decision, and we applaud it too. After all, what use is a natural wonder if no one can see it?
-- Clint Gila
Photography by Arny Freytag