meet another overachiever from arkansas
At 21, Kalin Olson finally feels like a grown-up woman. "I was always a tomboy, running and jumping and shooting at turtles in my grandma's pond. Not real feminine," she says. But when her high school class in tiny Pearcy, Arkansas voted her Girl Most Likely to Model, it dawned on Kalin that she wasn't boyish anymore. Indeed she was right purty, as her fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton might say. So the shiest girl in town did the boldest, wildest thing she could think of. "I entered a bikini contest!" she says. Guess who won?
Kalin's smile and Olympian figure quickly made her the hottest ingenue in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She entered last year's Miss Hawaiian Tropic pageant, won a trip to Hawaii and soon was headed for modeling gigs from Miami to Paris. Not bad for a girl who still worries that big-city people won't cotton to her accent. Now that she has left boyishness behind, she frets about another drawback: "I have to drive all the way to the mall in Little Rock for my Victoria's Secret lingerie," she says. "I just love modeling that stuff for my man." Kalin may sound a bit country, but she says she "didn't just step out of the woods." Her great-grandfather Culbert Olson was governor of California half a century ago. The family returned to its Arkansas roots, which nourished the Clinton clan in Hope as well as filmmaker Billy Bob Thornton in nearby Malvern. Kalin says, "It's getting almost cool to be from Arkansas."
Even in small-town America, sex is more complex than it used to be, says Kalin. "It's scary. Sex can get out of control. In my high school we had assemblies on AIDS, but nothing changed. Everyone was too embarrassed to buy condoms." Some of her classmates dealt with the problem by marrying young and got tied down by family duties before they even turned 18. Kalin -- much like Clinton, Thornton and other cool Arkansans -- left to share her homegrown gifts with the world.
Photography by Arny Freytag and Stephen Wayda