miss decesare came, saw, conquered
It seems Carmella DeCesare, a fresh-faced 20-year-old from Westlake, Ohio, took her share of knocks in high school. "I was the girl everybody liked to tease," she confesses. "I wanted to be friends with everyone and have a good time, but it just didn't work out that way. I had three good girlfriends in high school and they stuck by me. Kids at that age are horrible and look for someone to pick on, and I guess I was it. I hadn't grown up yet -- I had big red-frame glasses and no style. My mom and my stepdad always told me, 'Those boys who make fun of you are going to want to date you later.' I never believed them, but now it's my time to shine." Her first triumph over her tormentors came when she beat out thousands of hopefuls to become one of the 12 chosen for Fox' Girl Next Door: The Search for a Playboy Centerfold. Unfortunately, she was one of the two girls who dropped out of the show early. "When I went to California, I was excited and had a different vision," says Carmella. "I thought I would meet all these girls and we would hang out and have fun. Everybody was cutthroat and really wanted to win -- it wasn't the friendliest contest. It freaked me out. I decided to leave because it wasn't for me." But Hef wouldn't let Carmella just disappear. "He asked me if I wanted to rethink my position," she says. "Hef invited me to a Mansion party and I had a blast with him and the girls. He asked me to do a test shoot in Chicago, and I accepted. I became February's Cyber Girl of the Month on Cyber.Playboy.com."
Now that she's Miss April, Carmella says she'd welcome a full-time modeling career, but she's been working on a backup plan. "I'm a college senior studying business administration, and I work as a marketing representative who recruits accounts from mortgage companies. One day while calling on a client, I heard about an open casting call for Playboy in Cleveland. I had done some local modeling, so I thought it would be fun to audition. Interestingly, my mother had auditioned for Playboy 20 years ago. My tryout was her way of living through me, being proud of me and offering support." Carmella's boyfriend also supports her Playboy appearances. "He's respectful of my feelings and understands this is a dream of mine," she says. "He's really cute and we get along remarkably well -- he's my best friend."
Right now Carmella is back in Ohio working and studying at night, but she breaks up the routine by wakeboarding and Jet Skiing on Lake Erie. Every once in a while, Hef invites her and her girlfriends to fly out to the Mansion for a weekend.
"When I'm busy with work and school, I take my best girlfriends to Los Angeles for an awesome night out," she says. "When I think about those kids who teased me in high school, I don't get mad anymore. I don't want to fit in and be like everybody else. If people can't accept me for me, then they don't need to hang out with me. I just want to be Carmella."
Photography by Arny Freytag and Stephen Wayda