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Sailor-Playmate Wants Posing Policy
Military.com  |  January 26, 2007
In an exclusive interview with Military.com, former Navy Petty Officer and Playboy playmate Sherry Lynne White recommends that the military develop a policy that specifically provides nude modeling guidelines to servicemembers.

“The military needs to make guidelines that say ‘if you want to do this you can’t wear the uniform and you can’t use our name,’” White says. “Right now there’s nothing in black and white. It’s up for interpretation. There’s no set punishment. That’s why no one knows what’s going to happen to {Air Force Staff Sergeant Michelle Manhart} or what was going to happen to anyone before her.”

While White is sympathetic to Air Force Staff Sergeant Michelle Manhart’s situation, she makes a distinction between the two of them:  “She used the Air Force to start the launch,” she says. “She used her uniform – or pieces of it – to claim that fame.”  White is also quick to emphasize that she never wore any part of the uniform in her shoots.  "I would never dishonor the the military like that," she says.

Listen to “The Editor’s Desk” podcast with Sherry Lynne White

White’s controversial journey started when she was an Information Systems Technician working on the Submarine Forces Pacific staff in the late ‘90s and her modeling career started to take off. “I was an E-5 in Hawaii and wasn’t getting paid enough to make ends meet out in town,” she says. “I needed to get a second job. I was also going to school full-time to get my bachelors degree. I needed a quick way to get some money.”

White entered a bikini contest and placed fourth out of four. But she turned her embarrassment into motivation. She began to work out and watch her diet. “I lost a lot of weight,” White says. “From there I started doing commercials, and I was doing extra work for Fantasy Island and Baywatch Hawaii. I also became a Miller Beer model.”

White’s modeling and acting career was by-in-large sanctioned by her command, in fact, she was able to get many of her co-workers – including officers – on the set of Fantasy Island as extras.

What the folks at SUBPAC didn’t know was that along with her acting and Miller Beer duties, White had also posed nude for a freelance photographer who had a loose affiliation with Playboy magazine. Ironically, one of those photos was published in an issue of Playboy that hit newsstands on the same day that Petty Officer White was recognized as SUBPAC’s Sailor of the Year.

“Right after they gave me a medal in front of the whole command,” White says, “they took me to an office and gave me a letter of reprimand.”

From that point her chain of command attempted to minimize the potential embarrassment to the Navy. White’s superiors told her that if she could somehow get all the pictures back from Playboy and keep them from appearing in future issues then she would avoid punishment. They even offered her the chance to become an officer.

But there was no way Playboy was going to return the photos. In fact, the subsequent issue had already been “put to bed” with more nude photos of White. “They were older photos,” White says with a chuckle. “I had red hair in them.”

White’s inability to get the photos back was coupled with her aversion to follow-on sea duty.  “I’d been to sea more than half my career,” she says. “I wanted to live life for awhile.” She sealed her fate a few months later by doing a six-page high-gloss pictorial that appeared in the September 2000 issue of Playboy. “It was starting to get hot.  I knew that I was going to be in the issue and they did mention me being Sailor of the Year. They had a picture of me in uniform doing a Navy commercial with Spike Lee.” She decided to give her command a heads up. The command was less than amused.

“The message traffic started flying,” White says.  But after a few months of teeth gnashing, she was quietly shown the door with an “RE-4” discharge (“honorable but with misconduct”) just before the September Playboy came out.  Her checkout process was another exercise in irony for her. Many of her shipmates signed her checkout sheet and then asked her to sign their copies the earlier issue (February 2000) of Playboy in return.

After White left the Navy she toured in support of the September issue and then, along with her new husband – a submariner who was still in the Navy – she went to work for Playboy full time. “I went to the {Playboy} mansion many times,” she says wryly.  She describes Playboy founder Hugh Hefner as “very cordial” and says “everybody hung on him for photo opportunities.” When asked about the parties at the mansion she allows that “everybody is walking around naked or half-naked – males and females. Everybody’s having a good time.”

White continued to work for Playboy as her husband returned to sea duty and, perhaps predictably, they divorced shortly thereafter. She stopped working for Playboy in 2003 after she “found God” and reassessed her stance toward nude modeling. Shortly thereafter she earned her teaching certificate and began teaching high school.  “I love an audience,” she says. “And now I have an audience that has to give me their attention.”

But when asked if she’s do it all again, White quickly responds with an unqualified, “Yes.” And what would her advice be to another female servicemember thinking about posing nude? “If that’s what she wants to do with her life and that’s what her belief system is, I’d say ‘go for it.’”

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