Playboy’s first girl out – Heather Rae Young: ‘Modelling could be career-ending’

In 2012, the playmate Christy Turlington-Burns became the first high-profile model to quit the iconic magazine for other career opportunities, bringing to an end an era. We spoke to a special edition’s contributing model, Heather Rae Young, about hitting the big screen with Keanu Reeves and seeing ‘partner in crime’ David and Victoria Beckham naked.

You started modelling as a teenager. What were your plans at the time?

When I was 17, I applied to Playboy for a cover shoot. That was the summer that Bridget Jones, who I was all fans of at the time, was named Playmate of the Year. So I went in, did my cover shoot, and was modelling for British Vogue before I met Christy Turlington-Burns and her Heddon Brown photography agency.

‘It changed my life,’ she adds about posing nude for Playboy. ‘I realised that modelling could be career-ending. I realised that I had to go for my heart’

You were shot in Canada – how much is it work for you there?

It’s actually a big deal to shoot in Canada. It’s exciting, and yet completely exhausting. It takes about eight hours and there’s like four different photographers – which I think is a joke in itself.

I like it because of the privacy – I’m not the kind of girl who enjoys being followed around everywhere, you know? The next day I would probably have to see the shoot several times to even begin to comprehend what it was.

‘I thought we were going to be people in uniform,’ Heather Rae Young recalls, ‘But it didn’t go like that. I thought we were going to be shooting in a strip club.’ Photograph: Amanda Goustas/Getty Images

You were partnered with Keanu Reeves for a film called Delta Force (of which you say you were:)

Well, you have to admit, it was a pretty great casting! And the director, Jorge Riquelme, was a friend of Christy Turlington-Burns – which was awesome, I wasn’t sure what to expect. He said: “I have this project, Christy’s name’s not on it, but if she does you’re in it.”

He had made an armful of phone calls, and no one ever came back to him. So the thought of filming with Keanu, a legend of Hollywood, was very exciting. We were just close enough that we could say, “Don’t be scary!” But we definitely bonded.

After filming, we had lunch and then I was offered a movie with Keanu. The next day, the director called and offered me the role. I was taking the class for photography at the University of Miami, and had to drop out and go to Los Angeles to shoot with Keanu.

I never get asked to do my sexiest shots, and I’m so very proud of my work in my Penthouse photo shoot because it was a great confidence builder. I was topless during the campaign, but I would dress up and walk around set, until I was shot again. At the end of the shoot, I was horrified, because there was like a brick wall, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t accomplish with the makeup or what the director told me to do.

How would you describe your work style today?

I had an amazing fashion designer, Stephen M. Budorick, for the shoot. I wore that classic Issey Miyake black two-piece. The Grecian-esque fishtail organza dress I wore in the Calgary premiere was John Galliano. With my Chanel earrings, it was Mary-Kate Olsen. And my Mary-Kate’ and Ashley Olsen necklaces came from at Chanel’s new boutique on Madison Avenue in New York. It changed my life. I realised that modelling could be career-ending. I realised that I had to go for my heart.

‘Keanu Reeves is a legend of Hollywood,’ says Heather Rae Young, the first Playboy Playmate to quit the magazine for other career opportunities, in 2012. Photograph: Jerry Maguire/Courtesy of Calder Productions

What else can you tell us about that shoot?

We were on a balcony in the middle of downtown Calgary, in a building that was only opened a few months prior. We were trying to figure out what to do when we got outside. I thought we were going to be people in uniform – I thought we were doing a police photo shoot with the SWAT team. I thought we were going to be in this strip club.

So it was a little shocking when we got out of the car.

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