Sunday Times STLive By Oliver Roberts , 2012-04-01

It's the bunny, honey

Oliver Roberts meets SA's first Playmate of the Year

My first meeting with a Playmate is tragically impeded by men with shaved legs. They've laid siege to Cape Town International's rental car outlets and created queues so long and boring that I lose at least one hour of my allotted time with her.

Cyclists, you see. Here for the bloody Argus. It had to be a Saturday because The Playmate has a full-time job. When she told me this over the phone a few days before, at least half of the chimera caved in.

A full-time job? I always thought that emerald-eyed, big-breasted blondes who take their clothes off for magazines don't have to work. No. Surely they spend their days being perfected in salons and parlours and lazing in lethal tanning beds. Surely they play scandalous games of beach bat and hang out in "humid and trendy locations", a giggly hosepipe always nearby.

But Jade Fairbrother is, after all, South Africa's first-ever Playmate of the Year. Perhaps, in time, the proper structures will be in place to allow other girls like her to be permanently employed, UIF-enrolled, tax-paying nudes. But for now, despite being endowed with the right to wear the coveted Uwe Koetter-designed Bunny icon on a chain around her neck and given free Playboy clothing (lots of pink), this one must keep her job at an online credit-card processing company.

"Meet me at The Bay Hotel," Fairbrother tells me on the phone. "We're there from early." The "we" is the maniacally dimpled blonde and her new husband, Brendon, who, according to his Twitter profile, is an IT business manager and "general extraordinaire".

Ah, The Bay Hotel; the bull's eye of Camps Bay, Cape Town's poseur hub. The perfect spot for an encounter with a beautiful girl who posts half-naked pics of herself and her husband's new Rolex on her Twitter page, and the general extraordinaire himself.

"I always wanted to do modelling. I lacked the height for ramp modelling, but had always been interested in photographic modelling," Fairbrother says of her beginnings. Her voice, of course, is raspy, and she looks better in person, her features softer and less shiny than her Playboy spreads suggest. "When I was younger I used to get scouted, but I never pursued that because my parents were very focused on schooling. So I did a little informal modelling here and there, nothing that really took off."

Fairbrother, though, took off plenty when Playboy returned to South Africa last April and started looking for girls. Three weeks after her casting, Fairbrother was told she hadn't been chosen. "I was devastated," she says. "It was a blow to the ego."

However, two days later, Fairbrother's vanity was restored when she received an e-mail asking her to come into the Playboy offices. There, on the desk, was a contract declaring her Miss September. She signed immediately (the i in Fairbrother dotted with a heart?) and within weeks she was posing in the buff for a Rugby World Cup-themed shoot.

This is how it went: Jade lay out on the pitch holding a rugby ball as if ready to be kicked (the ball, not Miss September), Jade all foamed up in the shower, Jade the erotic janitor with bucket and mop and more foam and, finally, Jade in the stands surrounded by several Springbok fans who appear to be engrossed in the game.

Fairbrother found it tough.

"It was the first time I've ever done a professional shoot and I'm not shy so, I mean, I could easily within reason get undressed and not really worry about it. But when you're in that situation, people are expecting a lot of you. You've got your kit off and everyone's looking at you, scrutinising your body and questioning whether you're good enough."

After much voting and promotion by friends and husband Brendon ("he's like my manager now"), Fairbrother was announced, in early March, as South Africa's first-ever Playmate of the Year, beating off the eight other South African Playmates featured since the magazine re-launched in April last year. An all-expenses-paid trip to Zambia followed, where Jade performed the first-ever full-frontal shoot for South African Playboy: Jade naked on a boat on the Zambezi, Jade and her breasts emerging from a glistening pool, Jade the forest nymph, Jade resplendent on a rather large and knobbly tree trunk, etc.

There is no direct financial gain for becoming a Playmate. Fairbrother will earn money doing public appearances and be flown to the Playboy Mansion to meet The Hef later this year. Fairbrother hopes her trip there will result in a modelling contract or "an advert" that will set her up in the US and further her ambitions as a glamour model.

"The title (Playmate) is with you forever, which is an honour and a privilege," Fairbrother, who likes scrapbooking, crosswords and Sudoku, says. "I am numero uno for this year, in terms of being an ambassador, leading the girls, being a mentor and role model. Being featured in Playboy is over, I'm not allowed to take my kit off for the magazine again. For me, I feel this is my time to shine; I've got this title and at the moment the spotlight is on me and I need to use that."

A few hours later, there she is again. At Cape Town International. Staring down at everyone from the top shelf.