1st 'Playboy' Playmate admitted to Mensa is proud of her brains and beauty

February 07, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Mensa isn't open to dumb bunnies.

To get into the exclusive society for superbrains, one must have an IQ rating of 132 on one of the standardized tests American Mensa Limited accepts as proof of extraordinary intelligence.

But it has taken a Playboy Playmate from Harford County to shatter the myth that beauty and brains are mutually exclusive.

"Yeah, I'm a dumb blond all right -- with an IQ in the top 2 percent" of people in the United States, said Julie Peterson, the first Playmate -- subject of a Playboy centerfold -- admitted to Mensa.

"People's perceptions of what it is to be a Playmate are interesting," said Ms. Peterson, whose centerfold appeared in the February 1987 issue. "Their image of what Playmates are is 'glamorous.' . . . I don't usually tell women I'm a Playmate until after I've met them. Men want to leave the fantasy intact. It's OK to be smart, but not too smart. To say you're in Mensa really sets you apart."

She became interested in Mensa in 1985 when Playboy did its pictorial "The Women of Mensa." She met some of the women who were modeling, Ms. Peterson said during a telephone interview from her current home in New Jersey, where attends college. She asked that the school not be identified.

Late last year, she took the tests that Mensa administers and found her score qualified for membership. Her induction last month into the society, and the shattering of the dumb blond stereotype, has since captured the attention of the media -- including the producers of Entertainment Tonight, which is scheduled to air an interview with Ms. Peterson tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

Because Mensa members have posed nude for Playboy before, Ms. Peterson's addition to the membership roster hasn't raised many eyebrows among the intellectual elite.

"The feature on 'The Women of Mensa' did wonders for our exposure, no pun intended," said Lisa Roschewsk, a spokeswoman for the New York-based, nonprofit group.

Mensa members' IQs must be in the top 2 percent nationally, she said. The membership includes lawyers, truck drivers, retirees, doctors, scientists, and now, a Playmate. The group has fTC 55,000 members nationally and 100,000 members internationally.

"I think people will be pleasantly surprised. You might expect a pipe-smoking professor to be a member of Mensa, but not a Playmate," said Ms. Roschewsk. "You also might expect the members to be dry, elitist types, but they're not."

And neither is Ms. Peterson, who at 28, is about as down-to-earth as you can get.

"Nowadays I sit in class incognito in jeans, and I don't wear makeup . . . anymore," she said. "I want to be a doctor or a chiropractor. I also want to get my pilot's license, and someday, I'd like to go to law school. Sometimes, I think I may end up a professional student. It was never a dream of mine to be a Playmate."

She was born in Havre de Grace and attended Churchville Elementary School and graduated from Aberdeen High School in 1983. After she graduated and her parents divorced, Ms. Peterson moved to Alaska to work with her mother, Arlene Peterson Barrows.

"Even though I've lived in Alaska and a lot of other places, I still think of Maryland as home," said Ms. Peterson, who visits Harford County about once a month to see her father, Ralph Peterson, of Darlington, and her sister.

While in Alaska, Ms. Peterson first modeled for Playboy in a 1984 pictorial called "Girls of Alaska."

"Mom sent in a picture of me in a swimsuit. She didn't tell me until after she'd done it," Ms. Peterson said.

She was shocked when she was contacted by the magazine because, "like a lot of 19- and 20-year-olds, I didn't like my body very much."

Ms. Peterson said she posed for the Alaskan women feature because it was an "adventure."

She credits her experiences with Playboy for teaching her poise, public speaking skills and humility.

"It's a very humbling experience to have people stand in line for two hours for your autograph," said Ms. Peterson. "I don't know of anyone I'd stand in line two hours to meet, except maybe Hillary Clinton."

Ms. Peterson considers herself a feminist and often speaks out on women's issues.

"People say 'How can you feel this way and pose for Playboy?' " she said.

"But it seems a little crazy to deny that a woman's body is beautiful. I am a beautiful woman, but let's get beyond that. Yes, my body's beautiful, but so is the car I drive.

"Let's just say I exercised my right to choose by posing, just as I now exercise my right to choose to be educated, and I want to exercise my right to choose to be a wife, a mother and a doctor. And yes, I would love to do another session with Playboy."

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