Shelby Chesnes: Playboy's Miss July is FAU student from Jupiter

There's this new look Shelby Chesnes has learned to recognize in people's eyes.

It's the look that says, I've seen your pictures in Playboy, but I'm going to pretend I haven't.

"I think it's hysterical how people are awkward and don't know how to approach it," says Chesnes, 21, a Jupiter native. "I think it's uncomfortable for people to bring up."

It may be a new experience, but one she'll likely have to get used to after debuting in the magazine this month as Miss July. Gone are the days of posing for local sunglass or car ads, obscure little projects she stumbled upon while going to Palm Beach State and running a mobile spray-tan business.

Bookstores around Jupiter, Chesnes' hometown, have struggled to keep copies of the July Playboy edition on the shelves, especially after the magazine staged a signing at the Jupiter Books-a-million on Thursday.

But all the attention, even in small doses, is new.

She attended a magazine autograph session in Massachusetts last week and expected some people in the store and possibly a few locals who had seen a calendar item in the newspaper to show up. Instead, new fans from as far away as New York packed the bookstore to have her autograph the July issue and to have their picture taken with her. And her Twitter following jumped by more than a thousand in less than a week.

That has been the positive. The creepy moments? Sometimes one in the same.

"Oh, yeah, there have been all kinds of creepy moments…like the guy driving all the way from New York to take pictures of me," she said, laughing. "It's OK. We have bodyguards. They were like, ‘Keep an eye on that guy.'"

For all her newfound fame, she still sees herself as the kid who was good at math and science — the reason she studies psychology , now at Florida Atlantic — and was a travel-team competitive cheerleader while at Jupiter High.

But she's always loved the camera, and for that, she thanks her mother, Lynda, a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital who practices photography as a hobby. That pastime began with taking pictures of her children at the beach, playing with lighting and composition. And her youngest child was always a willing subject.

"I was her Guinea pig," Chesnes said.

Yet it was her mother she was worried about when she auditioned for Playboy. Chesnes had taken a couple of camera phone pictures in the mirror and uploaded them to Playboy's website, figuring if she didn't get chosen, no one would ever know.

And then the call came in September. They wanted her to come to the Playboy Mansion — yes, the mansion — and have test shots taken. So she sat down with her mother and, with a serious tone, told her she had some news.

"Oh, my God, are you pregnant?" her mother asked.

Shelby laughed and saw her mother almost relieved when she told her that she had been asked to fly to Los Angeles to be photographed.

Still, her parents had their reservations. She says her father is proud of her, though he hasn't seen the pictures. Neither has her brother, who high-fived her and admitted that he bragged to his friends. Her older sister, who she calls a "surrogate mom," was more protective.

"Why can't you do something normal, like work in a restaurant?" she told Chesnes.

The whole experience helped her do a little bit of myth-busting. First ,the mansion, she says, is more Club Med than frat house, complete with a zoo, a massive pool and Jacuzzi, the famous "grotto" and even a tanning salon. And, no, there are not naked women casually walking around all day.

The biggest misconception?

"That you have to sleep with Hef to get in the magazine," she said. "It's just not true. It's a very professional environment."

She did meet the most famous man in a robe, Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, but only for about 10 minutes at a party at the mansion, where Bruno Mars played D.J. for celebrities from Britney Spears and Cameron Diaz to pro athletes.

The 11-page pictorial will have Chesnes flying all over the country with magazine signings, and she said Playboy helps her land modeling and promotional work that she otherwise could only have dreamed of.

She still often finds herself deep in conversation with someone who has that look in their eyes and then, only later, mentions the pictorial in passing. Chesnes smiles on the inside and thinks, "Oh, so you did see it."

It's something she'll just have to get used to.

"I hope this will be a jumpstart to modeling," she said. "This is going to be my priority for now because you only get this opportunity once in a lifetime."

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